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16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Effective partnerships key to combating gender-based violence

2004-11-25, Issue 184

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/16days/25811

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Partnerships between governments, the international system, civil society, the media and private sector offer real solutions to ending gender-based violence, according to speakers at a United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) event to observe International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. Despite substantial progress in the last two decades to raise awareness of gender- based violence as a serious human rights violation, today's world is no safer for women and girls. The scale of the problem has reached epidemic proportions - globally, one in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.

UNIFEM Presse release
19 November 2004

United Nations, New York - Partnerships between governments, the
international system, civil society, the media and private sector offer
real solutions to ending gender-based violence, according to speakers at a
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) event to observe
International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

Despite substantial progress in the last two decades to raise awareness of
gender- based violence as a serious human rights violation, today's world
is no safer for women and girls. The scale of the problem has reached
epidemic proportions - globally, one in three women will be raped, beaten,
coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Partnerships across
sectors and at all levels of society are critical to build political will
and secure the resources necessary to match the magnitude of the
challenge.

The intersection of violence against women and the HIV/AIDS pandemic was
the special theme of this year's observance, since violence against women
is a key factor in women's greater vulnerability to HIV infection than
men's. In a statement to mark the day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
called the increased risk of HIV infection an added deadly dimension to
the problem of violence against women. "Sexual violence increases women's
vulnerability to the virus. All too frequently, the threat of violence
forces women to have unprotected sex. Violence can also make it impossible
for women to seek information, follow treatment or even raise the subject
for discussion."

Opening the UNIFEM event, Mrs Nane Annan, described a recent trip to Kenya
where she visited KENWA, a grassroots association in one of Nairobi's
larger slums, formed by women living with HIV/AIDS, caring for themselves
and others. There she met with Esther, a KENWA member caring for five to
six patients a week, and Beatrice, one of Esther's patients who had been
infected by her husband and left to fend for herself and her baby alone
after he died. "Even there, around the bed of this desperately sick woman
[Beatrice] and her child, there were partnerships forming. There was the
Minister of Health, a woman who later strongly spoke out on the fight
against AIDS, a UNIFEM representative ... and there were members of
KENWA," she said. "I have been moved by the inner resources of women I met
and the leadership they are taking in their own lives. Networks like yours
are vital in empowering women and giving them strength," she told the
KENWA group.

Event speakers pointed to the essential role of women's rights activists
around the world in ending violence against women. "They provide the
beginning. The seeds, the push that gets the debate going at the
inter-governmental level," said Kyung-wha Kang, Chair of the UN Commission
on the Status of Women. Marijke Velzeboer-Salcedo, chief of UNIFEM's Latin
America and the Caribbean section, called the international day an annual
opportunity to celebrate the activists "who have joined forces to take
action, to not tolerate a minute more of violence." She lauded grantees of
the UNIFEM Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, who work tirelessly
at the grassroots, national and regional levels to remove violence from
their communities.

"There are never enough resources - and there will never be. So,
partnerships are essential," said Alexandra Arriaga, Director of Amnesty
International USA's Washington DC office. She explained that Amnesty
International is involved in a six- year campaign to end violence against
women, and that working with other organizations, like the Family Violence
Prevention Fund and Women's Edge, was essential to help raise much needed
resources for UNIFEM's Trust Fund. "The real work is on the ground. The
beauty of UNIFEM's Trust Fund is that every dollar that goes in is
re-granted to grassroots organizations working on the front line."

Kiersten Stewart from the Family Violence Prevention Fund emphasized the
importance of involving men and boys in partnerships, a key focus of her
organization's work. "We partner with men, who are already a part of the
solution, but who often don't feel invited to join the fight. We invite
them to get involved, to teach the next generation of boys that violence
against women is always wrong," she said.

Actresses Bree Williamson and Padma Lakshimi-Rushdie, both also women's
rights advocates, described their experiences working with women who had
survived abuse. They welcomed working with UNIFEM because of the
opportunity to raise awareness, especially among younger women, of how to
stand up to violence and regain their lives. Lakshmi-Rushdie, who recently
visited a women's shelter in India that is supported by UNIFEM, spoke of
one young woman she met who, through the shelter's protection and
services, emerged from trauma to resume her high school education, take a
course in computer technology, and begin a job to help others like her at
the shelter. "I know from my own mother's experience, how important it is
to be able to stand on your own. I want to contribute to ending violence
against women ... and help UNIFEM," she said.

An innovative partnership with PeaceKeeper Cause-metics, a unique
cosmetics company that gives all of its profits, after taxes, to women's
human rights causes, was also announced. The company has launched a
PeaceKeeper-UNIFEM lip gloss, which will be sold to raise funds for
UNIFEM's Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. Jody Weiss, founder of
the company, described the partnership as a creative way to educate women
about gender-based violence while also raising much-needed funding to
support efforts to deal with the problem. "The ethos behind the company is
to invite women to be proactive, to use their discretionary income to make
spending decisions that contribute directly to promoting gender equality
and ending violence," she said.

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