According to Musa, she is personally pained by the ongoing onslaught daily meted out to women, stating that something must be done to stem the tide. “It hurts me a lot to open the newspapers every morning and read about the violence against women. It’s front page news. We all have to get together and do something about it,” the UN resident coordinator said.
She believes that religious leaders have a sacred responsibility to create respect and ensure women are treated well. UN Women Executive Director Michele Bachelet said every voice must rise in unison to say no to abuse, discrimination, domestic violence, rape, sexual violence, human trafficking, genital mutilation, child marriages, femicide and murders in the name of honour and passion.
She stated that every individual who believes that change is possible must be guided by the founding principle of the UN based on the equal rights of men and women.
“All around the world, our voices are rising, and silence and indifference are declining. Change is possible and change is happening. Change is happening when every country, for the first time in history, has women on their Olympic teams, as they did this past summer in London. Change is happening when people worldwide declare solidarity with a Pakistani girl who was shot for championing education for all… Change is happening when protests erupt across the globe with women and men, young and old, rising up and saying no to violence against women.”
Hope and outrage
The UN director mentioned that her Women’s Day message carried two sides: one of hope and one of outrage.
“I have hope because awareness and action are rising for women’s rights. A belief is growing that enough is enough. But I am outraged because women and girls continue to suffer high levels of discrimination, violence, and exclusion. They are routinely blamed and made to feel shame for the violence committed against them, and they too often search in vain for justice.”
She added that her message, simple and straightforward, was that discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century and that enough is enough. According to Musa, it is time for governments to keep their promises and protect human rights in line with international conventions and agreements to which they have signed. She said when UN Women was established more than two years ago, ending violence against women became one of the top priorities.
“We are fully aware that this requires changing attitudes and making headway towards equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation, especially in decision-making.”
Currently, governments are negotiating a global roadmap of actions to prevent and end these widespread human rights violations as activists gather at the 57th commission on the Status of Women for the largest international gathering to end violence against women.
Ten years ago, when nations came together in this forum, leaders and government representatives were unable to reach an agreement. However, Musa said this disagreement and indecision must not be allowed to block progress for the world’s women. She detailed that change was indeed happening but the pace is leading to questions of how many more women and girls must suffer before the scourge is finally eliminated.
The right of a woman to live free of violence depends on a strong chain of justice, she said. Countries that enact and enforce laws on violence against women have less gender-based violence. “Today 160 countries have laws to address violence against women.
However, a law is only as strong as its enforcement and in too many cases enforcement is lacking,” Musa remarked. She urged all to work together for strong laws and policies and for effective implementation as well as the prevention, education and programmes that provide essential services for the victims and survivors of violence.