United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday urged the international community to heed the needs of women and girls suffering from violence and discrimination.
“The global community must continue to build on the momentum we have created to prioritize the voices, experiences and needs of women and girls,” the UN chief said in his remarks to a virtual meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which falls on Nov. 25.
“We must take into account the needs of women who experience violence, particularly those who face multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination,” said the secretary-general.
The UN chief noted that violence against women and girls is “a pervasive global human rights challenge, rooted in unequal gender power relations, structural inequality and discrimination.”
He said that was the major reason that the United Nations launched the global UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign.
“The COVID-19 crisis has further exposed violence against women and girls as a global emergency requiring urgent action,” he said. “Rates of violence, in particular domestic violence, have dramatically escalated around the world.”
Guterres stressed that it is clear that the pandemic has exacerbated risk factors and laid bare the shortcomings of previous efforts to prevent and respond to this shocking emergency.
The UN chief said he has been “heartened” to see so many governments taking action to address gender-based violence during the pandemic.
Civil society partners and grassroots women’s rights organizations have been indispensable in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guterres added.
But, the UN chief said, “much work remains to be done.”
“Millions of women are being pushed further into poverty by the COVID-19 crisis, and all forms of violence against them are rising,” he said.
“Our priorities must first and foremost include urgent and flexible funding for women’s rights organizations, who so often act as first responders during crises,” said the secretary-general.
“It is critical that services for survivors are regarded as essential and remain open, with adequate resources and measures in place to support health and social services to care for survivors of violence,” he said.
Guterres said measures should not only focus on intervening once violence has occurred. “They should aim to reduce the risk of violence occurring in the first place.”
“This includes providing financial and material support to women and households; encouraging positive messaging around gender equality, stereotypes and norms; supporting access to mental health services; and engaging key stakeholders, including women and girls, men and boys, and traditional and faith-based leaders,” he added.
This year’s theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”