World / Violence : UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. 10th Anniversary Statement

15 Nov, 2009
By: Ines Alberdi, Executive Director, UNIFEM

On this 10th anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we can applaud the fact that the issue of violence against women and girls is no longer treated as simply a woman's concern. Thanks to the persistent and dedicated efforts by women’s rights activists in all parts of the world, it is now a human rights issue, a peace and security issue, and an issue of urgent concern to both men and women. 

There are now more national plans, policies and laws in place than ever before, and momentum is also growing in the intergovernmental arena: last year the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1820 which for the first time addresses sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations as an international security issue. This year we saw the passage of two new resolutions – SCr 1888 and 1889 - that will greatly strengthen the ability of the UN to address the problem of sexual violence in conflict and pave the way for stronger involvement of women in post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction to take their specific needs into account.

There is also more commitment at the highest levels of power, as we experienced last year when UNIFEM’s Say NO to Violence against Women initiative mobilized scores of heads of state, ministers and parliamentarians to add their names to a global call for action. The Say NO initiative (, which is a contribution by UNIFEM to the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, has now been re-launched as an innovative advocacy platform that stimulates and showcases actions and brings the spotlight to global efforts. Thousands of actions from organizations and individuals that have been registered over just the last few weeks demonstrate the groundswell of activity around the world by dedicated people who are determined to put an end to this appalling human rights violation. 

Despite these achievements, huge challenges remain. It is shocking that based on available country data, up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime. It happens everywhere — at home and at work, on the streets and in schools, during peacetime and in conflict.

We still live in a world where violence against women and girls is a major source of insecurity for half the world's population, from domestic violence to female genital mutilation; from so called honour killings to mass rape in times of war. The gap between the promises and realities on the ground is still too wide and violence against women and girls continues to pose some of the world's greatest challenges.

However, the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign offers a historic opportunity for demanding greater action. The campaign places the issue at the top of the UN agenda and calls on governments, civil society, women’s organizations, men, young people, the private sector, the media and the entire UN system to join forces in addressing this global pandemic. On the occasion of today’s Anniversary and as a part of his campaign, the Secretary-General is launching a Network of Men Leaders who pledge to act on ending violence against women and girls in their countries and communities. Involvement of men and boys, along with empowerment of women, are critical to achieving gender equality and fulfilling the promise of a life free of violence for every women and every girl.

There is no room for spectators in advocating for the advancement of women’s rights. Governments must act to implement existing international commitments at the national level. We need national accountability frameworks that include adequate and appropriate standards of protection and response. Among the measures which are urgently required are:

  • Adequate national legislation that is aligned with human rights standards;
  • National Action Plans to combat violence against women and girls and to put in place the institutional, technical and financial resources required for coordinated, multi-sectoral responses;
  • Immediate ‘frontline’ support and services from the police, health and legal aid providers for survivors of gender-based violence;
  • Collection, analysis and dissemination of data as an essential component for measuring the progress of anti-violence initiatives, developing effective strategies and allocating budgets;
  • Targeted prevention programmes as a next frontier in addressing the issue, specifically focusing on youth and adolescents.

 Yet each and every one of us has a crucial role to play, too. We can make a difference by raising a generation that will not resort to violence, by volunteering to provide services, by raising funds and by raising our voices to say NO to violence against women.  The solution lies within us: through concerted action we can put an end to violence against women and girls.