Introduction by Michelle Bachelet at a CSW57 side event for UN Heads of Agencies to discuss violence against women and girls

Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Introduction and speech by Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, at a CSW57 side event for UN Heads of Agencies to discuss violence against women and girls. New York. 5 March, 2013.

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Good afternoon. It is wonderful to have the Secretary-General with us. I am so pleased to be here with all of you. This is a special event where the United Nations comes together to discuss and demonstrate strong commitment to end violence against women and girls.

This commitment is ongoing and as far as I am concerned, we can never do enough! I would like to extend a warm welcome to our panelists and all of you who have joined us. Ending violence against women has very strong leadership from the top of the United Nations.

I am pleased to invite the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, to deliver opening remarks and also to present to him our joint statement that all agencies represented here today have signed to work together to end violence against women and girls.

We are here today to discuss how the UN system is working together to prevent and end violence against women. I am now pleased to introduce our panelists. They are:

  • Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO
  • Ms. Rebeca Grynspan, UN Under-Secretary and UNDP Associate Administrator
  • Ms. Anne-Birgette Albrectsen, Deputy Executive Director, UNFPA
  • Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF
  • Ms Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR

We will also hear from:

  • Mr. Jacob Kumaresan Head of WHO, NY Office
  • Professor Sheila Tlou, Director, UNAIDS

And now I’d like to say a few words about UN action to end violence against women. I already mentioned the strong support and leadership of the Secretary-General to end violence against women and girls. All of the organizations represented here today are agents of change to eliminate this violence and these appalling human rights violations.

Whether we are talking about UNESCO through education, UNDP through development cooperation, UNFPA through the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights, or UNICEF through protecting the rights of children, this work is making a difference on the ground.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights is taking on specific cases and promoting universal protection of human rights, and the World Health Organization and UNAIDS are key for public health and ending violence against girls and women. When we join together, we make a bigger impact.

When we set up UN Women more than two years ago, we made ending violence against women one of our top priorities. And we are fully aware that we must join forces to be successful.

We know ending violence against women and girls requires progress towards equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation. We know that this is no easy task, but this is the challenge of our time, and it is a challenge we must meet with conviction, commitment and cooperation.

Over the past six months we have seen momentum rising as people around the world took to the streets demanding justice, demanding an end to violence against women and girls. The message is clear and simple: Enough is enough. We must take action. We must break the cycle of violence that diminishes each and every one of us.

As the United Nations, we must be at the forefront of these efforts because our work is based on the premise of universal human rights and human dignity. Together we are working for a world in which no human being lives under threat or in fear of violence. To work for human development– for justice, peace, equality and sustainability.

And I am proud of our interagency work to deliver as one that has led to concrete results for women and girls around the world.

UN Women works in 85 countries to end violence against women, within UN country teams, and in 57 of these last year, together we supported capacity building to strengthen laws and improve service delivery for survivors of violence.

As a result, there are new units to address family violence in the Solomon Islands, new gender units led by the Tanzania female police network, and increased access to care in countries including Algeria, Mauritania, and Rwanda. In Zimbabwe, one-stop centres now reach more than 1,700 survivors.

Together with UNICEF, UN Habitat and others, we support a Safe Cities global initiative that has brought increased attention to the violence that women and girls face in nearly every imaginable public space: in schools, in the marketplaces, in parking lots, on buses and on city streets.

We are working with local governments and engaging men, women and young people in their communities in over 20 cities around the world, and this number continues to rise, to make cities safe for girls and women.

In Cairo, the national government adopted women’s safety audits whereby local women identify safety and security conditions in their neighbourhoods, which are incorporated into urban planning.

In Rio de Janeiro, women and girls in the city’s slums, or favelas, used their smartphones to map safety risks such as faulty infrastructure or services, obscured walking routes, and lack of lighting. Local authorities are using this information to develop solutions so women and girls can feel safer and more secure.

We are also excited about the innovative work of the grantees of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. To date, the UN Trust Fund has delivered more than USD 86 million to 351 initiatives in 128 countries and territories. These grants go to NGOs and local communities to provide services—from shelters for battered women to peer education for adolescents, to training for community leaders and police officers.

At UN Women, we manage the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign to end violence against women, which is galvanizing action in countries and communities around the world. And last year in November, we launched the COMMIT Initiative.

So far more than 40 countries from every region have made clear, national commitments in their countries and we expect to see more such pledges in the days to come. Today I salute these Governments for their commitment to end violence against girls and women.

As the United Nations, we have the obligation to take action and inspire action to end violence against women and girls. The time to act is now.

I would now like to turn your attention to the video screen where we will hear from Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization; Mr. Guy Ryder, Director-General, ILO; and Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director UN Office of Drug Control.