Women rights campaigners, lawyers and officials joined Secretary-General Patricia Scotland to stand in solidarity with survivors of gender-based violence and to call for a robust response to end it.
The gathering, at the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London, marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, which ushers in 16 days of activism from 25 November to 10 December.
Delegates urged member countries to adopt a holistic implementation strategy that integrates the work of government units such as the police, judiciary and health services to better respond to the needs of victims. The strategy includes:
In her opening remarks, the Secretary-General reiterated Commonwealth’s commitment to ending gender-based violence: “Even though our member states have laws designed specifically to protect the rights of women who are assaulted or abused, decisive implementation of such legislation can prove really difficult,” she said.
Discussion focused on ending the tendency to treat gender-based violence as a private matter and involving young people as part of the solution. Other suggestions included the introduction of sex education courses and encouraging people to be more than bystanders when gender-based violence takes place.
Deborah Jamieson, from the UK’s Ministry of Justice, described the gathering as an “important step”. She said: “The Commonwealth has understood that they have an important role to play in reducing violence against women and girls. There are many things that can be done, including production of a toolkit and strategic framework to help shape the response to effectively help women and girls at risk.”
Pamela Zaballa, International Director for NO MORE, presented the whole system approach, which integrates prevention, provision and protection. Melissa Morbeck, Chief Executive Officer of Corporate Alliance, shared good practice on the role of business in ending violence against women and girls both in the workplace and in society.