Joint Declaration, Youth Performances Mark Conclusion of UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence in 2021



New Delhi : The United Nations Country Team in India, along with its partners, marked the conclusion of its annual “16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence” campaign with a joint declaration by members of its Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) and a showcase of youth potential in environments that ensure protection from and prevention of gender-based violence.

Organized under the global theme of “Orange the world: End violence against women now!”, the joint campaign by UN agencies included the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) .

The campaign was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and sees participation by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. It commences on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and concludes on 10 December, World Human Rights Day.

At the outset, the United Nations Country Team for India reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen the prevention and protection of women and girls from SGBV in times of COVID-19.

“The elimination of violence against women must be mainstreamed in education systems, in city planning and rural development, in poverty and nutrition programmes, in health policies and sanitation programmes, and in addressing how violence affects women’s access to decent employment. I want to commend India for recognizing this and putting women at the heart of its economic growth policies: for example in agriculture, in entrepreneurship, in housing (with title deeds in the name of the woman of the household), in the 500GW clean energy revolution (through clean cooking fuel), through Poshan Abhiyan and financial inclusion. Half of India’s elected Panchayati Raj representatives are women,” said Mr. Shombi Sharp, the UN Resident Coordinator for India.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Sumita Ghosh, Additional Commissioner, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, stressed on the importance of collaborative efforts.

“The multisectoral response is essential. Social sectors like Health and Education need to collaborate with Legal and Economy sectors. The care needs to be holistic and the challenge is to address all dimensions of medical response- clinical care, first aid, psychosocial health, sexual and reproductive health,” she said.

The UN’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) Programme was launched in December 2020 as a joint UN programme between four agencies- UNICEF, UNWOMEN, WHO and UNHCR. The objective of the MPTF programme is to enhance the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the times of COVID-19. This programme is currently being implemented across 16 States in India, focusing on the most vulnerable groups with the following specific objectives:

1. Ensuring availability of and accessibility to gender responsive and age sensitive protection and SGBV;

2. Improving access to gender-sensitive justice systems for women and girls at risk of or survivors SGBV;

3. Increasing women and girls’ awareness of risks of SGBV and harmful practices, and empowerment and engagement in decision making;

4. Reducing women and girls’ economic vulnerability and increased access to livelihood and income generation programs, which can increase women autonomy and capacity to negotiate violence free relationships.

Refugee children from Afghanistan presented cultural performances at the event and voiced their aspirations towards a life safe from SGBV and gender based discrimination.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Oscar Mundia, Representative, UNHCR, said:

“Data shows that worldwide, violence against women and girls are seeing an increase, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forcibly displaced women living in humanitarian crisis and armed conflict are at an even more heightened risk. GBV responses must ensure the full participation of women, young people, boys and girls, especially those from the most marginalized communities including forcibly displaced population.”

Mr. Yasumasa Kimura, a.i. Representative, UNICEF, stressed on the importance of multi-sectoral efforts to address gender-based violence against women and children in the most holistic and sustainable way.

“On behalf of UNICEF, I would like to reaffirm our commitment to support the Government of India and partners in advancing the agenda on addressing gender-based violence against women and children through providing technical expertise and available resources, leveraging partnerships and collaborations, and introducing innovative solutions for better impacts on the lives of women and children and other vulnerable groups,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasised the need for more sustained interventions to address this ‘shadow pandemic’ of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. SGBV is a violation of human rights and has a grave impact on victims/survivors, their families and communities, nations and it continues a major public health and development challenge globally and including in India. Therefore, I reiterate the theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism when I say that we must “End violence against women NOW!,” said Ms. Susan Ferguson, Country Representative, UN Women.

The event also saw the launch of Sambal- an artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot by UN Women to support survivors of SGBV and their allies.

The MPTF aims to improve public awareness as well as access to SGBV-related essential services, mental health and psychosocial support, trained functionaries and law enforcement in the coming years, while also providing women and girls with skills and livelihood support.

Reflecting on the importance of multi-sectoral collaboration against SGBV, Dr. Pushpa Chaudhary, Team Lead (RMNCAH), WHO, said:

“UN coherence and development effectiveness is needed, not only in addressing COVID response and recovery but also to address complex challenges associated with efforts to eliminate gender based violence that demands diverse expertise and resources as a collaborative action. As WHO we are proud to be part of this joint venture of UN agencies facilitated by Multi- Partners Trust Fund,” she said.

The addresses were followed by an exhibition where MPTF members showcased their efforts working with the government, civil society and communities across the country. The event concluded with a reiteration of the UN’s commitment towards supporting India in its pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 5 on Gender Equality.


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