Amid Sharp Rise in Gender-Based Violence, Deputy Secretary-General Urges Comprehensive Investment, Support for Campaigns to Protect Women, Girls, at Commonwealth Event

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the “Commonwealth Says No More Violence against Women” side event of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in Kigali today:

In the past two years, there has been an unprecedented increase in all forms of gender-based violence — particularly in the home, but also in public and online spaces.  It is only right that we stand up for a moment of silence for these victims and survivors.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 1 in 2 women reported that they, or a woman they know, experienced some form of violence.  Social isolation, restrictions on movement and economic fallout have all contributed to this increase.

The pandemic has proven a real threat to progress made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.  The pandemic has also laid bare the weakness of systems to address the needs of survivors, while the emergence of new conflicts has further increased the risk of conflict-related sexual violence.

Despite these challenges, I am heartened that, in the two years since the Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire in the home, many Governments, civil society organizations, United Nations entities and other partners have taken action.

By the end of 2021, our research showed that more than 1,600 gender-sensitive measures had been taken across 196 countries and territories, in response to the pandemic.  Of these, over half focused on stepping up action to address violence against women and girls.  And so there is hope.  Hope that we must give to the women and girls who are impacted.

These actions ranged from funding women’s rights organizations, to integrating measures to end violence against women and girls into pandemic response and recovery plans.  Other measures supported services for survivors; raised awareness; strengthened social protection; and supported the all-important collection of data to inform policies and programmes — because we know that what we don’t count, doesn’t count.

The Secretary-General’s Political Engagement Strategy on Gender-Based Violence has also mobilized the United Nations system around a zero-tolerance policy, and for services for survivors.  At the same time as these very negative developments, there is also some good news.  Civil society and Governments are finding new ways to work together to tackle the scourge of violence against women and girls.

The Spotlight Initiative, our partnership with the European Union, and the Generation Equality Forum, the civil-society-led platform, co-hosted by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) with the Governments of Mexico and France, are two successful examples of the positive impact of multilateralism and cooperation to end violence against women and girls.

Led by Governments, and working hand in hand with civil society, Spotlight Initiative programmes have helped to provide 1.6 million women and girls in more than 25 countries across the globe with services related to gender-based violence.  Some 2.5 million young people have joined programmes promoting gender­equitable norms and values.  Some 130 million people have been reached through campaigns to change behaviour and mindsets; and $179 million has been allocated to civil society organizations.

At the same time, civil society organizations, UN-Women and the Governments of France and Mexico convened the Generation Equality forum last year.  This global platform launched an Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence that has attracted more than 1,000 commitments across four priority areas.

I congratulate the innovative collaboration between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the NO MORE Foundation for building effective and collaborative pathways to address violence against women and girls.  The Commonwealth Says NO MORE Global Campaign, with its focus on preventing domestic violence, and the development of the SDG 5 Gender Equality Toolkit and other resources, show your commitment and engagement.

These efforts have never been more badly needed.  At a time when women’s rights are under assault in many places around the world, we need to push back.  Together, we need to seize every opportunity to transform structures of inequality and discrimination and put ourselves firmly on a path towards gender equality.

I call on Member States, civil society and our partners from the private sector to support efforts to mobilize action against gender-based violence through greater investment in long-term prevention measures that address the root causes of this violence.  It is critical that strategies to prevent and end gender-based violence are part of all recovery efforts as we move out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I also invite all members of the Commonwealth to join the Spotlight Initiative.  Projections indicate that its comprehensive investment model could reduce the number of women and girls experiencing violence by 21 million by 2025 — saving the lives of five women every day.  Your leadership and action on violence against women and girls are needed, now more than ever.

For information media. Not an official record.