29 March 2018

The Spotlight Initiative: “Ending Violence against ALL Women and Girls”

30 March 2018 – Earlier this month, the European Union (EU) and United Nations advanced on a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls: the Spotlight Initiative: “Ending Violence against ALL Women and Girls” held in the Economic and Social Council Chamber (ECOSOC) at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The Initiative focuses attention on this issue by placing it at the centre of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Munizae Jahangir, Pakistani news anchor, producer and daughter of the late human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir, moderated the discussion on the next steps for Spotlight Initiative with the participation of Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development and Phumzile Mlambo, Executive Director of UN-Women.

In his opening remarks, Neven Mimica invited the world to “stop accepting the unacceptable”, stressing that the greater and more interconnected the challenges are, the more global and ambitious our solutions must be: “no goal is met until all goals are met”.

In her keynote address, Amina J. Mohammed pointed out the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a plan to build an inclusive sustainable world in which all can live in safety and free from the threat of violence. “Violence against women and girls has nowhere to hide; we’re coming for it in all its forms and manifestations around the world.”

In her remarks, Helga Schmid, Secretary-General of the European External Action Service underlined the importance of making a difference as soon as possible, referring to 2020, the year of the 21st anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “We underline our determination to make a significant impact in improving the lives of millions of women and girls around the world.”

The second part of the session welcomed the panellists Ana Leticia Aguilar Theissen, presidential secretary for women from Guatemala; Lizzie Kiama, disability rights and inclusion professional from Kenya; Tarcilla Rivera, indigenous rights activist from Peru; Miki Wall, trans and youth feminist, human rights and gender advocate from Fiji; and Dubravka Simonovic, United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women.

Miki Wall addressed LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) issues focusing on how the Spotlight initiative will be one of the many ways of fostering understanding and ensuring that marginalisation of LGBTQIA is eliminated. Ana Leticia Aguilar Theissen expressed her enthusiasm regarding the Spotlight initiative, as it will help design impactful public policies and diminish violence against women, which she said is much needed in Guatemala since 700 women die every year because of violence. Dubravka Simonovic brought attention to the existence of human rights mechanisms established by global and regional treaties that are dealing with violence against women and girls. Tarcilla Rivera elaborated on the multiple forms of violence that indigenous women and girls endure. She underscored in the importance of education for empowering young indigenous women to seize the knowledge of their rights. Along the same lines, Lizzie Kiama draw attention to women and girls with disabilities who are “ten times more likely to experience violence”. She underlined the importance of giving back to women and girls with disabilities power and control over their own lives, as well as investing in their leadership and education.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka delivered closing remarks that paid tribute to the late Asma Jahangir. She also shared her optimism regarding the Spotlight initiative, stating how it “is giving us a new beginning to learn from the mistakes of the past” and bring civil society, governments and other institutions together in putting an end to violence against women.