AAUW at the U.N.: End Violence against Women and Girls

March 06, 2013

The world can no longer afford the costs of violence against women and girls — the social and economic costs and the costs in deep human pain and suffering.”

—     Michelle Bachelet, undersecretary-general and executive director of U.N. Women at the opening session of the 57th U.N. Commission on the Status of Women

U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet speaks at the opening of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women on March 4, 2013, at the U.N. headquarters in New York. Photo credit: U.N. Women/Catianne Tijerina

U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet speaks at the opening of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women on March 4, 2013, at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

From March 4 to 14, more than 6,000 representatives from government, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society will gather in New York for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The CSW, part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is “the principal global policymaking body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.”

In preparation for the commission , the NGO CSW Forum 2013 Consultation Day took place on March 3 to lay the groundwork for this year’s priority theme: elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. More than 600 participants came together for a day of inspiring speakers, challenging statements, sobering statistics, and training — all related to ending violence against women and girls. There were panels on trafficking of women and girls, the role of men, best practices, and communications and social media training.

The day opened with a riveting performance by G!rl Be Heard, a nonprofit group that “uses theater as our vehicle to empower young women to become brave, confident, socially conscious leaders and explore their own challenging circumstances.”

Next, Undersecretary-General and Executive Director of U.N. Women Michelle Bachelet said in her remarks that “discrimination and violence against women and girls have no place in a 21st-century society” and that “violence against women is undermining all efforts toward development.”

We also heard from NGO CSW Woman of Distinction Bineta Diop of Senegal. The Femmes Africa Solidarité founder noted that women began to speak out about violence in Senegal when they realized that “what happened to my neighbor could happen to me.” Diop lamented the lack of women participants in the peace process and the challenge of peacekeepers who become more of a threat to women than a solution.

Mallika Dutt of India, president and CEO of the global human rights organization Breakthrough, said that “The home is the most unsafe place for women and for many young children as well.” Dutt shared one of her organization’s amazing programs, Bell Bajao! (Ring the Bell), which calls upon men and boys to take a stand and “ring the bell” to interrupt domestic violence. Other speakers included Sean Southey, executive director of the entertainment education firm PCI Media Impact, who discussed the power of stories to “make sense of our world” and “take on the most pressing issues of our time.” There was a common conviction at the forum that everyone must do their part to end violence against women and that the time is NOW.

This year’s commission includes side events organized outside the formal program. The NGO Committee on the Status of Women also organizes a schedule of parallel events for civil society organizations, member states, United Nations entities, and NGOs “to discuss themes of the commission and other critical gender equality issues.”

AAUW is pleased to present a parallel event on March 6 at 2:30 p.m. about our research report Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School at the Salvation Army in New York City on 221 East 52nd St.

In the end, translating talk into action is what will really matter for the millions of women and girls whose lives are forever changed by violence. “Ringing the bell” for education and awareness is a good place to start.

Don’t ignore violence against women and girls.

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