Campaigners, Commonwealth high commissioners, parliamentarians and members of civil society today stood behind a new Commonwealth initiative to support its member governments to eliminate domestic violence.
Keynote speakers at the launch of the Commonwealth’s Peace in the home: Ending domestic violence together initiative included award-winning management scholar Dr Vanessa Iwowo, Plan International’s policy lead on ending violence against children, Leila Asrari, British politician Baroness Berridge and poet Amina Jama. They stressed the need to challenge cultural practices that encourage violence against women and girls, eradicate dangerous stereotypes and get more women into politics to effect change.
“The biggest enabler of domestic violence is culture, the way men and women are raised. The cultural forces that drive the upbringing of girls and boys and make them into the human beings that they become,” said Dr Iwowo.
Commenting on the Commonwealth initiative, she said, “I like the word ‘together’. That’s indicative of the fact that it’s not just about women, women, women. Someone said to me once ‘I don’t know what feminism is. It's not about women competing with men. It’s about gender equality and egalitarianism.”
Baroness Berridge spoke about the importance of boosting the number of female parliamentarians. She condemned acts of violence against women in politics, stressing that it can be “a barrier and discouragement to other women entering politics.”
Describing the Peace in the home initiative as vital for peace-building in the Commonwealth, she said, “As a parliamentarian myself I can see huge opportunities for each national parliament within the Commonwealth to step up and drive this transformational agenda for the 2030 SDGs (sustainable development goals), including peace at home.”
“The home is important,” Ms Asrari added. “It’s where all our notions and understanding of gender and relationships happen. When we talk about domestic violence, we are mostly talking about violence against women at the hands of men. This initiative is important to provide us with the space to really understand the fundamental issues around domestic violence and the fundamental reasons why it happens.”
Officially launching Peace in the home: Ending domestic violence together, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said, “Our Commonwealth Charter declares: ‘Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential components of human development and basic human rights. The advancement of women’s rights and the education of girls are critical preconditions for effective and sustainable development’.
“They are not just words; they have powerful meaning. By making our Commonwealth focus for International Women’s Day this year ‘Peace in the home: Ending violence together’, we acknowledge that structural discrimination and inequality is perpetuated in our home settings.”