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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 30 January 2010 - Secretary-General's statement at African launch of the UNITE Campaign to End Violence against Women [delivered by Cheikh Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General]

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I salute you for joining together today for the launch of this Africa-wide campaign on ending violence against women and girls.

Your engagement is a sign of the will of African governments to eliminate this scourge.

Our years of work on development have taught us that if you empower a woman, you empower her children, her community and her country.

But far from being empowered, women are all too often subjected to horrific abuse and violence.

We must address the roots of this violence by eradicating discrimination and changing the mindsets that perpetuate it.

The UNiTE campaign calls for all countries to put in place, by 2015, strong laws, action plans, preventive measures, data collection, and systematic efforts to address sexual violence.

It is already proving to be a galvanizing force.

More than five million people have signed the Say No to Violence Against Women initiative.

The UN Trust Fund is making multi-million dollar awards to support governments, NGOs, and UN Country Teams in addressing sexual abuse, sexual violence in conflict, the intersection of violence against women and HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and trafficking.

To support the campaign, I have also launched a Network of Men Leaders to strengthen our advocacy, which includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu – a great moral authority on the Africa continent.

Within the UN, the General Assembly's support for the creation of a new gender equality entity will also bolster our work and hold the UN system itself accountable.

We know African women are often a linchpin keeping families, communities, and nations together. They are the driving force to overcome poverty, reduce hunger, fight illiteracy, heal the sick, prevent the spread of disease and promote stability.

African women are lawmakers, police, mothers, farm workers, sisters, teachers and stewards of our environment. They are diplomats and they are presidents. They have the power to rebuild war-torn societies and solidify lasting peace.

But these women – these unsung heroines of development in Africa – are the victims of some of the most horrific forms of violence.

They are now looking for answers from us, from you, to uphold their right to live lives free of this threat.

That is why I am counting on your support to give a new impetus to our commitment to end violence against women in Africa.

Thank you.

Statements on 30 January 2010