Opening remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


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This year, we commemorate 25 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action amidst the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that imperil progress for women and girls. 

We have seen the close connection between the pandemic and the rise in reported violence of all kinds. We called it the Shadow Pandemic.

We have seen the difference between the way that our societies and our public services respond to citizens who present with a life-threatening illness, and those who come for help with a life- or health- threatening partner.

This year’s global movements for racial justice have also reminded us that we cannot truly tackle this issue until we address the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination experienced by women and girls.

There is a growing momentum and strong political engagement to address violence against women and girls. But we need to see more and look to you all today to unite on this.

We see solidarity building through the Generation Equality campaign and its multi-stakeholder Action Coalition on gender-based violence.

We heard political will expressed in the high-level side event on gender-based violence and COVID-19 held on the margins of the UN General Assembly, which featured solid commitments from the Action Coalition leaders.

Our collective and accelerated response to the Secretary-General’s call to make prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of national responses to COVID-19 will lead us to a safer, more equal and violence-free world for all women and girls.

Together, we must uphold our commitment to: FUND women’s rights organizations; RESPOND by strengthening and adapting services to survivors and integrating responses to violence against women into COVID-19 response and recovery plans; PREVENT violence against women and girls through social mobilization and social protection measures; and COLLECT data to inform policies and programmes.

Civil society and women’s rights organizations are our key partners in this. To play their role fully, they must be flexibly resourced, and the funding cuts reversed. I am proud that through the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women and the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund – and in partnership with donor Member States, the Spotlight Initiative and the European Union – we have already allocated (on top of existing grants) an additional USD14.7 million to 132 organizations around the world with USD11 million more coming in the next six months.

We are also delighted by the announcement just today that USD 25 million in funding from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will be released to UNFPA and UN Women. It will be used to fund women-led organizations that prevent violence against women and girls, and help victims and survivors with access to medical care, family planning, legal advice, safe spaces, mental health services and counselling. Thank you to Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for this critical investment.

We know what it takes to fight a pandemic. Now we need the will to do it, and with Generation Equality, to lead the way to a less violent world for us all. Thank you.