New York

12 October 2009

Secretary-General's remarks at exhibition on gender-based violence, "Congo Women Portraits of War" and BBC Documentary series "Women on the Frontline" [as prepared for delivery]

Good evening,

Normally I begin my speeches by saying what a pleasure it is to welcome you –but tonight is a little different.

I am certainly pleased that you are here, but this event has nothing to do with pleasure. Quite the opposite.

The exhibition and documentary series on display here bring us face to face with terrible pain –the horrific conditions confronting women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and around the world.

I thank the organizers, artists and filmmakers who made this evening possible.

I am grateful to them for spotlighting the global problem of violence against women and girls.

“Congo Women Portraits of War” introduces us to young girls who have been raped: a disabled teen, a victim who was only eleven, and others brutalized during wartime.

I have not met these individuals. But last March in the eastern DRC, I visited Heal Africa and spoke to rape survivors there. Their stories made a deep impression. I was sad. I was also outraged.

I took their plight directly to Congolese leaders and others, including the United Nations Security Council, and demanded an end to impunity for crimes against women -- not only in the DRC but around the world.

Last month in Guinea, we saw again how women are subjected to atrocious sexual abuse.

I will never stop advocating for these victims.

But let us remember: they are not just victims. They are so much more than the rape they suffered or the ordeal they have overcome. They are mothers, sisters and friends. They should be part of the effort to rebuild their societies. They can lead great and productive lives. I saw this at Heal Africa, which receives support from UNFPA.

The BBC series “Women on the Frontline” is equally powerful. We see stories not only of honour killings, sex trafficking, torture and other crimes –but of triumph, resolve and solidarity. We see women who speak out? who demand justice? who are strong and heroic.

I am inspired by these works and by these women –inspired to do more to fight gender-based violence.

Our efforts are wide-ranging, but I want to mention one in particular: the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign.

I launched this effort last year. Today, it is galvanizing action across the UN system. More than five million individuals, including hundreds of parliamentarians and scores of senior government officials, signed on to the campaign's Say No to Violence Against Women network. As part of this effort, the UN's Stop Rape Now initiative is bringing people together to declare that rape as a tactic of war will not be tolerated.

I will soon appoint a Special Representative to address sexual violence in armed conflict, following the landmark resolution adopted by the Security Council last month.

I am counting on all of you to join us in this cause.

Thank you again for making tonight possible. I pledge my full support as the fight continues.