UN official enlists advertising industry in combating violence against women

Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Public Information.

14 May 2010 – A top United Nations official has exhorted advertisers to join efforts to stamp out violence against women, calling on the industry to help defy destructive gender stereotypes, a root cause of the scourge.

“The United Nations needs your support in ending one of the most pervasive and brutish challenges of our time, one that affects all people, everywhere,” Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka said of violence against women.

He told advertising titans at a gathering in Moscow yesterday that up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime.

“This is not an abstract issue,” Mr. Akasaka stressed. “For women and girls, this is a struggle not to be assaulted, raped, molested or forced into the commercial sex trade.”

Shortly after assuming the position of Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who has made ending violence against women one of his top priorities, launched the campaign known as UNiTE to End Violence against Women, which seeks to raise public awareness and generate political will.

He also set up a Network of Men Leaders bringing together current and former politicians, activists, religious and community figures – including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho – to combat the global pandemic.

“Violence against women is the most common, most shameful and least punished crime in the world,” and wiping out the scourge is vital for sustainable development, economic growth and peace, Mr. Akasaka underscored yesterday in the Russian capital.

He pointed to studies which have shown that negative stereotyping, including the depiction of women as sex objects, exacerbates gender discrimination. Women have been portrayed in demeaning or damaging ways on billboards, magazines, television and magazines, he added.

“We need to put an end to persistent negative assumptions about the role of men and women in society,” the UN official stressed at the International Advertising Association (IAA) gathering. “And we need to turn away from limited and one-dimensional gender portrayals in mass media.”

He called on advertisers to harness their “immense power of persuasion” to act as a “driver of change for a better world.”

Mr. Akasaka evoked the collaboration between the UN and the advertising industry on climate change, ahead of last year’s international conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The IAA’s ‘Hopenhagen’ campaign showcased the industry’s vast ability and potential to promote critical global issues, he said.

“Imagine what you could do by combining your ideas, technology and entrepreneurship to the mission of eliminating violence against women,” he told the meeting, which brought together representatives from the corporate sector, professional associations, academia and international organizations to exchange best practices and promote partnerships.


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