Statement by UN Women Executive Director: Let us unite to end violence against women and girls so that we leave no one behind

Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director UN Women on the occasion of the fifth joint summit of the European Union and the African Union

Date: Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Leaders from the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) are preparing to meet at their fifth joint summit in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, (29 – 30 November) with a focus on investing in youth for a sustainable future. Those investments must include both the ending of violence in all its forms and the building of equality between women and men, girls and boys. These two, directly-linked areas of investment need concerted and coherent action from coalitions of countries. The EU-AU Summit provides a powerful opportunity for this to take place. To do so, it can build on another such massive and innovative partnership that was recently launched at this year’s UN General Assembly, between the European Union and the United Nations: the Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meets with Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament and Roger Nkodo Dang, Chair of the Pan African Parliament. Photo: UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meets with Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament and Roger Nkodo Dang, Chair of the Pan African Parliament. Photo: UN Women

During my current mission in Côte d'Ivoire, which forms the first stop in Africa within my ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’ campaign, I have had the honour to meet with President Alassane Ouattara, who has taken a close interest in this subject. In addition, national parliamentarians and senior officials from both the Pan African Parliament and European Union, discussed how best to use the lessons learnt from the 20 years of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women and the new opportunities that the Spotlight Initiative brings us.  The Initiative brings together the expertise and experience of the United Nations’ agencies, funds and programmes, the EU and other stakeholders, including public and private sectors, civil society, and key partners like media, with interventions at multiple levels reflecting the complexity of the challenge.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. Photo: UN Women
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. Photo: UN Women

I hope that this model will be an inspiration to other countries to join the Spotlight Initiative and build the movement to end violence against all women and girls further. It is supported by a multi-stakeholder trust fund, with the EU as its main contributor in the order of half a billion Euro. This investment is “seed funding”, and the Fund is open to other donors. It provides an unprecedented opportunity to generate transformative change, build on national efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and respond to the needs of women and girls throughout the world.

Spotlight‘s investment in Africa will have a particular focus on ending harmful practices that affect the younger elements of the population, like child marriage and female genital mutilation, and on sexual and gender-based violence.  In other areas of the world the spotlight turns to other forms like domestic and family violence, femicide, trafficking in human beings, and sexual and economic exploitation. 

The consequences of each aspect of violence can be lifelong and cumulative for the girls and women affected.  The consequences of changing that are similarly transformative. This week I witnessed how women who organized themselves into agro co-operatives were able to increase their productivity and improve their income, avoiding the working conditions that otherwise exposed them to debilitating sexual violence.

The alliance between the UN and the EU on ending violence against women and girls is unprecedented in scale, scope, focus and ambition. It has its natural counterpart in the alliance between the African Union and the EU. We are all already linked through our commitment to the 2030 Agenda.  To end this greatest of violations of human rights that is constraining our progress in so many ways, let us all unite to leave no-one behind, and end violence against women and girls.