Action on violence against women

Yakin Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women paid a visit to the Rome based agencies and shared findings from her country visits and investigations. “Violence against women is universal – it respects no borders, class, race or age”, said Ertürk. “Even privileged women like you are at risk if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Violence against women comes in many forms: sexual and physical abuse in the home, rape, the spread of HIV-AIDS, traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and the trauma of human trafficking. Participants were interested to hear how men and women experience violence differently. For men, violence is more random or the result of competition for power, including war. For women, violence is systemic and a way to exercise control and maintain them in a subordinate position in society. The clearest example is rape when used as weapon of war: some men commit violence against women to punish other men, especially in armed conflict when

It took a long time for violence against women to be recognized as a human rights violation. Even the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) did not make reference to violence when adopted in 1979. Today, violence against women is on top of the agenda. Last year, the UN Secretary-General launched a global campaign “UNITE to End Violence against Women” and many Governments, NGOs, women’s groups and individuals, women and men have joined in. IFAD’s Assistant President Matthew Wyatt has been designated at the Senior Focal Point for the Campaign.

What can IFAD do? Ertürk and IFAD staff made concrete suggestions. The focus should be on creating more awareness among staff and target groups and putting continued emphasis on empowering rural women.

What can individuals do? Say no and do not tolerate any form of violence against women. To illustrate this, Ertürk showed a little white ribbon decorating her jacket, symbol of a large worldwide effort by men and women to end violence against women through educating men and boys.