23 November 2017, Harare – Today the United Nations in Zimbabwe in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden held a media launch of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence under the theme, “Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Girls.”
Addressing the media in the capital Harare, UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Bishow Parajuli said, “Some say cases of abuse and violence, especially against women are going up in Zimbabwe, others say that is only because reporting is getting better. It does not matter. There are still many thousands of gender based violence cases reported across the country – and we know that even one case, is one too many and we must end this social ill.”
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. This means that women and men, girls and boys have the right to live, and to live in freedom and safety. Gender Based Violence is therefore a violation of human rights.
Sweden’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Her Excellency Sofia Calltorp, said “Investing in people – especially women and children – is an investment for a sustainable socio-economic development – fundamental in every society. For Sweden, protecting women and girls against violence is a key principle in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Gender based violence is rooted in a social construct of gender that is inculcated at a very early age, and is often built upon unequal power relations and unjust attitudes, leading to violent behaviours. Education and fulfilling employment will show the way. A quality education that deepens knowledge promotes a sense of self and expands life skills, opens the minds of the young to a world of mutual respect, learning and self-worth.
UN Women Country Representative in Zimbabwe, Ms. Delphine Serumaga underlined that “to eradicate violence against women and girls and all forms of Gender Based Violence, we must begin to speak differently to act differently.” “In speaking differently, we must continuously remember that women’s and girls’ rights are human rights, therefore we must equate violence against women and girls, and all forms of GBV, as the most pervasive human rights violations for half of the population of Zimbabwe throughout their lived experiences,” added Ms. Serumaga.
In Zimbabwe 1 in 3 women face violence throughout their lifetime. Globally, 750 million women were married before age 18, and more than 250 million have undergone Female Genital Mutilation.
There is increasing recognition that violence against women is a major barrier to the fulfilment of human rights, and a direct challenge to women’s inclusion and participation in sustainable development and sustaining peace.
"Collective efforts are needed from all partners to ensure that survivors of Gender Based Violence have access to essential health services, psychosocial support and legal aid. For survivors of rape or sexual violence accessing medical services within 72 hours is highly critical to prevent pregnancy, HIV infection and Sexually Transmitted infections. It is an emergency as only 1% of the survivors access services and many of them are not aware of its importance," said UNFPA Deputy Representative Mr Yu Yu.
The recent emergence of reports detailing sexual harassment in the workplace from many organizations and institutions worldwide shows how pervasive this form of sexual violence is.
Noting that attacks on women are common to developed and developing countries, UN Secretary General, Mr. António Guterres in his message on 16 Days Activism Against Gender Based Violence said, “It is time to further our collective action to end violence against women and girls -- for good…it takes all of us working together in our own countries, regions and communities, at the same time, towards the same goal.”
The United Nations is committed to addressing violence against women in all its forms. In this regard, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against women has been funding civil society organizations for twenty years and supporting national efforts to end Gender Based Violence. Recently, the United Nations has successfully awarded $129 million to 463 initiatives across 139 countries and territories. Similarly, in collaboration with development partners such as the Embassy of Sweden in Zimbabwe, the United Nations supports national and local programmes, projects, and advocacy efforts to end gender based violence.
Calling on all partners to harness the energy, ideas and leadership of young people to help end this pandemic of violence, the UN Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe said, “Only then will we have a more just, peaceful and equitable Zimbabwe.”
From 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
Media Contact: Sirak Gebrehiwot, UN Communications Specialist, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Cell #: +263 772 198 036