New York

25 November 2015

Secretary-General's Remarks at Commemoration of United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women [As Delivered]

I am delighted to be amongst so many committed and distinguished ladies and gentlemen who are leaders in putting an end to violence against women. Thank you for your strong commitment and engagement.

If we are united, between men and women, among government leaders, business communities and civil society leaders I think there will be nothing which we cannot overcome. There will be nothing which will stand in our way to achieve gender equality and gender empowerment. Particularly women can live without any fear of violence. I am very much grateful for taking time and your strong engagement.

Ending violence against women and girls is a top priority for achieving the UN’s founding mission of peace, development and human rights.

That is why, since my first day in office, I have insisted on raising my voice at every opportunity to change the mindsets that subjugate women and girls.

I have rallied men through my Network of Men Leaders and HeForShe campaigns.

I have proudly led the UNiTE campaign.

We will not relent until we stop all attacks against women and girls.

This includes beatings by their husbands and others, sexual assault, slavery, trafficking, female genital mutilation, child and forced marriages and all forms of abuse.

This year I am especially concerned about the impact of violent extremism on women and girls.

We know the problems facing women. I want to show how women themselves hold the key to solutions.

We have seen outrageous attacks. The shooting of Malala and her school friends, the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, the terror inflicted on women – especially minorities – in Syria, Iraq and many other places.

All violent crimes against women must be punished.

Women and girls also suffer other gender-specific abuses from terrorist groups and security services.

Women, especially young women, may fall prey to false promises of violent extremists. These extremists pervert and shame the religious teachings they claim to represent. In some cases, the recruiters – even the attackers – are women.

We have to confront this disturbing reality and take decisive action to address it.

I am preparing a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and I look forward to our discussions on this challenge in the weeks ahead.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Women are victims – but much more than that, they are agents of change with potentially enormous influence.

Women can play a decisive role in addressing sensitive issues such as sexual violence. This is especially true in societies where women victims of rape also carry shame and stigma. In those cases, victims may prefer to confide in women. And when we women gain prominence for defending human rights, justice and the rule of law, they also serve as role models who inspire others.

That is why I have made it a top priority to promote women across the United Nations system, including in Peacekeeping Operations.

I have been asking world leaders to provide as many women police officers as possible, because when some unfortunate thing happens to women they feel it as a shame and they are not coming out.  Particularly, family members take it as shame of their family so it is very difficult to find perpetrators. When [women] meet female police officers they find it much easier and comfortable to discuss their challenges and their cases. We have seen successful stories of women police units in Liberia and elsewhere. We have made a lot of success, so we are now asking Member States to provide more and try to level up the percentage of [women] formed police units in our peacekeeping operations.

I do this to prove their value, to lead by example and to benefit from the expertise of women leaders.

I have also sent a strong signal to men that gender inequality and abuses against women will never be tolerated at in the UN system.

And I have been active in pushing the Security Council to advance its women, peace and security agenda.

But if we are serious about ending violence against women, including violent extremism, we have to intensify our efforts for women’s rights.

That is why we are raising our ambitions.

The Sustainable Development Goals aim for a life of dignity for all people – and that can only be possible when we empower women and girls. The 2030 Agenda recognizes that we must end violence against women – and it includes related targets across the Goals.

Today starts 16 days of activism leading up to Human Rights Day.

My UNiTE campaign is lighting up the world in orange to symbolize the brighter future of a world without violence against women and girls.

The HeForShe campaign has set the goal of having 1 billion men support gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Leaders in government, academia, business and entertainment along with other men are joining me in committing to become partners for change.

Violence against women is pervasive in all countries – and we are mobilizing the world in response.

Individual women and women’s organizations are essential to success.

Many of you in this room have championed this cause. I thank you for your dedication.

I will continue to do everything possible to advance women’s leadership in classrooms, boardrooms and negotiating rooms. I will give as many women as possible the chance they deserve to make a difference as leaders at the United Nations. And I count on all of you to join me in pressing men to understand that women’s safety and equality are in everyone’s interest.

Together, we can unleash the power of women and girls and secure humanity’s future.

Thank you for your commitment.