One billion women have reportedly suffered violence or abuse in their lifetime. That is equivalent to two of your closest friends, colleagues or relatives. However, the real figure may be much higher, as abuse is often underreported. These figures are shocking, yet surprisingly similar in every country in the world. It is an immense problem of global proportions.
This is why, together with the UN, we launched a global campaign last September to end all forms of violence against women and girls, called the Spotlight initiative. With this initiative, we want to spark a real global movement, to protect and give voice to those women and girls that were silenced by their societies and now want to speak up.
I am talking about women and girls trafficked for sex and forced labour, survivors of sexual assaults and domestic violence and those threatened with barbaric practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).
Raising awareness remains a major priority. For example, in several countries rape is still considered a minor offence, not a crime. Many more countries face big challenges when it comes to implementing the good laws they have already passed. FGM remains widespread despite being prohibited in nearly every one of our partner countries.
In 2016 more than 1.5 million women received services for protection and care related to FGM and 3000 communities (8.5 million individuals) made public declarations of abandonment of such practices.
Spotlight is about prevention, protection and the provision of services, as well as ensuring women’s economic empowerment and their participation in all aspects of society. It’s about sharing evidence and engaging people to change their attitudes and mind-sets, as we know these are not eternal, but essential in achieving real and lasting change.
We need to address deep-seated cultural and societal norms that underpin the unequal treatment of women and girls and engage everybody in ensuring gender equality. We need to debunk the myths on gender that hold both women and men back. Men and boys must be part of the solution, not the problem.
The recent #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns triggered a global chain reaction, emboldening millions of people - particularly women - around the world to speak out and inspire others. Now is the time to capitalise on this momentum, and to put an end to violence against women and girls once and for all.
Through the Spotlight Initiative we want to work hand in hand with women and girls, men and boys, politicians and CEOs, survivors and activists. We have put our money (€500m) where our mouth is; now we’re calling on all partners to join us and help transform society for the better.
Ending gender-based violence isn’t “just a women’s issue”, it’s a question for all humanity, because whenever one girl’s or woman’s right - whether political, economic, social, and human - are violated, we all suffer.
Join us at the European Development Days 2018 to discuss how we can ensure women and girls are at the forefront of sustainable development.