Advocates Say Ending Violence Against Women Must Be Top Priority For U.N. Women

Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of women’s rights advocates say ending violence against women must be a top priority for U.N. Women, according to a report released Wednesday at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, Inter Press Service reports. Released a day ahead of the official launch of the new agency, the “Blueprint for U.N. Women” survey, commissioned by the groups Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and Oxfam, outlines “the views and efforts, documented in the report, of some 100 civil society organisations working in over 75 countries on human rights, gender equality and social justice,” according to the news service (D’Almeida, 2/24).

“Seventy percent of people living in poverty are women, 60% of people living with HIV in sub-Sahara Africa are women and girls, and violence against women continues to be at alarming levels,” VSO Chief Executive Officer Marg Mayne said, according to a VSO press release. The report “clearly lays out a direction for U.N. Women from the people that know best and are working on the ground to deliver change for women in developing countries,” Mayne said.

“Eighty four percent of respondents said rural women were the group in most need of targeted approach,” the press release states. The respondents also highlighted the importance of the agency targeting women with disabilities as well as those who are uneducated (2/23).

Although the U.N. historically has “focused heavily on safeguarding women’s rights in wartime, the survey indicates that women expressed a greater desire for representation in political processes, freedom to determine their own marriages, and access to reliable justice systems than for protection during armed conflict, indicating that the root cause of the problem is not sporadic conflict, but a constant state of systematic inequality and violence,” IPS writes.  The IPS story provides more information on the specific findings of the report, describes advocates’ concerns about funding for U.N. Women, and includes additional comments by Mayne; Farah Karimi, executive director of Oxfam Novib; and Kathy Peach, the head of external affairs for VSO UK (2/24).

“As U.N. Women is officially launched tomorrow, it is still awaiting a funding commitment from both the U.S. and U.K. governments. Having received just 1% of the UN’s budget to date – it is at risk of failing before it has even begun,” Mayne said, according to the press release (2/23).

Female Peacekeepers Can Help Empower Women Worldwide

MediaGlobal examines efforts underway by U.N. Women to enhance the presence of female soldiers in peacekeeping forces in an effort to reduce violence against women. According to the article, U.N. Women has teamed up with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), a group that “currently operates three all-female corps,” which are operating in Liberia, Haiti and Timor.

The article describes how since the creation of the all-female units, “the total number of female peacekeepers has more than doubled, from 1,486 to 3,332” and adds that “[w]hile women still comprise a small portion of all armed U.N. personnel, approximately 3.33 percent to date, the U.N. Police Division is trying to increase female police members to 20 percent by 2014.” According to MediaGlobal, U.N. Women intends to help augment the existing “DPKO female corps through training modules aimed to increase their effectiveness. These modules will use U.N. female units as peace builders on the ground to teach local women self-defense and community policing.”

The article includes quotes by Executive Director of U.N. Women Michelle Bachelet; Tamara Kreinin, executive director of Women & Population at the United Nations Foundation; and U.N. Women spokeswoman Gretchen Luchsinger (Potts, 2/22).

U.S., U.N. Officials Praise Congo For Swift Trial, Sentencing Of Soldiers Who Carried Out Mass Rape In Congo

“The United States praised the Democratic Republic of the Congo Wednesday for the swift trial and sentencing of nine soldiers for ordering and carrying out mass rapes,” Agence France-Presse reports. “State Department spokesman Philip Crowley hailed the convictions as a ‘significant milestone’ that sent a message that sexual violence would not go unpunished,” according to the news service, which elaborates on the details of the rapes, which took place on Jan. 1 in the eastern town of Fizi, Congo. The verdicts were issued on Monday, according to AFP (2/23).

In a statement released by the State Department, Crowley said, “By taking such steps, the DRC government is strengthening the message to perpetrators of sexual violence that no one is immune from prosecution for this horrific crime. Accountability for sexual- and gender-based violence is a shared priority for our governments and is an essential component to ending impunity for violent crimes and bringing peace and stability to the eastern DRC,” he added (2/23).

U.N. News Centre adds that the news of the verdicts was also welcomed by Roger Meece, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative and head of the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom (2/23).

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