It is a pleasure to join. I thank the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, Alexandra Hill Tinoco, for convening this event during the 16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.
The Government of El Salvador is a key partner in the Spotlight Initiative – our global multilateral partnership with the European Union to end all forms of violence against women and girls.
This is an enormous challenge, one that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but I am convinced that with the participation of Member States, civil society, the private sector and others, we can make decisive progress towards ending violence against women and girls and achieve gender equality by 2030.
This is an absolute imperative for global progress and well-being. We will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals if women and girls are sidelined from quality education, lack employment opportunities and live in fear of violence and insecurity – in the home, in public transportation, online, school, in the workplace or marketplace.
Globally, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. In El Salvador, that percentage is 7 in 10 – more than twice as high. El Salvador also has the highest rate of femicide in Latin America, and one of the highest rates in the world. In August 2020, La Prensa Gráfica reported that ten women were murdered in the first eleven days of August alone.
In support of the government’s efforts and in partnership with civil society, the Spotlight Initiative is being implemented across El Salvador to address the roots of this violence. To date, nearly 800,000 people have been impacted by these efforts.
The Initiative’s investments serve to strengthen laws and legal protections and the ability of national institutions to prevent, document and eradicate violence. It is building the capacity needed to gather data on prevalence which can inform effective policy measures. And critically important, Spotlight Initiative is channeling resources to women’s rights organizations on the frontlines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inadequacy of past efforts, which failed to address the attitudes and behaviors that lead to and justify violence. Conversations like this one today are essential if we are to change mindsets and see real transformation in a society where violence against women and girls is no longer acceptable or tolerated.
I applaud the Government of El Salvador for its initiative and encourage each of you to take forward conversations and actions in your own lives and communities that can make a difference in ending the cycles of violence.