Wednesday, December 9, 2015

WAGGGS UN Team Attends International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women UN Event

By Jen Caplan, WAGGGS UN Team NYC Member

November 25th was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and kickoff for the UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign’s 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence. At the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, a special event was held in observance of the day featuring the launch the first UN Framework on Preventing Violence Against Women and speakers to join discussions of this year’s theme, “Prevention.”

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon made the opening remarks. Followed by speakers H.E. Ms. Gillian Bird, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN; Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women; Ms. Maya Wiley, Counsel to Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York City; Mr. Tony Gubesa, South Africa Site Coordinator of Grassroot Soccer; Ms. Mallika Dutt, President and CEO of Breakthrough, India; H.E. Mr. Mathew Ryfroft, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, H.E. Mr. Carlos Serigio Sobral Duarte, Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN; Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Population Fund; and Ms. Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director of the Center for Women's Global Leadership, USA.

Each speaker discussed what needs to be done to prevent violence against women, and what their country or organization is doing is doing to achieve it. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the event addressing what the United Nations as a whole is doing, such as the UNiTE and HeForShe campaigns. Additionally, Mr. Ban touched on the next steps in order to end violence against women. Mainly, empowering women and girls is key in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In his work, the Secretary-General has and will continue to promote women's leadership in the "classrooms, boardrooms, [negotiating rooms, and the United Nations]" and it is they who can play a roll in defending human rights, justice, and the rule of law. "Women are victims,” he said, “but much more than that, they are agents of change with potentially enormous influence.” It is these empowered women and girls who have the power, and vision, to make gender-based violence a thing of the past.

Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, concurred with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s comments on the importance and relationship between women’s empowerment and the Sustainable Development Goals. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that violence against women is a “universal problem” impacting women of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and social classes; and, because of this, the response needs to be targeted. This targeted response will include a partnership between government, civil society organizations, and UN entities for a high-level leadership that can enforce international laws and close legislative gaps. In conjunction, there must be an education system set to teach men about unequal power relations and positive masculinity to break the cycle of violence against women; we must end violence before it begins.

That night, landmarks around the world were lit up orange “in solidarity and the promise of change” and to begin the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence. From the Pyramids in Egypt to the Empire State Building in New York City, the world showed their support and the need for a change.

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