Illustration of women walking

Secretary-General's Message - 2020

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.  The social and economic fallout from the pandemic is disproportionately pushing women and girls into poverty, and the risk of violence against them is rising.

In April this year, I urged the international community to work to end the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence once and for all.  I reiterate and relaunch that appeal today.

The global community needs to hear the voices and experiences of women and girls and take into account their needs, especially survivors and those who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.  We must also prioritize women’s leadership in finding solutions and engage men in the struggle.  

Action must involve predictable and flexible funding for women’s rights organizations, who so often act as first responders during crises.  It is critical that services for survivors of violence remain open, with adequate resources and measures in place to support health, social and justice responses.  

These measures should not only focus on intervening once violence against women has occurred.  They should work to prevent violence occurring in the first place, including through addressing social norms and power imbalances, and police and judicial systems need to increase accountability for perpetrators and end impunity.

On this international day, let us redouble our efforts to eradicate gender-based violence forever.

The global community needs to hear the voices and experiences of women and girls and take into account their needs, especially survivors and those who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

António Guterres

COVID-19 and violence against women

End gender-based violence in Iraq. Photo: UNFPA Iraq
12 June 2020 | COVID-19 Response

UN supporting ‘trapped’ domestic violence victims during the pandemic

The United Nations is working with Governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against them a key part of their national response plans. Unique solutions are emerging.  In some European countries, pharmacies and supermarkets have become “go-to” places where the utterance of a code word (“MASK 19”) signals an urgent cry for help.

Secretary-General António Guterres speaking at a meeting. UN Photo/Jean-Marc
9 April 2020 | COVID-19 Response

Put women and girls at the centre of efforts to recover from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic affects everyone, everywhere. But the pandemic is having devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls. We are launching a report that shows how COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights – and recommends ways to put women’s leadership and contributions at the heart of resilience and recovery.  

Secretary-General António Guterres briefs reporters. UN Photo/Mark Garten
5 April 2020 | COVID-19 Response

Violence against women is a key part of national response plans for COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold human suffering and economic devastation around the world. I recently called for an immediate global ceasefire to focus on our shared struggle to overcome the pandemic. I appealed for an end to violence everywhere, now. But violence is not confined to the battlefield. For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest. In their own homes.