Ending Violence Against Women: A Day At The U.N.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Yesterday, I hung out at United Nations headquarters to learn about what's being done at the highest levels and on the ground. Here's what I found out.

On this, the event's tenth anniversary, two major developments have emerged: first, U.N. and governmental officials at the highest levels are signing on to end violence against women, rather than the issue being restricted to women-specific subsidiaries. Two, there's a new focus on getting men involved. The launch of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Network of Men's Leaders to fight violence against women neatly illustrates both trends.

Nanette Braun, the head of communications for the UNIFEM, told me yesterday, "When you see how much advocacy is going on at the highest level, at a certain point maybe the time is ripe...and enough momentum has been created around an issue."

Of course, that momentum has been created by the hard work of women's organizations around the world. As Braun put it,

It's been a long struggle and a long path by women's advocates to bring this issue at the top of the agenda. First of all it was regarded more or less as a private issue, so the push was to make it public. Because it is not private, it's a crime. Then there was a push for legislation. If it is a crime, let's have laws. Now there is more legislation. Is it perfect? No. Is it everywhere? No. But you have a good body of legislation right now. We now see that that alone is not enough, either. You need the capacity and the knowledge and the resources and the political will to implement the legislation because the best law is nothing if it's not being implemented.

Ban also joined a panel of men who are actively working to end violence against women, including Todd Minerson, the executive director of the White Ribbon Campaign. "We need to shift the paradigm from a few good men working on women's issues to all leaders being accountable to addressing violence against women," Minerson said, adding that generally, he refers to "''men's violence against women' instead of just 'violence against women' because men get taken out of the picture. It's important to understand that when we talk about interventions, we have to talk about men and we have to talk about masculinity."

Of course, just because the Secretary General is involved, doesn't mean that suddenly the entire United Nations agenda has been reshaped. At the press conference that followed, the formal, ceremonial tone was broken up only slightly by more provocative questions.

One was from a man from a Norwegian news agency (at about 29:00 in the video seen here) : "Sir, you announced today grants of $10.5 million dollars to end violence against women. In light of the massive magnitude of this problem, that seems like a very small sum. Why is it so difficult to get funding for this?"

The Secretary General responded,

We will continue to ask for generous contributions...This is not an issue of any individual group or country. This is sort of a global issue. This must be stopped and prevented. For that, we need resources in addition to political priority, political awareness. And that's what I said. We are going to raise $100 million annually in the coming five years. I really urge governments, business communities, philanthropists and NGOs and all individuals to generously cooperate in providing necessary findings so that we can lead this campaign in a more coherent way and more comprehensive manner.

In other words, give us more money.

For now, here's the campaign's PSA, co-starring UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman. Another major facet of the campaign is the Say NO—UNiTE website, which offers web tools for groups around the world to track their actions.

Next week: An Interview with Ghida Anani, a twenty-eight year-old women's rights activist in Lebanon and co-founder of Kafa, on efforts to have domestic violence cases tried in a new civil court, and on launching men's forums to combat violence against women.

UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women Announces US$10.5 Million in Grants for 13 Projects in 18 Countries [Say No to Violence]
Ban Launches New Network of Men Leaders To Combat Violence Against Women [UN News Centre]