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Statement of UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem

for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November 2017


Rohingya refugees fleeing into Bangladesh have reported horrific stories of sexual violence. One woman, Shakila, said she was raped after being forced to watch the murder of her husband and infant daughter.

Sexual and gender-based violence often increases during crises. Responding to violence against women in development and humanitarian settings is a priority for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Yet, gender-based violence is a problem everywhere, every day, not just in crises. One in three women globally have experienced violence at some point in their lives.

Gender-based violence, along with harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, are human rights violations that rob women and girls of their futures and undermine their health and well-being.

UNFPA has committed to an end to gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030, the year when the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are due to be achieved.

UNFPA tackles the physical and emotional effects of gender-based violence and promotes the right of all women and girls to live free of violence and abuse. In 2016 alone, our services reached more than 11 million people in 54 countries.

UNFPA focuses its work, in the 155 countries we serve, on the world’s poorest, most vulnerable and excluded women, such as Shakila, who received medical care and counseling from a UNFPA-supported center in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

By helping the furthest behind first, UNFPA is also helping to rectify other dimensions of inequality, as described in our latest State of World Population report, “Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality.”

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UNFPA, our partners and millions of people around the world mark the beginning of “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” to raise awareness of the global epidemic of violence against women and girls. This year, as the campaign launches, more and more women around the world are speaking out about sexual harassment and violence loudly, urgently – and, at last, they are being heard. 

Today, let us all join the chorus of voices demanding change.

I call on governments, civil society and communities to join UNFPA in the effort to end violence and harmful practices by 2030. We must end this scourge, end impunity and leave no one behind.