“Together we can begin to bend the curve down” –Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women

Speech by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, at the UN commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


[As delivered]

Violence against women and girls has a devastating impact on our vision for a world where women and girls can flourish and prosper peacefully alongside men and boys—a world where we leave no one behind. 

Violence cuts deeply into the liberties we should all have: the right to be safe, the right to walk freely on the streets, the right to go to school or to work, to earn a living and have a decent life, to go to the market and do our errands and our business, or to be at home with family, happily. 

Yet though we have passed many good laws in many countries, there are still countries where the laws are inadequate, or poorly implemented; where our police forces are not as interested in bringing perpetrators to book; where shelters, health care and support are unavailable and the criminal justice system is remote, expensive and biased against women and in favour of the male perpetrators. 

Change to these elements comes at a cost. Yet the price of no change is much higher, and is unacceptable. 

Mr. Secretary-General, thank you for your advocacy and your leadership. This was once a story and an issue that was not in the public domain. Your willingness to lead from the front on this issue has made it one that is truly in the eyes of the public. Thank you, Mr. Ban, for your quiet but persistent leadership on these and many other issues. 

Mr. Secretary-General, you have questioned why this outrage continues. Why is it that women and girls continue to live with the scourge of violence.  We hope this will inspire many of our leaders in response to your call, to show zero tolerance to violence against women and girls.  

We are deeply appreciative of your staunch advocacy throughout your tenure that has raised this subject out of the shadows. 

Your underlining of the necessary commitment—both financial and political—is also very timely and much needed. Even relatively small-scale investments can bring enormous benefits to women and girls and to their wider communities. 

The issue of violence against women is complex. It needs a comprehensive response that includes investment and resources. 

 There are encouraging signs of countries that are fighting with everything they have. 

In Timor-Leste, a three-year programme to provide essential services for women who had experienced violence cost a fraction of one per cent of GDP, but had significant impact on women’s health and well-being. And in Uganda, a community programme to change social norms resulted in a 52 per cent reduction in intimate partner violence. 

We are hoping to see more of these efforts in many of our countries and communities. 

The extent to which violence is embedded in society means that uprooting it is also a job for all of society. That includes men and women, the media and the religious community. We can work together to address the inequality and prejudice that enable and enflame violence against women and girls. We can scale up prevention and increase appropriate services. And we can engage allies, such as young people and other groups in the society, through sports, arts, business and academia. 

Together we can begin to bend the curve down and bring the scourge of violence against women and girls to an end. 

Thank you to the leadership of civil society, to the leadership of Member States, to colleagues in the United Nations and to all of you, because without you we will not make progress.