Feature story

UN Special Envoy speaks out on violence against women

26 November 2007

20071126_VAW_240.jpg
Approximately 60% of HIV adults living with HIV in
sub-Saharan Africa are women.
Photo credit: UNAIDS/L.Taylor

In a special statement to mark International Day Against Violence Against Women and the start of the annual ‘16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence’ (November 25), the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on AIDS for Africa, Elizabeth Mataka, asks ‘ when it comes to women, why are we so slow to act?’

“I have been reflecting on exactly what ‘violence’ in the violence against women means. The more I thought about the subject, the more I realized that violence now has many shapes and colours, it has transcended the violence of physical, sexual and psychological assault, touched down on political and economic harm and now moved into the space of complicity by silence,” Ms Mataka said.

Highlighting the recent epidemiological data released by UNAIDS and WHO, Ms Mataka underlined that approximately 60% of HIV adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women. “This information, I am aware, is not new – women in our region have for many years been what has been coined ‘the face of the epidemic’ - but what this new data has done is brought home the realization that nothing, nothing has changed for women. When it comes to women, why are we so slow to act? “ she said.

“With statistics such as these, we are facing a critical emergency, we are rapidly moving towards an Africa without women. Allowing this to happen is violence against women. You may not conduct a physical assault, but being silent is being complicit and non-action is now a violent act,” she added.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign that was started by the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) in 1991. The 16 Days runs from November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women to December 10, International Human Rights Day to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.

This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including December 1— World AIDS Day.




Links:

Read the full statement by Elizabeth Mataka
Read more on International Day Against Violence Against Women on the UNIFEM web site

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