22 November 2011
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Beyond Strong Law Enforcement, Change of Attitude Vital to Protecting, Empowering

Women, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Ethiopian Sanctuary Association

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks, as prepared for delivery to the Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development in Addis Ababa on 22 November:

Thank you very much, Executive Director [Maria] Munir.  I am very impressed by this Association.  I especially want to recognize all the brave women here.  You are all inspiring.  Your strength in the face of daunting circumstances proves the power of women to survive and thrive.  You are demonstrating how important it is to provide services to victims of gender-based violence everywhere.

These services save lives.  They mark the difference between despair and hope, between a life in fear and a life set free to explore possibilities for the future.  I am very encouraged that the Ethiopian Government has made this a high priority in its new national development plan.

I bring you warm greetings from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  He is strongly committed to our global campaign to fight violence against women and girls.  His global “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign emphasizes the importance of helping survivors.

This safe house is evidence of progress.  But we have a long way to go to protect women and girls and to truly empower them.  We need strong laws and we need to enforce them.  But our first task is to change attitudes.

A study in 2005 showed that over 80 per cent of Ethiopian women and 50 per cent of Ethiopian men believe that beating one’s wife could be justified under certain circumstances.  Of course, this is absolutely false and dangerous.  There is never any excuse for any form of abuse against any woman.  Domestic violence is a crime and an abomination.

Many Ethiopian women and girls still suffer harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation or cutting and early marriage.  We have to speak out against these practices.  Respect for culture is important, but only as long as there is no harm.  We cannot continue so-called traditions that cause pain and suffering.

Attitudes are changing, but we need to do better.  We need to make sure that universal values prevail over societal norms.  We have a wonderful ally in UN-Women, which is coordinating our overall United Nations response.  UN-Women is supporting efforts to scale up and spread proven strategies and projects that help women.  This Association is one shining example.

I thank you all for opening your doors and your hearts to us.  We are grateful to you for spotlighting the problem of gender-based violence — and for showing the many rewards that come from addressing it.

The Secretary-General often says that women are the world’s most under-utilized resource.  You all show that when we protect women, we secure our common future.

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For information media • not an official record