Since 1981 November 25 has echoed a message worldwide: stop violence against women! Activists, governments, international organizations and NGOs gather their attention on this day to keep making changes. On November 23 UN commemorated the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women and I was fortunate to be present.
Official UN Observance: notes from the event
Empire City Men’s Chorus opened the event with their bass’ and tenor’s voices, singing: “You shall not go down”. A phrase which captures well the atmosphere that dominated the event – where most participants were, not surprisingly, women.
“This is much more than a commemoration.” Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, determined.
“This is no longer just the concern of women’s organizations. More and more people realize that gender-based violence is everybody’s problem and that everybody is responsible for stopping it.”
Ban Ki-Moon led the attention to the UN Trust Fund’s annual call for proposals:
“We are inviting governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as UN Country Teams to apply for funding to support innovative projects that will help end violence against women. We know you have the ideas, the Trust Fund can transform them into actions.”
This year’s observance had an additional focus on how business leaders can engage in the fight. Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women, Ms. Michelle Bachelet stated initially that the world could be proud of the development so far. She stressed the importance of the complex issue having moved from private homes to the public sphere. At the same time she warned about the remaining frightening facts and wished for next year’s event to host more men than women.
Margery Kraus, Chief Executive Officer, APCO Worldwide, gave a cooperative point of view: “As leaders in the private sector it is our responsibility to make sure that our cooperation is a stakeholder”. She revealed that the United States alone loses nearly $1 billion in productivity each year due to violence against women, along with 7.9 million work days.
A UNIFEM (part of UN Women) partner project was highlighted with a promotion video: Bell Bajao (ring the bell). An India-based campaign that encourages local residents to take a stand against physical abuse through simple acts, as ringing the door bell if you suspect violence in the homes of your neighbors. Bell Bajao served as a constructive example of small actions with potential for big changes.
The event was closed with a women’s chant performed by The World United Musician Association (WUMA).
Sum up of statements
- Violence against women is a global issue. This means that it is not only a women’s issue, but also a men’s issue.
- Violence is not only to be understood as physical, but also psychological, sexual and economic.
- Concrete goals should be set – based on laws and policy.
- Commitment should be turned into immediate action.
On 20 December 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. “Recognizing the urgent need for the universal application to women of the rights and principles with regard to equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity of all human beings” the declaration begins.
The UN Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) was established by UN General Assemblyin 1996 and is managed by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on behalf of the UN system. More than US$50 million to 304 initiatives in 121 countries and territorries has been distributed since the UN Trust Fund began operations im 1997. UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women supports programmes that work with organizations around the world to ensure protection, medical and legal services and support to women and girls who have been victims of violence.
Reactions online: November 25th
The day gave rise for organisations and netizens to take a stand online.
Pickled Politics, a group blog on British politics, says: “Thank you to all women’s rights activists everywhere, past present and future.”
Too Much To Say For Myself, a freelance writer and feminist comments the day on her blog: “And yes, it’s a disgrace that we even need to have one. But we do.”
Kirsty from Glasgow, blogs on Other Stories and shares her concern about the well-meaning suggestions, she heard from UK Home Secretary Theresa May on the BBC news: “What I don’t understand is how it will be implemented. [...] Is it, as my cynical side might suggest, a way to be seen to be doing something without doing anything to improve actual conviction rates? I don’t know, but I’ll be interested to find out.”
Also ‘twittees’ drew attention to the day:
@Desdecuba, from Cuba: Three out of four women in the world have suffered or will suffer physical or sexual assault over their lives #UNIFEM http://bit.ly/gWHcHz