Afghanistan + 2 more

Conference on results of 'Say NO to Violence against Women' campaign

A total of 5,066,549 people had joined UNIFEM's "Say NO to Violence against Women" campaign, adding their names to a call to make that issue a top priority for Governments worldwide, Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

"As long as one in three women and girls may be abused in their lifetimes, ending violence against women must be everybody's business," Ms. Kidman said, expressing her pride at having served as the campaign's spokesperson.

"Together, we can do so much," she said. That's why on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I have a message for our global team of goodwill ambassadors: please stay involved. Our Say NO network is a precious resource on which to build a formidable international movement that says NO to violence against women and girls, and really, really means it."

Announcing the results of the campaign along with Ms. Kidman were the Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Inés Alberdi; Piet de Klerk, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations; and Marie Nyombo Zaina, grantee of the United Nations Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women.

Ms. Alberdi explained that, launched a year ago, "Say NO" was an awareness and advocacy initiative that UNIFEM had designed to feed into United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's campaign on the issue. Through the campaign, she said, "we have built a large, new constituency with great potential for further mobilization in the years to come".

The campaign also served as an effective platform for decision-makers to publicly express their political will, she explained. No fewer than 29 Heads of State and Government, and 188 ministers representing 60 Governments had added their names to it, as well as more than 600 parliamentarians from over 70 countries.

Atrocious crimes against women had made headlines in recent weeks, she continued. In Somalia, a brutally raped girl had been stoned to death for alleged adultery; in Afghanistan, a group of young girls had been attacked with acid, having provoked the Taliban by going to school.

Now, it was important to use the momentum achieved through the campaign to implement laws and policies already in place, she said, urging the adoption of accountability standards with minimal standards of protection and response. Among the actions needed, she listed prompt police response, health and legal services, shelters and safe options for victims, national around-the-clock hotlines, accountable judiciaries and national action plans.

She added that the new momentum on the issue was evident by the increase in resources. Through the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, which UNIFEM manages on behalf of the United Nations system, new grants amounting to more than $19 million would be provided this year -- more than the total disbursed since the Fund's inception in 1996.

Ambassador de Klerk emphasized that promoting equal rights and opportunities and combating violence against women were priorities for the Government of the Netherlands, which had contributed about $8 million to the Trust Fund. Nationally, increasing attention was being paid to domestic violence, which was not just a family affair. Bilateral programmes were carried out in 16 countries, and support was being provided to some 20 international non-governmental organizations.

Altogether, the Netherlands would invest approximately €60 million in the fight against gender violence over a period of three years, he said. Next March, the country would host an international conference on violence against girls. Furthermore, it had put forward several General Assembly resolutions on violence against women. Most recently, the Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) had approved, by consensus, a draft presented by the Netherlands, together with Belgium, on combating impunity for violence against women. More than 100 Member States had co-sponsored the resolution, but it was not only States that should act. "We all have to act together: men, women, communities, civil society organizations, the private sector and international organizations. Everybody can make a contribution," he said.

Ms. Zaina said that she was herself a victim of violence, having been forced into a polygamous marriage. She had later obtained a degree and created an association in defence of children and women. In 2002, she had spearheaded the creation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of the "National Network of NGOs for Women's Development".

Thanks to the grant from the Trust Fund, her organization could provide a range of services to survivors of violence, she said. One of them was a woman who had been gang-raped by armed men in front of her husband and four children. The father and sons had later been shot dead, and her daughters had been raped and taken away from her. In order to help women survivors like her, it was important to fight impunity, train legal personnel, provide treatment and care for victims of sexual violence, and set up refuges and shelters. Most importantly, however, was to end the war, especially against women and children. She urgently appealed to the international community to help support the Congolese people in their peace negotiations.

Ms. Kidman, replying to several questions regarding her year as a spokesperson for the Say NO campaign and the initiative itself, said that this year the focus had been on creating public awareness and overcoming the stigma attached to the issue. Part of the problem was that perpetrators were often not prosecuted. One reason the initiative had targeted decision-makers was that "that's where laws are upheld, or laws get changed". Trying to make violence against women part of the public vernacular, the campaign had actively used the Internet and created discussion.

"And I am here to act as a voice," she said, adding: "I do not have the answers; I'm willing to do as much as I can and work with these people who are quietly doing such an enormous job. These are the people that do the work, and I am out here because I can use my voice to help their voices be heard."

Responding to a 10-year-old girl, who is running a school paper, she said that girls and women often did not know what was considered a violent act or abuse, and it was important to discuss that issue, both within families and at schools. Both young girls and young boys needed to be educated in that regard.

Asked about the reasons for her personal involvement, Ms. Kidman said: "I think, in some ways, I have always been heading towards wanting to put some meaning into my life. The reason I chose this subject was because I was raised by a mother who was very passionate to have her daughters educated and wanted her daughters to have equal opportunities, and I am the product of that. So now I am hoping to pass on to the next generation and work in a greater capacity than just as an actress".

For information media - not an official record