“UNiTE and RISE” speech by UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign manager

Date: Thursday, February 14, 2013

“UNiTE and RISE” speech by UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign manager, Aldijana Sisic. New york, 14 February 2013.

[Check against delivery]

Mister Deputy Secretary-General,
Madam Vice-Chair of the CSW Bureau,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My dear Colleagues,

It is a great pleasure to be here today and to have this opportunity to address you all.

It is a great pleasure to rise and dance together on a day that celebrates probably the most important human emotion that holds us together, makes everything possible, and as individuals, makes us feel safe, protected, allows us to grow, trust, dream and reach for the sky.

It is exactly for this very basic human right to feel safe, protected and to translate an individual dream into reality in one’s life, that in 2008 the Secretary-General of United Nations launched the UN System wide UNiTE to End Violence against Womencampaign.

The campaign is managed by the UN Women on behalf of the System and has a very straightforward vision: a world free from violence against women and girls.

The campaign believes that raising public awareness worldwide, increasing political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world is the way forward.

Our focus is specifically placed on national laws, action plans, data collection, sexual violence in conflict, and social mobilization.

As you can imagine, I am often asked: does UNiTE actually make a difference? My simple answer is: Yes, of course. There are many examples but just to name a few:

  • When a 24-year old man from Tanzania, one of the winners of the global UNiTE T-shirt design competition, becomes one of the most engaged activists in his country and says: “I did not really know just how widespread violence against women and girls is in my country until one morning, approximately one year ago the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign changed my life.” – we know we are raising awareness and engaging youth.
  • When under the leadership of the UN in Bosnia and Herzegovina men in my native Sarajevo establish a “Real Men League”, a forum of well-known men working to end violence against women and girls – we know we are changing and engaging men.
  • When Resident Coordinators report that the UN system is adopting a shared and coherent approach and stepping up its work to end violence against women and girls through the significant growth of programming interventions that can be linked to the advocacy efforts of the Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign – 104 joint programming initiatives in 2010 compared to, for example, 35 in 2006 – we know we are changing and progressing the UN System’s work on this issue.

Now, given that we are here today to actually unite and rise, perhaps the question is: why and how should you get involved? There are many ‘how’ one can get involved in the UNiTE campaign but I believe that today is more important to highlight ‘Why‘:

First, because all of us employees of the UN, individually, are our relationships, our homes, families, our communities and our countries – therefore, we are responsible for what is happening in them.

Every day in every country women and girls – our friends, neighbors, sisters, daughters, aunts and mothers – are beaten by their partners, have acid thrown in their faces, are harassed in a school or on a street, raped in parks or on their way to markets.

We must unite, we must rise not only today, we must say no and change this.

The second reason is to build new generations. 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. As much as it is our responsibility to teach them that this kind of life belongs to all of us, it is also our responsibility to rise, stand up for it - so that they can follow.

And the third, for me perhaps the most important ‘Why’ is, because of the hopes of women and girls.

Because of the hopes of all of those women and girls who despite beatings and horrific experiences, fight their daily battles in belief that one day, just as we do today, they will also have this basic human right to love and be loved, feel safe and protected, to grow, trust, dream and to reach for the sky.

Thank you.