22 November 2006


22 November 2006
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


As part of its expanding efforts to end violence against women in developing nations around the globe, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) will distribute $3.5 million to dozens of groups from Argentina to Zimbabwe in the coming year -- up from $1.8 million in 2005 and nearly four times more than in 2004.

At a press conference held at United Nations Headquarters today, UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer announced the grants, which will be funnelled through its United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women and go to groups dedicating their time and energy to ensure the implementation of policies and laws that address violence against women.

“Violence against women knows no boundaries, it knows no territory, no wealth level and it really occurs everywhere, in every country in the world today,” said Ms. Heyzer, in response to a reporter’s question about violence against women in the United States.  While clarifying that UNIFEM’s mandate focuses on developing countries, Ms. Heyzer said the agency adhered to the standards and human rights norms of the United Nations as it looked at occurrences of gender-based violence around the world.

In response to a reporter’s question about why the Indian law making the Hindu ritual of sati illegal was not being enforced, Ms. Heyzer said monitoring and accountability systems were vital to making the best laws and policies work, especially at the local level.  Sati is a ritual in which a woman immolates herself upon her husband’s death.

She added that the issue of “ending violence against women was very deeply rooted and, therefore, the structured discrimination in women’s lives had to be dealt with and that was something that all the groups that were being funded had been looking at.”  It was also the responsibility of States to enforce laws after they were passed.

The grantees can be delineated into three main categories that cover 28 initiatives worth about $2.8 million spread around 20 countries, including one regional project.  A second round of grants, totalling $0.7 million that will focus on the links between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS, will be announced in March 2007, she added.

Most of the 2006 Trust Fund grantees will support efforts to implement new laws or policies through activities like the training of judges, lawyers and police; pushing for greater budgetary resources; raising public awareness; and strengthening capacity among civil society groups so they can better demand accountability, she said.  Initiatives to that end will be carried out in Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Grenada, India, Liberia, Mongolia, Niger, Paraguay, Rwanda, Somalia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe, according to press materials distributed at the press conference.

Another set of initiatives will look at local or community-based delivery systems, such as reviewing court proceedings to identify obstacles that hindered the application of existing legal provisions, she said.  A third group of grantees was centred on helping disadvantaged or marginalized groups, such as the disabled, minorities or indigenous peoples, to ensure those women benefited equally from the protections afforded by new laws.

“We hope that this is a day of celebration as well as a day of reflection and a day of mobilization for greater force to make sure that we can end this pandemic that has destroyed the lives of so many women and girls,” she said, referring to the observance of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November.

In response to reporters’ questions, Ms. Heyzer said UNIFEM supported efforts by women’s groups to help end gender-based violence in Pakistan, as the Government worked to amend sharia laws that discriminated against women.  She “believed the issue should not be judged in religious courts, but be judged in criminal and civil courts”.  Pakistan’s National Assembly voted earlier this month to amend the country’s sharia laws so civil courts could try rape cases.  The bill requires additional approvals.  Up to now, rape cases were dealt with in sharia, or religious courts.

In response to a question about honour killings in Jordan, Ms. Heyzer said the Trust Fund’s work encompassed battling gender-based violence in four main areas:  at home; during conflicts and war; through trafficking; and harmful practices.  In that context, UNIFEM looked at the issue of honour killings.  In Jordan, it had worked to raise public awareness by partnering with Government officials, civil society and other stakeholders.  It has been able to “…change the attitudes towards honour killing, so that it is seen as a crime and not as a culture practice”, she said.

Stressing again that it has been difficult to obtain accurate data, Ms. Heyzer said she could not provide statistics about the state of honour killings around the world.  But in Jordan, she added, the issue has “moved from the margin to the centre” as public awareness was raised.

According to press materials, the Trust Fund is a multilateral mechanism created by the General Assembly in 1996 and administered by UNIFEM.  Grants are decided collectively by representatives of United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations and experts.  Since its creation, the Trust Fund has distributed nearly $13 million to 226 initiatives in more than 100 countries.  Contributions come from a diverse group of Governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and individuals.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.