By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women*
We believe in and work for a world where women and girls can flourish and prosper peacefully alongside men and boys, sharing in and benefitting from societies that value their skills and accept their leadership. Violence against women and girls has a devastating impact on individuals and on the society.
Women and girls who experience violence lose their dignity, they live in fear and pain, and in the worst cases they pay with their lives.
Violence cuts deeply into the liberties we should all have: the right to be safe at home, the right to walk safely on the streets, the right to go to school, to work, to the market or to watch a film.
We should be able to expect that attackers will be punished, that justice will be done, and that we can get care and support for injuries.
Yet, still in many countries, the laws are inadequate, the police force is uninterested, shelters, heath care and support are unavailable, and the criminal justice system is remote, expensive and biased against women and in favour of the male perpetrators. Change to these elements has a cost, yet the price of no change is unacceptable.
Experts are unanimous that the benefit of ending violence against women and girls would far outweigh the investment necessary.
We know that even relatively small-scale investments that are timely and well targeted can bring enormous benefits to women and girls and to their wider communities. For example, in Timor-Leste a simple and very effective three-year programme to provide a package of essential services for women who had experienced violence cost a fraction of one per cent of GDP, but had significant impact on women’s health and well-being.
Practical changes in market infrastructure, business training and provision of cashless payments transformed the environment, prospects and confidence of women stallholders in the markets of Papua New Guinea. In Uganda, a community programme brought together women and men, religious and community leaders, to change social norms, with a resulting reduction of 52 per cent in intimate partner violence.
These successes shed light on practical ways in which we can make progress. We can make inroads into the underlying issues of inequality and prejudice within our societies that enable and enflame violence against women and girls.
We can scale up prevention and increase appropriate services. We can begin to bend the curve down and bring the scourge of violence against women and girls to an end. Doing so will take commitment, and investment, nationally and internationally.
The extent to which violence is embedded in the society means that uprooting it is also a job for all of society. Changing the culture also means engaging allies, such as men and boys, religious groups and young people, using channels such as sports, arts, business, academia and faith to connect and convince.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives us tools with which to achieve this. Its ambitious targets demand innovative solutions and new partnerships to mobilize resources, including from national governments, overseas development assistance, private enterprise and philanthropic bodies and individuals.
Today, on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we recall this universal Agenda, universally agreed, we recognize the inextricable link between success in both, and commit again to achieving it.
2016 Human Wrongs Watch