Violence against women and girls is a global human rights challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed this issue as a global emergency requiring urgent action at all levels, in all spaces and by all people.
Violence against women and girls is a pervasive global human rights challenge, rooted in unequal gender power relations, structural inequality and discrimination.
That is why we launched the global UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign.
The COVID-19 crisis has further exposed violence against women and girls as a global emergency requiring urgent action.
Rates of violence, in particular domestic violence, have dramatically escalated around the world.
It is clear that the pandemic has exacerbated risk factors and laid bare the shortcomings of previous efforts to prevent and respond to this shocking emergency.
In April this year, I urged the international community to end the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence once and for all, and make prevention and the redress of violence a key part of national responses to COVID-19.
My appeal was answered with strong commitment and support from 146 Member States and Observers.
I reiterated and relaunched that appeal several times; I do it again today.
I have been heartened to see so many governments taking action to address gender-based violence during COVID-19.
Today we will hear from Member States about just some of these promising practices, ranging from funding and support for critical services and innovative justice sector responses, to awareness campaigns that challenge harmful gender stereotypes and norms.
Efforts to date have not only involved States.
Civil society partners and grassroots women’s rights organizations have been indispensable in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Generation Equality Forum and its Action Coalitions, led by diverse and interdisciplinary leadership teams, will work to deliver concrete and transformative change across six critical themes, including an Action Coalition specifically targeting gender-based violence.
This year the United Nations flagship Spotlight Initiative, in partnership with the European Union, has expanded to three new subregions, investing in prevention and transformative sustainable solutions aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, much work remains to be done.
Millions of women are being pushed further into poverty by the COVID-19 crisis, and all forms of violence against them are rising.
In this context, the global community must continue to build on the momentum we have created to prioritize the voices, experiences and needs of women and girls.
We must take into account the needs of women who experience violence, particularly those who face multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination.
This means emerging from this crisis with women’s leadership front and centre in constructing the solutions we need.
Our priorities must first and foremost include urgent and flexible funding for women’s rights organizations, who so often act as first responders during crises.
It is critical that services for survivors are regarded as essential and remain open, with adequate resources and measures in place to support health and social services to care for survivors of violence.
Programming should also prioritize the quality and continuity of police and justice sector responses.
But measures should not only focus on intervening once violence has occurred.
They should aim to reduce the risk of violence occurring in the first place.
This includes providing financial and material support to women and households; encouraging positive messaging around gender equality, stereotypes and norms; supporting access to mental health services; and engaging key stakeholders, including women and girls, men and boys, and traditional and faith-based leaders.
The more we know about the gender-based violence, the more we can effectively address it.
For this reason, measures should also focus on supporting institutions to collect and analyze data, where it is safe and ethical to do so.
We have already made much progress in highlighting violence against women and girls as one of the most pressing issues of our time.
But we must go further – much further.
Violence against women and girls is a horrible and widespread affront to their human rights, and a blight on all our societies.
Let us all UNiTE to end the violence during COVID-19 and beyond.