Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the launch of the Spotlight Initiative, in Papua New Guinea today:
It is a great pleasure to be here in Papua New Guinea on International Women’s Day to launch the Spotlight Initiative, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Davis Steven, Your Excellency Jernej Videtic, Ambassador of the European Union to Papua New Guinea, and Governor Powes Parkop.
Around the world, there is an epidemic of violence against women and girls. One in three women will be affected by violence at some point in their lives. In some countries, including Papua New Guinea, we know that figure is much, much, higher. This violence is strongly linked with the discrimination and inequality that prevent women from reaching their potential and playing a full role in their communities and societies. Centuries of patriarchy and male domination have left a legacy of inequality that affects families, public life, private companies and institutions of all kinds, including Governments and international organizations.
A recent survey by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found that, around the world, nearly 3 people in every 10 think it’s acceptable for a man to beat his partner. And 9 people out of 10 have at least one bias against gender equality, whether that’s in the area of politics, economics, education, violence against women or reproductive rights.
We cannot talk about peace if half of a community is living in fear and insecurity. There is a straight line between violence against women and girls, civic oppression and conflict. If violence is accepted as a solution in the domestic sphere, it becomes acceptable everywhere. Violence against women poses a grave threat to sustainable, inclusive development, which is a prerequisite for building stable, peaceful societies on a healthy planet — the vision and pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
All this is why the European Union and the United Nations decided in 2016 to launch the Spotlight Initiative, a partnership aimed at supporting governments, communities and civil society organizations in more than 25 countries to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.
Spotlight is the world’s largest effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls. It brings groups together from Governments, civil society, the United Nations and the private sector, and provides large-scale, targeted support, backed by a global investment of €500 million. Of this, approximately €22 million invested in Papua New Guinea, one of the largest investments globally.
Here in Papua New Guinea, the Spotlight Initiative will build on the strong work already being led by the Government. Together with United Nations agencies, the European Union, civil society and development partners, it will focus on investments in 11 provinces in all four regions of the country. Everyone in the country is expected to benefit from the Spotlight Initiative, directly or indirectly. I commend the Government’s leadership in taking on the issue of violence against women at the Cabinet level and in Parliament, and for the ownership and partnership they have demonstrated in developing the Spotlight Initiative country programme with us. I encourage you to build on the legislative efforts you have made to date and ensure the range of enabling laws needed to protect women from violence.
Cultural change is difficult and slow. If we are to change the attitudes that suggest that violence and harm are acceptable, we all need to play a part. Young men in particular must be engaged to change mindsets and influence their own peer groups so that violence and inflicting harm against anyone is seen as unacceptable.
The United Nations is committed to working closely with a range of partners, including Government at all levels, civil society and faith-based organizations. The Spotlight Initiative will support community and faith-based organizations, human rights defenders’ networks, school communities and religious leaders to address the root causes of violence against women and girls by transforming social norms, attitudes and behaviour.
We will support legislative change; work with local and national authorities to provide dedicated resources; and build on existing prevention programmes. The Spotlight Initiative will also bring civil society and Government service providers together to help women and girls gain access to high-quality services to prevent and respond to intimate partner violence.
I have already seen one innovative solution, the Meri Seif Bus, which provides safe and reliable transport for thousands of women and children in Port Moresby. Other innovative solutions include partnerships around mobile technology to increase the reach of messaging and counselling in remote communities.
I was joined on the bus this morning by Dame Carol, a woman who has advocated for the rights of women for decades and has experienced the challenge of representing alone half the population of this country for many years. We need more women in positions of power and decision-making to ensure that we can make better decisions for all.
But, this is not just the responsibility of women. We need men as allies in this campaign, men who are committed to ending violence against women and to promoting gender equality in leadership positions, in Parliament, in civil society and in the private sector. Only by working together can we achieve peaceful, stable societies and lives of opportunity and dignity for all.
Spotlight is a bold and comprehensive effort to tackle one of the most pervasive and intractable issues of our age. I hope Papua New Guinea can become a model for the global transformation we need, improving the safety of women and girls so that they can fulfil their enormous potential, bringing benefits to their families, communities and all of society.
I wish you every success with this initiative and look forward to hearing the results. Thank you.