14 February, 2013 — On what is traditionally Valentine’s Day in a number of countries, hundreds of UN staff members danced and collectively rose up to call for an to end violence against women during a special event at United Nations headquarters in New York.
The event was organized by the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2008 as an inter-agency effort managed by UN Women to galvanize stronger mobilization, awareness and action to end violence against women and girls. The activity was part of a series of events being organized worldwide in support of the One Billion Rising initiative, Eve Ensler’s global civil society campaign which shares this goal.
“The global pandemic of violence against women and girls thrives in a culture of discrimination and impunity. We must speak out,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement. “That is why I launched my global UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. As part of this, I am proud to emphatically raise my voice and join the chorus of all those taking part in the One Billion Rising campaign.”
The UN Secretary-General also called on Governments to join the UN Women initiative COMMIT by making new and concrete commitments to end violence against women. So far 18 countries have done so.
“I encourage all of you to call on your leaders to join this effort. On this special day, I urge all governments to send us a Valentine message: a concrete commitment of action to end violence against women and girls,” he said.
In a video message, UN Women Executive Director Michele Bachelet stood up, danced and declared “Enough!” rejecting various forms of violence against women and girls, refuting the culture of shame they suffer, and calling on others to put an end to the violence.
The event was led by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, who recalled the horrific personal stories of women survivors he met in Mali. He urged everyone to act against violence.
“Nobody can do everything but everybody can do something,” he said in his speech. “Today, we rise. In the weeks to come, we stand tall. And when the Commission on the Status of Women opens in March, let us continue our determined struggle for an end to violence against women and children.”
The event is a prelude to the annual inter-governmental meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The two-week session, from 4-15 March, will this year focus on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
Ana Marie Hernando, Vice Chair of CSW, said she expects the upcoming session of the Commission to yield an outcome that will serve as basis for concrete and specific action. “We are fully confident that Member States will rise to the occasion, like you are doing today.”
UNiTE Campaign Manager Aldijana Sisic also underlined the need for political commitment, while stressing the need for everyday people to take a stand.
“To truly end violence, we must make sure that it does not happen in the first place. The only way we can do that is if we build new generations of young people who believe in the right to a life free of violence,” she said in her speech.
University student Marie Ostby took part in the UN event in New York after receiving a Facebook message from her father, the UN Resident Coordinator in Fiji. She said she came out because her mother was leading a dance in Suva, Fiji and her little sister was participating in a One Billion Rising event in Oslo, Norway. “We are all part of something together in different parts of the world today.”