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UN Kicks Off 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

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By Caroline Mwanga

NEW YORK (IDN) – Worldwide movements and corporate walk-outs have exposed the magnitude of violence against women and girls and highlighted how often such violence is normalized. Research shows that violence against women and girls affects one in three women worldwide and that no country is immune to this pandemic. Yet instead of holding perpetrators accountable, women and girls who experience violence are often blamed and their testimonies systematically called into question.

This year’s United Nations theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25) and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (November 25 – December 10) “Orange the World: #HearMeToo” aims to support women and girls around the world who are coming together in a global movement of solidarity against the historic power imbalances in which sexual harassment and other forms of violence are so deeply rooted.

The theme seeks to honour and further amplify these voices, to listen to and believe survivors, to end the culture of silencing and impunity, and to put survivors at the centre of the conversation and response, says UN Women in a media release. It aims to broaden the global conversation and highlight the voices and activism of all survivors of violence and advocates around the world – many of whom are often missing from the media headlines and social media discussions.

“The fear of reprisals, of not being believed, and the stigma borne by the survivor – not the perpetrator – have silenced the voices of millions of survivors of violence and masked the true extent of women’s continued horrific experiences,” said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “In the recent past, however, grassroots activists, survivors, and global movements have converted isolation into global sisterhood. They are exposing the prevalence of violence from high office to factory floor and making offenders accountable.”

Under the umbrella of the UN Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women, led by UN Women, the official commemoration event on November 19 in New York brought together survivors and activists, and kicked off the global 16 Days of Activism.

At UN Headquarters in New York, activists and survivors from Argentina, India, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and USA joined UN Secretary-General António Guterres, President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés and Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in a conversation on innovative good practices that offer solutions for ending violence against women and girls in a #HearMeToo era.

Benjamin Tucker, First Deputy Commissioner of the New York Police Department, on behalf of the NYPD Women’s Institute and accompanied by a large representation of police officers, provided thoughtful insights on the role of law enforcement in ending violence against women and girls in private and public spaces.

Around the world, the 16 Days of Activism will be a rallying moment to bring together governments, communities, survivors, activists and the public to raise awareness on the urgent need to end violence against women and girls through high-profile events, rallies, and campaigns.

In over 70 events including in schools and universities in Malawi and Barbados, public transportation hubs in El Salvador, Vanuatu, and The Philippines, soccer matches in Egypt, global citizens will stand in solidarity with survivors, advocates, the women’s movement and women’s human rights defenders around the world, many facing increased pushback and attacks with a shrinking civic space.

To draw worldwide attention, iconic buildings and monuments will be lit up in orange, the official colour of the UNiTE campaign, symbolizing hope and a violence-free world. The National Assembly in Nigeria, the Place de l’Obélisque in Senegal, the Parliament in Morocco, the Panama Canal Administration Buildings, Brazil’s National Congress and Christ the Redeemer, Baiterek and the Pyramid in Astana, Kazakhstan, the EU Building in Lao PDR, and the President’s office and seven Parliamentarian buildings in Nepal will display orange on the Day.

Through several strategic initiatives, UN Women is at the forefront of efforts to end all forms of violence against women and girls, from the 500-million-Euro EU-UN Spotlight initiative, working alongside UN partners, which is the largest ever single investment in the elimination of violence against women and girls worldwide, to the work on Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces in 35 countries.  

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman will join the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, the only global multilateral mechanism addressing the pandemic, for a fundraising luncheon in Los Angeles, California, on December 10, Human Rights Day, to close the 16 Days of Activism. The event will bring together the corporate sector, concerned individuals, and the United Nations in raising funds to end this human rights violation worldwide. 

With more than 460 projects in 139 countries and territories over the past two decades, the UN Trust Fund has supported life-changing initiatives on preventing violence, implementing laws and policies and improving access to vital services for survivors for millions of women and girls worldwide. Last year alone, the UN Trust Fund reached over 6 million individuals. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 November 2018]

Photo: (L-R) Moderator, news anchor Richard Lui; Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, President of the General Assembly; António Guterres, UN Secretary-General; and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director participate in a panel discussion during the UN . Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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