To galvanize joint action to end the epidemic of violence against women and girls, the African Women Ambassadors to the United Nations in Geneva and UNAIDS convened a special event on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and to kick off 16 Days of Activism.
The event, held on 24 November in UNAIDS’ headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, was attended by more than 35 ambassadors to the United Nations in Geneva.
Interspersed with music originating from all corners of the world performed by pianist Layla Ramezan, the speakers spoke from diverse perspectives, both international and local.
The speakers emphasized that more than one in three (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime and that, in some regions, women who are subjected to intimate partner violence are on average 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV. Yet, according to the World Bank, 18 of 107 countries examined had no domestic violence legislation, and 45 had no legislation that specifically addresses sexual harassment. Every day, approximately 47 700 girls are married before their 18th birthday. In developing countries, one in every four girls is married before reaching age 18. One in nine is married under age 15, while an adolescent girl dies from violence every 10 minutes somewhere in the world.
Many also spoke about the importance of people, not numbers. They noted that the painful stories of women and girls facing violence must be shared, and breaking the cycle of violence is critical for achieving gender equality. The role of new technologies in perpetuating ancient injustices was emphasized and a powerful call was made for everyone to take action, whether calling out violence or harassment or speaking about it with family and friends.
The event concluded with a silent auction to raise funds for the African Women Ambassadors Fellowship Programme to support and empower young African women in international development and policy-making.
“We know the facts and we should all be outraged. But it is not about numbers, it is about people. Every woman and every girl has a right to live with dignity, respect and free from violence.”
MICHEL SIDIBÉ EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNAIDS
“Eliminating gender inequality is key to addressing violence against women and girls. It is fundamentally a human rights issue.”
ROSEMARY MCCARNEY AMBASSADOR, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF CANADA TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN GENEVA
“We need to change attitudes and practices to achieve a world where women can live a life free of violence. Let’s orange the world!”
YVETTE STEVENS AMBASSADOR, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SIERRA LEONE TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN GENEVA