Remarks of the UN Resident Coordinator Lizbeth Cullity, at the Official Opening of 16 Days Against Violence Campaign. Tooa Salamasina Hall, Apia

Nov 25, 2015

1. Violence Against Women and Girls: The Issue

Across the world, violence against women and girls remains one of the most serious—and the most tolerated—human rights violations, both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality and discrimination.

Violence against women and girls permeates every society, class, race, geographical area, age group, and in fact last year the World Health Organization called it ‘a global epidemic’ and a public health crisis.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women worldwide experience either physical and/or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. In some countries, this figure can be as high as 70%. 

Violence not only has negative consequences for those who suffer it, but also their families, the community and the country at large. It is a grave human rights violation, and also has tremendous costs, from greater health care and legal expenses and losses in productivity, impacting national budgets and overall development.

Its continued presence is one of the clearest markers of societies out of balance and we are determined to change that.

2. How can we End Violence against Women and Girls?  Focus on prevention… 

Although there is no single solution to such a complex problem, there is growing evidence that a range of actions, if implemented in parallel, can stop violence before it happens. 

Prevention is crucial. 

Ending violence against women requires work to start at home, and needs to remain consistent throughout school, in the workplace, in religious and cultural societies and bodies. 

It is only through concerted action by everyone involved, from governments to individuals, that we can tackle the unequal power relations and structures between men and women.  

Early interventions and education are also critical components, especially education that emphasizes the importance of rights and respect for all people. 

Preventive factors include a strong human rights culture and zero tolerance for any form of discrimination towards women and girls but it also requires legal measures and policies addressing the problem.

Remarkable progress has been made in improving the laws. Some 125 countries have laws against sexual harassment and 119 have laws against domestic violence, but only 52 countries have laws on marital rape.

However, even when laws exist, this does not mean they are always compliant with international standards and recommendations or implemented.

3. Actions that can really make a difference

But what are the actions that have proven to be successful and that can really make a difference? 

Community mobilization, group interventions for both women and men, educational programmes and empowerment of women are some of the interventions that have impact, when they are put together with other legal, behavioral and social changes. 

With the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the new 2030 Agenda, now we have for the first time explicit targets to eliminate violence against women. Goal number 5 on Gender Equality recognizes violence against women as an obstacle to fully achieving the development agenda and provides comprehensive indicators on what we should do to address that goal. 

Ending violence against women and girls is a priority for action. 

4. The role of religious leaders and “Ways to Preach Against Violence”

In the Samoan society, I believe that religious leaders and faith-based organizations are key to ending violence against women and children. They can utilize their positions to help shape the discussion of issues regarding gender based violence. 

Congregations can work to insure that they are safe places for adults and children and can partner with local agencies to provide volunteers, meeting space, and financial support. Seminaries can train students to identify sexual and domestic violence, to respond appropriately, and to utilize community resources whenever possible. 

Today we are here to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women but also to launch “Ways to Preach Against Violence”, a brochure that has been created by UNWomen, UNESCO and the US Embassy.  

This document is produced as a resource to clergy to use as guidance to frame discussion about healthy families, respect for women, and zero tolerance of violence.

The document chooses to promote 11 biblical quotes that reflect Samoan principle of ALOFA (Love) which is also reflected in teachings of Jesus Christ.

4. Conclusion

Today, we are here to renew our commitment and recognise, once again, that gender-based violence is not aceptable, not inevitable. Gender based violence can be prevented. 

Hence, I call on you, on the Church and Community leaders, to act to end all forms of violence against women and girls and to help us achieve a Samoa 50-50, a more equal and harmonious country.

Thank you.  

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