Pretoria, South Africa – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for greater international action to end violence against women, as he opened the UN commemorative event for International Women’s Day at New York Headquarters. He was addressing an audience including ministers from over 50 countries and more than 1,000 representatives of women’s groups, who will be in New York for the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women, from 2 to 13 March.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, which is observed annually on 8 March, is “Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls.” The theme ties in with the Secretary-General’s wider campaign “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women,” which he launched in 2008, to run through 2015, the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
“The link with the Goals is clear,” the Secretary-General said in his message for International Women’s Day. “We must stop the habitual and socially ingrained violence that mars lives, destroys health, perpetuates poverty and prevents us from achieving women’s equality and empowerment.”
Mobilizing men and women to prevent violence against women, including through national campaigns, is one of the key outcomes which the Secretary-General has urged all countries to work towards. Other key outcomes called for under the campaign are that comprehensive national laws are in place and enforced; that multisectoral national action plans are adopted and implemented, with adequate resources provided to both prevent violence and respond to survivors; that data collection is improved through surveys on prevalence; and that sexual violence in conflict situations is systematically addressed.
“Changing mindsets and the habits of generations is not easy. It must involve all of us – individuals, organizations and governments,” the Secretary-General said. “We must work together to state loud and clear, at the highest level, that violence against women will not be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance.”
United Nations offices around the world are working with partners from government and civil society to organize dozens of special events in observance of International Women’s Day, bringing women and men together to tackle the scourge of violence against women in all its manifestations.
In South Africa, the United Nations, the Commission on Gender Equality and the Centre for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria are hosting a panel discussion of leading gender experts to talk about this year’s theme. The event will be held in the Senate Hall of the University of Pretoria’s Lynwood Campus today Friday, 6 March 2009 from 10h30 to 12h30.