Commonwealth nations to prevent, stop violence against women

Kigali (Rwanda), Jun 23 (IANS): At a special event coinciding with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the NO MORE Foundation on Thursday were joined by the Duchess of Cornwall for the launch of new guidelines for the 54 Commonwealth countries to stop and prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG).

The Commonwealth's and NO MORE's new recommended "Whole System Approach" strategy to help end VAWG and improve gender equality urges more consistent and effective collaboration between governments, civil society and the private sector.

The effort builds on Commonwealth and says that NO MORE initiative was first launched in 2019, it comes at a critical time in the wake of the dramatic surge in domestic and sexual violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the keynote address given by the Duchess of Cornwall, the event included several high-level speakers such as UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed; Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of Rwanda; Fatima Maada Bio, First Lady of Sierra Leone; Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General; Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly; and Pamela Zaballa, Global CEO of NO MORE Foundation.

A panel, moderated by Ghanaian actress and activist Joselyn Dumas, discussed several topics related to VAWG, including the impact on mental health and the importance of engaging men and boys to be part of the solution.

Also discussed was the Commonwealth's facilitators guide to assess the economic costs of VAWG.

Globally one in three women and one in six men have experienced a form of domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Moreover, domestic, and sexual violence escalated and intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the pandemic on women and girls trapped in their homes is evident in the high-incidence calls to domestic violence helplines that increased up to 500 per cent across Commonwealth countries during the pandemic.

Ultimately, the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, cannot be attained by 2030 without effectively addressing violence against women and girls.

In the keynote address, the Duchess of Cornwall said: "In the strength of our unity, we, the women and men of the Commonwealth, stand with victims and survivors, who, despite the temptation to hide away in silence, speak up so that others know they aren't alone -- whether in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific or the Caribbean and Americas.

"In so doing, we have the opportunity to end gender-based violence and those laws and practices that discriminate against women. And each one of us must take personal responsibility not to let this opportunity be lost."



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