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Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

Commonwealth Secretary-General: Take a stand for no more violence against women and girls

25 November 2020
Blog by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

This blog is the first in the Commonwealth’s ‘16 Days of Actions’ series, designed to showcase multi-disciplinary national solutions in addressing violence against women and girls. These proven solutions build on the collective experience of the 54 member countries – representing one-third of humanity – which can be replicated elsewhere to create a safer world for every woman and girl. Read the full series here.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is observed on 25 November every year. It launches 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence until Human Rights Day on 10 December.

This global campaign calls for accelerated action to stop the world’s most persistent human rights violations against women and girls. It invites people to unite and intensify efforts towards ending gender-based violence and eliminating discriminatory laws and practices to stop this preventable scourge for good.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has worsened pre-existing inequalities and triggered an even more challenging environment. There has been an alarming rise in violence against women and girls and cases of harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, child, early and forced marriage, and human trafficking.  

The pandemic has also exacerbated issues ranging from trends in employment, social development, economic empowerment, digital divide and the interconnectedness to women’s health, education for girls, and the particular vulnerabilities of small states.

While the impact of the pandemic has been devastating, leadership by women has been exemplary, helping to stem the tide of the virus in their communities and countries. Despite this, there remains unfinished business, and work towards gender equality and women’s empowerment has been set back, precluding a regression in women’s equality since Beijing 1995.

Against this backdrop, the Commonwealth Secretariat convened a high-level meeting of ministers for gender and women’s affairs on the impact of COVID-19. Over 100 delegates representing 37 member countries and a range of Commonwealth Accredited Organisations attended the virtual meeting. The discussions, presentations and interventions demonstrated the broad range of ways in which Commonwealth countries are addressing gender inequality associated and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Clearly, the solidarity of women’s affairs ministers and continued collaboration with the Commonwealth as a trusted partner remains positive. There is also consensus on the need to keep renewing and reimagining multilateral approaches to addressing global issues and the urgency to adopt an international vulnerability index, which considers issues such as climate change, tax evasion and the economic crises. 

The advent of a vaccine to combat the virus and slowly return to normalcy creates fresh opportunities for the inclusion of women in the global economic recovery and rebuilding efforts from the onset. Response strategies could include an Economic Recovery Fund to support equitable access to water and sanitation and interventions for social protection, food security, climate change and natural disasters.

Eliminating violence against women and girls, and eradicating prejudice and discrimination based on gender are imperatives to which Commonwealth member countries collectively give high priority.

In pursuit of this priority, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Secretariat and the NO MORE Foundation are launching the ‘16 Days of Action: For the Women in my Life’ blog series, which encapsulates all aspects of life to include support for and by men to help end this scourge.

The blog series is part of the Commonwealth Says NO MORE campaign, which was launched in September this year, featuring the first pan-Commonwealth digital portal designed to address domestic and sexual violence in the 54 member countries.

Running from 25 November to 10 December alongside the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, the series will feature best practices from across the 54 Commonwealth member countries in tackling incidents of violence, advocating for economic justice and human rights, delivering support services to victims and protecting survivors.

The blog series will portray multi-disciplinary regional and national responses in addressing violence against women and girls, and supporting wider efforts to achieve gender equality for adapting to climate change, transforming the delivery of support services to victims of violence, challenging attitudes of legal, media and law enforcement actors, and empowering bystanders to intervene when they witness violence.

This multi-sectoral approach makes violence against women and girls everyone’s business, starting from the home to friends, neighbours, employers, frontline workers, police officers, lawyers and decision-makers.  

Further engagement with the Commonwealth’s resources and tools is essential to addressing and stopping violence in our homes everywhere. Because if we do not have peace in our homes, we will not have peace in the world.

The ‘16 Days of Actions’ blog series is part of the Commonwealth Says NO MORE campaign. Read the full series here, learn more about the Commonwealth’s work on ending violence against women and girls here  and join in the conversation on social media by using #CommonwealthSaysNOMORE.