Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative high-level event: “Progress and perspectives on eliminating violence against women and girls”, in New York today:
Violence against women and girls is universally pervasive. The sheer numbers have led us to normalize its existence. But abuse and violence are never normal. Two years ago, we — Member States, the United Nations, the European Union and our partners — committed ourselves to accelerate our efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls. Through the Spotlight Initiative, we are delivering on this commitment. Over the past year, the Initiative’s comprehensive violence prevention programmes have begun operating in 13 countries across Africa and Latin America, with a direct impact on an estimated 38 million women and girls, men and boys.
These interventions are showing early and promising results. In Argentina, a new generation of responsible young digital citizens is being nurtured to prevent online sexual abuse, cyberbullying and harassment. Young people in El Salvador are learning how to prevent gender-based violence through self-esteem-boosting interventions. In Liberia, the national legislature has passed the Domestic Violence Bill – a major step towards addressing violence against women and girls – and more than 170 traditional leaders and female genital mutilation practitioners have publicly declared a suspension of the practice, which is a human rights violation affecting 200 million women worldwide.
Strengthened partnerships with faith-based institutions in Malawi have led to strong commitments from leaders to address the norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls in places of worship and other spaces. In Mozambique, more young people are providing age-appropriate sexual reproductive health information, counselling and services to their peers through the Spotlight Initiative-supported Geração Biz programme. And in Uganda, the country’s police force is sensitizing local taxi drivers and boda boda operators on issues of toxic masculinity and on the responsibility of men and boys to end violence against women and girls.
While this progress is very encouraging, much more needs to be done if we are to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030 — in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Women and girls should be able to turn to fair and effective institutions to access justice and essential services. Without these, injustice spreads, discrimination persists and impunity reigns. Women’s rights defenders and women in political life are targets of violence in public and private. We are increasingly seeing a rise in femicide, and even in countries where the overall number of murders is decreasing, the proportion of women being killed is increasing.
The increasingly detrimental effects of climate change and natural disasters disproportionately affect women and exacerbate existing gender inequalities. But to all of this, we are also seeing people mobilize as populations take to the streets, demanding action so that each of us can live a life free of fear. To confront these and other challenges across the globe, next year the Spotlight Initiative, in partnership with national Governments, will be introducing new country programmes for Afghanistan, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago and Vanuatu. With our expanded global footprint, we can scale up our collective efforts on violence prevention, protection and provision of high-quality services, alongside broader efforts to ensure women's economic empowerment and participation in all aspects of society.
I would like to take this moment to recognize Spotlight Initiative’s greatest champion — without whom none of the progress would have been possible — my friend, Commissioner Neven Mimica. Your commitment, energy and support for this cause will be truly missed. But your example will continue to drive us onward. I am convinced that we can achieve our goal of eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030, and in doing so remove perhaps the greatest obstacle to women’s meaningful participation in achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals. This belief is reinforced by the inspiring young women and girls I have met in my travels since we initiated Spotlight Initiative – from Niger to South Sudan to Afghanistan.
Let us all renew our commitment to ensure that no woman dies because she is a woman and that no woman or girl experiences violence in her lifetime.