The Right of Women and Girls to Live Free of Violence

In celebration of International Woman's

Speech Delivered by UN Women Deputy Executive Director John Hendra at the Flagging off Ceremony of the Kilimanjaro Initiative, 5 March 2012

… centre stage an issue that is one of the critical human rights challenges of our time – the right of women and girls to live free of violence.

….the fundamental universal right of women and girls to live free of violence, that in 2008 the UN Secretary General launched the UNite Say No Campaign to End Violence Against Women and Girls. African Governments and peoples subscribed overwhelmingly to the Say No Campaign….

It was also in this same spirit that African Heads of State and Government took up the clarion call to indeed Unite as a Continent to intensify efforts to end violence against women and girls in January 2010 with the inclusion of a Africa UNite component.

……a culmination of all these efforts and is important not only for Africa but elsewhere as violence against women and girls is a universal problem that governments and societies the world over face. It has many facets, it has many forms and it happens to different individuals in varying degrees. What is common though is that it is a gross violation of human rights and has no place in any of our homes, in any of our communities or in larger society.

Violence against women and girls is pervasive across Africa. In the sub-Saharan region, between 13% and 45% of women suffer assault by intimate partners during their lifetimes. Recent studies from the region show that up to 47% of girls in primary or secondary school report sexual abuse or harassment from male teachers or classmates, and over 3 million girls in Africa are at risk of female genital mutilation. Evidence abounds on the effects of conflict and how rape has been used as a weapon of war.

It is these statistics that have to move us to action. And it is these statistics that must make an imprint on our social conscience to stand together and take action.

To help raise greater awareness of these challenges, late last year, UN Women’s Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, announced “16 Steps to End Violence Against Women”. Included among these is an ambitious but critical global drive over the coming decade focused on advancing universal access to services for all women and girl survivors of violence. In situations of violence and oppression, women must have somewhere to turn for their safety and protection, for their access to health care, and for their access to justice.

Sadly, violence against women remains one of the most pervasive violations of human rights and yet one of the least prosecuted crimes. Impunity is still the norm, rather than the exception.

Violence against women and girls is a heavy burden for all. It has devastating costs and consequences, on the lives of those affected but also to societies and economies as a whole. Such violence translates into millions of dollars of lost wages and productivity and additional health, counseling, police and legal costs to already overstretched public budgets every year.

We must all do more – much more – to end the violence. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recently put it, ‘Our challenge is to ensure that the message of ‘zero tolerance’ is heard far and wide. To do that, we must engage all society – and especially young people.”……

Ms. Rosie Tebogo Motene, a South African actress and television presenter, has said (and I quote): “Our inner strength can be compared to a candle burning bright, When that candle goes out the light is gone. Our strength and core are diminished — Abuse causes that. Never let anyone blow out your candle; Never allow an abuser to diminish you”.

To read the entire speech

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