United Nations Agencies Forward Together in the Response to Violence against Women

By Obaid, Thoraya Ahmed | UN Chronicle, March 2010 | Go to article overview

United Nations Agencies Forward Together in the Response to Violence against Women


Obaid, Thoraya Ahmed, UN Chronicle


Momentum is building to eliminate the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world--violence against women. Studies show that 70 per cent of women experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Everywhere, communities, civil society and governments are mobilizing to end practices that harm the health, dignity, security and autonomy of women and negatively impact society as a whole. The United Nations system is working together to support partners in this effort.

NETWORK OF MEN LEADERS

On 24 November 2009, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Network of Men Leaders who have taken a public stance to eliminate violence against women. Members of the Network include Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, and many other distinguished men who will add their voices to the growing global chorus for action.

This new network is part of the Secretary-General's UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, launched in 2008, which is galvanizing action across the UN system and the world. It calls for all countries to put in place, by 2015, strong laws, multi-sectoral action plans, preventive measures, data collection and systematic efforts to address violence against women and girls. It is a unified effort of the UN system to generate momentum and concrete action, building on the work that has been done by women's groups in many countries.

Over the years, we have seen mounting efforts by governments, non-governmental organizations, women's groups, community groups and other networks to eliminate violence against women. Today, there is better understanding of the nature and scope of violence and its impact on women and society. Legal and policy frameworks have been established at the national and international levels. But much more needs to be done to end impunity and change discriminatory attitudes that allow such violence to continue.

To this day, violence against women remains largely hidden in a culture of silence. One in three women has either been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way--most often by someone she knows. Such violence violates human rights, undermines development, generates instability and makes peace harder to achieve. There must be accountability for the violations and survivors must be listened to and supported.

The UNiTE campaign and many other efforts are breaking the silence surrounding this issue and ensuring that violence against women is not just a woman's issue, but a political, social, economic and cultural issue that deserves a comprehensive response.

10 PILOT COUNTRIES

The UN, with its wide-ranging mandates and diverse entities, is well equipped to support a response that is comprehensive, backed by strong political clout and adequate financial resources. As part of its ongoing efforts, the UN system identified 10 pilot countries * for a coordinated and cross-sectoral response. In these countries, joint programmes have been developed on the basis of a thorough assessment of existing initiatives and capacities, especially in the areas of law, providing services, prevention and data collection. Efforts are also taking place in many other countries. Beyond UN programmes, the United Nations Trust Fund on Violence against Women has distributed more than $44 million to almost 300 initiatives led by governments, civil society and local authorities in 119 countries and territories.

The organization I head, the United Nations Population Fund, is closely involved in these initiatives, supporting programmes in pilot countries and beyond: in Indonesia and Honduras, for example, police and faith-based organizations have been trained to respond sensitively to cases of violence against women; in Guatemala, progress has been achieved simply through the improved coordination and synergy between national and local governments; in India and Nepal, national partners worked together to institutionalize a response with a special focus on using the health system as an entry point; and in Cambodia, a national law to address domestic violence was adopted in 2007. …

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