“Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls”

Joint press release of UN Women, UN HABITAT, UNDP and AWN on Orange Day (25 of October)

KABUL, 26 October 2013 - In 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign proclaimed 25th day of every month as Orange Day. Initiated and led by the UNiTE campaign Global Youth Network, activities implemented under the campaign by UN country offices and civil society organizations worldwide, strive to highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls, not only once a year, November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), but use one day every month to highlight the issue.

The theme of this month is ‘Safe Spaces for Women and Girls’, and under this heading the UN Women Country Office in Afghanistan, UN-Habitat, UNDP and the Afghan’s Women Network (AWN) with support from the Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA) and Kabul Municipality jointly initiated a campaign in which more than 300 women and men will walk in a specific area within Kabul city to demonstrate the importance of safety for women and girls in public spaces. Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in public spaces is unfortunately an everyday occurrence for women and girls around the world and is a serious concern in Afghanistan as in other countries. “We call upon the Afghan Government and other stakeholders to improve the established environment so that women can get access to benefits, services and opportunities otherwise denied to them. When women can safely occupy public spaces they can safeguard their personal dignity, and participate as equal citizens in the social and political life of their communities.” Commented Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, UN Women Country Representative in Afghanistan.

Sexual harassment is a serious assault and may take place on the street, on public transport, in parks, in and around schools, places of employment, and other public spaces in urban and rural areas. Some cases are publicized and receive media and public attention, while most cases go unreported and unaddressed.

In his message to the Orange Day, the UNDP Country Director a.i., Mr. Yuxue Xue, highlighted the need for intensified efforts to increase investments in gender empowerment at every level in Afghanistan. “We need coordinated and sustained efforts designed to empower women in ways that their protection rights are safeguarded at any cost”, Mr. Xue stated.

On the occasion, UN-Habitat Country Representative, Peter Dalglish, strongly urged “All urban dwellers, including men, and particularly local government leaders, to recognize the importance of building and maintaining urban public spaces that empower women to meaningfully participate in public life free from fear and harassment. Step by step we can build gender-responsive cities."

Violence and the fear of violence reduces women’s freedom of movement and rights to access education, work, recreation, and other essential services, and can restrict their participation in the development of Afghan society. It also negatively affects their health and well-being. Despite its wide-ranging atrocious consequences, violence against women and girls in public spaces remains a neglected area. “The real peace comes when women can fully participate in social life and access resources without any fear. We need to make our environment a place free of violence, harassment and discrimination.” Said Hasina Safi, AWN Director.

SG UNiTE campaign is focusing its Orange Day activities on highlighting recommendations made at the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) which took place in March this year to which Afghanistan is a party. At this session, governments made specific commitments directed towards making public spaces safer for women and girls. UN Women, UN Habitat, UNDP and AWN calls upon the Government of Afghanistan to improve the implementation of laws and policies that are already in place and can prevent violence against women and girls in public spaces.

Download this press release in English - Dari - Pashto

For More information:

UN Women: Ahmad Shikib Dost, shikib.dost@unwomen.org (+93) (0) 702 55 80 91

UN-Habitat: Wataru Kawasaki, wataru.kawasaki@unhabitat-afg.org (+93) (0) 791 61 10 19

UNDP: Kumar Tiku, kumar.tiku@undp.org

Afghan Women’s Network: Roshan Mashal, networking@awn-af.net (+93) (0) 796 88 24 05