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International Women's Day 2013 - Statement

International Women's Day 2013 - Statement

A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women

Geneva, March 8, 2013: As the international community meets for the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) from March 4-15, 2013, where Member States representatives will discuss the advances they have made in the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, the World YWCA joins women's groups worldwide to celebrate the progress made over the decades since the first international Women’s Day and to look towards the important actions that still need to take place to ensure the improvement of the lives and security of women worldwide.

Since the first quarter of the 20th century the World YWCA has pushed for women’s rights, documented the reality of their lives, lobbied global policies on women’s empowerment and gender equality. This commitment would not have become reality without the courage and determination of the many women across the globe who form the YWCA movement. This day is about honouring these women and thanking them for the extraordinary role they have played and are still playing in the history of their countries and communities.

But there is another facet to the March 8 celebration, and while the World YWCA is proud of the significant progress already made on women’s rights and gender equality, when we reflect on this year's theme of the day – violence against women – we are reminded that much work lies ahead to achieve true gender equality. While the World YWCA makes its own contributions through programmes on violence against women and peace with justice in more than 70 countries, the movement continues to call for accountability and commitment towards actions that allow women to exercise their rights to freedom from violence [1].

We need to do more for the security and the full enjoyment of women’s rights because it is a recognised fact supported by shocking statistics that millions of women, young women and girls everywhere in the world suffer each year from all forms of violence.

It is a recognised fact that child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation violate the rights of women and girls. Harmful traditional practices deny girls and young women their sexual and reproductive rights, limit their education and increase their vulnerability to violence. About 140 million girls, young women and women worldwide are currently suffering from the consequences of FGM and each year over 60 million girls are forced into marriage before the age of 18. While culture and religion play an important role in women’s lives, the World YWCA believes that their lives must be reclaimed and advocates for the support of basic human rights.

It is a recognised fact that violence against women, young women and girls increases their vulnerability to HIV, and living with HIV increases their vulnerability to violence. Universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is vital to strengthen the response to violence against women.

It is a recognised fact that equality and opportunity remain out of reach for too many women around the world. Gender inequality should be recognized as a root cause of violence against women and girls, combined with an imbalance of power relations between men and women, and women’s lack of ownership and control over resources.

It is a recognised fact that women are among the most affected by armed conflict in very specific ways, including sexual violence. Every day the world witnesses the devastating consequences of armed conflict for women and girls. The current painful experience of women in many countries shows that this needs to be addressed urgently as a human rights, health, peace and security, and development issue.

Therefore, the World YWCA calls on governments around the world to move from policy to practice in the implementation of existing national, regional and global commitments related to ending violence against women and to protecting human rights; in particular, we call on governments to:

  1. Strengthen and implement legal, policy, administrative and other measures to end child, early and forced marriage in a single generation by 2030 by naming the eradication of child, early and forced marriage as a key indicator in the post-2015 development agenda
  2. Provide appropriate information to help young women understand their sexuality, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, in order to increase their ability to protect themselves from violence against women, HIV infection and sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.
  3. Strengthen advocacy and rights-based awareness-raising programmes directed at eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against girls by engaging girls and boys, parents and families, local community, political, religious and traditional leaders and educational institutions, and provide adequate financial support to efforts at both national and local levels to change behaviour, stereotyped attitudes and harmful practices.
  4. Strengthen efforts towards full implementation of UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security in occupation, conflict, post-conflict, and militarised settings, and affirm that rape in conflict situations is recognised as a war crime.

[1]  Statement by the World YWCA to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women – 57th Session

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