Here’s my final blog from New York, where I represented the UK at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Also available here.
As I’m sure you know by now, I am passionately committed to tackling violence against women and girls wherever it occurs, and this issue was the theme of my last speaking event at CSW before heading back home.
The Millennium Development Goals have led to remarkable achievements in poverty alleviation over the last 15 years. But for all their good, the MDGs omitted a crucial element – a target for ending gender-based violence.
I’m proud that the Coalition Government is absolutely committed to the principle that every woman and girl has the right to live free from violence or the threat of violence. And that every women and girl should be empowered to take control over her own life.
So in the post-2015 international development framework discussions, we are focused on pushing for a stand-alone goal to empower girls and women and achieve gender equality, and mainstream gender across the whole framework. Within this, we are pushing for a target on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.
Over the last year, I have spearheaded a new multi-million pound programme to tackle one of the most extreme manifestations of gender-based violence – Female Genital Mutilation. And because of this solid foundation of work and momentum, this July the Prime Minister will host a major summit to tackle FGM as well as early and forced marriage – both domestically and internationally. Our aim is to galvanise political and popular support to end early and forced marriage and FGM within a generation. An ambitious goal, but women’s rights campaigners have always been ambitious! And I believe this goal is achievable – but only if we work together and ramp up our efforts to support this African-led movement.
Ending gender-based violence has been and will continue to be a long-fought struggle. And research shows we need to use a whole range of approaches and work across multiple sectors. This includes addressing the entrenched social norms and gender inequalities that drive violence against women and girls.
There is a great need for more robust evaluations of initiatives that engage men and boys as partners and that create new social norms. Men and boys are crucial – we’ll get nowhere if women continue just to talk amongst ourselves.
So we need to invest in evidence to understand the causes of violence against women and girls, so that it can be effectively prevented.
That is why I was delighted to announce today that DFID is investing £25m in a new research and innovation programme called What Works to Prevent Violence led by the South African Medical Research Council. This flagship programme will support national governments and the international community to understand better what works in preventing violence against women and girls. It will also fund innovation grants for new interventions that have the potential to be taken to scale.
This research will take time. And we’ve got a long road ahead. But I believe if we all, men and women, work hard enough together we really can create a world where women and girls no longer live in fear of violence.