PRESS BRIEFING

UN INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR the Elimination of VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN & CAUCASUS 16 DAYS 2002

VIOLENCE against WOMEN

is a global epidemic…..and it is growing!

Kofi Annan UN Secretary-General

It is a scourge that preys on women and girls of ALL nations, of ALL cultures. It is gender-based violence — and it continues to grow, encouraged by the silence surrounding the issue and excused by reference to cultural norms. At the dawn of the 21st Century it is a very negative reflection of global society that violence against women is increasing throughout the world. Gender-based violence is the social, psychological and economic subordination of women and occurs in ALL societies. Violence against women is a complex phenomenon deeply rooted in the way society is composed — cultural beliefs, power relations, economic power imbalances, and the masculine ideal of male dominance. In adopting the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the UN General Assembly defined the problem as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life."

Such violence occurs within the home or in the wider community and women are vulnerable to this violence at all stages of life, even before they are born, through female infanticide. The UN estimates that over 60 million girls are ‘missing’ due to ‘son preference’.

The problem is of such a worrying scale that a few years ago the United Nations selected the twenty-fifth of November as the special UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. On the 17 December 1999, the General Assembly at its 83rd plenary meeting of the fifty-fourth session, on the basis of the Report of the Third Committee (A/54/598 and Corr.1 and 2), adopted Resolution 54/134 on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The General Assembly expressed alarm that endemic violence against women was impeding women’s opportunities to achieve legal, social, political and economic equality in society. The Assembly reiterated that the term “violence against women” refers to acts capable of causing physical, sexual or psychological harm, whether in public or private life.

The UN General Assembly invited Governments, the relevant agencies, bodies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system, and other international organisations and non-governmental organisations, to organise on that day activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem of violence against women. The date of November 25th was chosen to mark the death of the Mirabal sisters: three political activists in the Dominican Republic who were assassinated during the Trujillo dictatorship in the early sixties. Their violent deaths inspired an anti-Trujillo movement and the repressive regime was brought to an end. Since that time, the Mirabal sisters have become international symbols of the victimization of women in the fight against gender violence.

THE CAUCASUS LEADS THE WAY


The 25th November also marks the beginning of the CAUCASUS 16 DAYS of Activism Against Gender Violence. Pida Ripley, the founder/Director of WomenAid International, developed the unique concept of combining two global campaigns that aim to eliminate violence against women, ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence’ and the ‘White Ribbon Campaign’. Both these global campaigns were introduced and promoted in Georgia during 2000, establishing the first nationally coordinated '16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence' and ‘White Ribbon Campaign’ in the world. Following the success of this Georgian initiative WomenAid International using this twin-track strategy, established CAUCASUS 16 DAYS, the first regional coordination of these two global campaigns.

The CAUCASUS 16 DAYS of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign facilitates active participation of civil society actors in three countries in transition and strengthens the emerging Caucasus collaborative network against gender violence in all its forms. Acting as the CAUCASUS 16 DAYS focal point, WomenAid International-Caucasus has developed three National Coordination Committees in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, in a unique collaboration and partnership of some 500 non-governmental (NGOs) and international organisations. The ‘CAUCASUS 16 DAYS’ is successfully bringing men and women, governments and civil society together on one platform – to end violence against women.

This regional Campaign has also fostered the creation of the CAUCASUS GENDER INSTITUTE with National Focus Groups of three countries working together to raise awareness and develop innovative end-violence strategies. This successful initiative in the Caucasus is being viewed as a good example of collaborative campaigning on a regional scale.

A TWIN TRACK STRATEGY

The White Ribbon Campaign, a unique initiative of Canadian men, is the largest effort, in the world, of men working to end men's violence against women. Following the murder in Montreal of 14 Canadian young girls who were studying to become engineers, the murderer was asked why he committed such horrific violence. He replied that they were women and had no right to become engineers. This brutality against young girls triggered the creation of both the global campaigns – the White Ribbon and also the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is a global campaign that runs from 25th November to 10th December. Individuals and groups around the world use this annual campaign as an organizing strategy to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women. Growing out of the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, the Campaign links violence against women and human rights, emphasizing that all forms of violence, whether perpetrated in the public or private sphere, are a violation of human rights.

The dates that participants chose for the Campaign symbolically make this link:

November 25, the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, commemorates the politically active Mirabal sisters who were brutally murdered by the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960.

December 1 is World AIDS Day. The twin pandemics of HIV and AIDs are decimating communities globally. Women are more susceptible to infection and are being infected at a faster rate than men.

December 6 marks the anniversary of the 1991 ‘Montreal Massacre’, when a man shot and killed 14 women engineering students for "being feminists".

December 10 is recognised as International Human Rights Day. In 1948, on 10 December, governments acknowledged the human rights of all to "life, liberty and the security of person...without distinction of any kind," as they signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Now in its twelfth year, the campaign includes many events such as multimedia campaigns, protests, and free services organized by over 1000 organizations in more than 100 countries.

 

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Elimination of Violence against Women

By Kofi Annan