23 November 2010
Press Conference

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

Press Conference on International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women


Building a wide range of partnerships — in particular with the private sector — was critical to ending violence against women and girls, said participants that included civil society and corporate leaders at a Headquarters press conference today.


Speaking ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November, panellists discussed the importance of working with private donors, Governments and other partners to create safe spaces for girls, establish a culture of respect for women, and meet a wide range of other goals.


Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the newly established UN Women, said that while there had been significant progress in encouraging national policies aimed at reducing violence against women, many gaps remained.  More than 100 countries had no specific laws against domestic violence, and up to 70 per cent of women worldwide had experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of men during their lifetime.


Violence, she added, by affecting women’s ability to succeed in schools, in the workplace and in public life, also undercut vital efforts to achieve gender equality on a wider level.


But practical concerns threatened further progress, she said.  Gains in combating violence could not be achieved without strong partnerships and sufficient funding.  To that end, the Secretary-General was seeking to raise $100 million annually by 2015 for the Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.  The 2010 theme for the International Day, “Building Partnerships to Combat Violence Against Women”, underscored the need for strong funding and multisectoral expertise.


Partnerships with the private sector, in particular, could offer both an avenue of funding and knowledge in key areas, said panel participant Sharon D’Agostino, Vice President of Corporate Contributions for Johnson & Johnson.  With a more than 100-year history of philanthropy, her company was experienced in creating community partnerships on the ground.  It had also been working with the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women since 2005, she said, announcing today another two-year commitment to working with the Fund.


Besides simple funding, she said, corporate partners could bring leadership in “strategic thought”, as well as a degree of sustainability through their relatively high tolerance for financial risk.


“When we fund risk, we believe we are funding innovation,” said Ms. D’Agostino, responding to a specific question about the benefits of private funding.


Shupe Makashinyi, of the international women’s rights organization Equality Now in Zambia, said that there was much to be done on the ground with dollars from the Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.  Along with a coalition of Zambian groups, Equality Now worked on multisectoral projects aimed at empowering girls and establishing safe spaces for them, as well as training lawyers, paralegals and health workers to respond to the needs of girls facing violence.


Ms. Makashinyi and other participants also discussed the important function of training girls and women to become role models in their communities.  Responding to a question about corporate sector-funded “road map” programmes, which trained and hired female employees, she said that her organization worked to train young women to work with both the private sector and the Government itself.


Agreeing that female role models had an essential part to play in eradicating deeply rooted violence against women, Ms. Bachelet pointed to women police officers and soldiers as positive examples.  “It’s a showcase that women are strong, and that women are capable,” she said.


Participants also responded to questions concerning UN Women’s budget targets, its Executive Board membership and its distinct goals and targets in the world’s different regions.


Around the world, said Ms. Bachelet, cultural changes were needed to stop women from being looked at as “second-class citizens”.  “We need to create a culture of respect,” she said.


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For information media • not an official record