I am honoured to be here, at your request, to address this urgent matter as you join together to advance human rights, democracy and the common values of humanity. We all know that we have to do much more to respond to the cries for justice of women and children who have suffered violence.
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We have to do much more to end these horrible abuses and the impunity that allows these human rights violations to continue. When we started UN Women two-and-a-half years ago, we made ending violence against women and girls one of our top priorities. I think we can all agree that the time for complacency is long gone, has passed and belongs to another era. The silence on violence against women and children has been broken and now. Now is the time for stronger action. This violence against women and children has tremendous costs to communities, nations and societies—for public well-being, health and safety, and for school achievement, productivity, law enforcement, and public programmes and budgets.
If left unaddressed, these human rights violations pose serious consequences for current and future generations and for efforts to ensure peace and security, to reduce poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the next generation of development goals we are discussing. The effects of violence can remain with women and children for a lifetime, and can pass from one generation to another. Studies show that children who have witnessed, or been subjected to, violence are more likely to become victims or abusers themselves.
Violence against women and girls is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality and systemic gender-based discrimination. The right of women and children to live free of violence depends on the protection of their human rights and a strong chain of justice.
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Countries that enact and enforce laws on violence against women have less gender-based violence. Today countries have laws to address violence against women. However, in too many cases enforcement is lacking. A rape survivor must have rapid access to a health clinic that can administer emergency medical care, including treatment to prevent HIV and unintended pregnancies and counseling. A woman who is beaten by her husband must have someplace to go with her children to enjoy safety, sanity and shelter. A victim of violence must have confidence that when she files a police report, she will receive justice and the perpetrator will be punished.
And an adolescent boy in school who learns about health and sexuality must be taught that coercion, violence and discrimination against girls are unacceptable. As the Acting Head of UN Women, I have the opportunity to meet with representatives from around the world, with government officials, civil society groups and members of the business community.
I can tell you that momentum is gathering, awareness is rising and I truly believe that long-standing indifference to violence against women and children is declining. A recent study published in the American Sociological Review finds that transformation in attitudes are happening around the world. It found that during the first decade of the s, in almost every one of these countries, women became more likely to reject intimate partner violence. The surveys found growing female rejection of domestic violence in 23 of the 26 countries.
Yet even with this rising rejection, in nearly half of the countries, 12 of the 26 — more than half of women surveyed — still believe that domestic violence is justified. So even though attitudes are changing, we still have a long way to go to achieve the changes in attitudes that are necessary to end violence against women and children.
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How should we address the root causes so that the solutions bring lasting change? These are some of the questions that youth participants discuss, using the tools and materials from the Voices against Violence curriculum. Upon completing the curriculum, they build youth-led advocacy projects that are locally relevant in their communities. She recently completed the training of trainers workshop for the Latin America and the Caribbean region, to roll out Voices against Violence.
She believes that hyper-sexualization and objectification of women and girls in the media is an important driver of this violence. She believes that through the Voices against Violence curriculum, the Girl Guides can engage girls and young women in speaking out against this violence. Someday, what I am trying to achieve with this project, will make the world a better place for her.
She is now a Lead Trainer for the Voices against Violence project, and also a mother.
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She believes that preventing violence against women and girls begins with recognizing and questioning the harmful practices and attitudes that have become normalized, and to make impactful change, men and boys must also be engaged in this work. Conversations will not feel comfortable; we must be courageous. What constitutes a healthy or an unhealthy relationship? Participants learning from the Voices against Violence curriculum examine photos depicting different kinds of relationships and hang them on a clothesline to demonstrate and discuss the spectrum.
The activity allows peer educators to challenge gender stereotypes, discuss power relations, and encourage healthy relationship building. She has a powerful story to tell.
When I joined Girl Guiding, having a safe space to share my experience helped me seek support and heal. Today I am a lead trainer for the Voices against Violence curriculum. Read her story here.