Under the patronage of the Prime Minister, UNWomen, UNFPA and WFP collaborated with the Department for Women’s Empowerment to launch the 16 days of activism campaign to combat violence against women and girls

Under the patronage of the Prime Minister, UNWomen, UNFPA and WFP collaborated with the Department for Women’s Empowerment to launch the 16 days of activism campaign to combat violence against women and girls

27 November 2022, Baghdad, Iraq A conference was held to launch the campaign for the 16 days of activism to end violence against women, under the patronage of the Prime Minister Mr. Mohamed Shiaa Al-Sudani, and in collaboration with the Department for Women’s Empowerment at the Council of Ministers, and in partnership with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UNWomen), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The conference highlighted the decisive role of Iraqi women in public life, through government positions, civil society, and human rights movements in preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls (VAWG). It advocated for the ratification of relevant laws, namely the Anti-Domestic Violence Law (ADVL). It was attended by members of Parliament, government, and civil society, including members of the parliamentary women’s committee, the High Judicial Council, ministries of Labour, Interior, Social Affairs, and Health, as well as former members of Parliament, experts and academics. In addition, representatives of the international community attended including the Swedish and French Ambassadors, and the Finnish Deputy Ambassador.

The conference was initiated by Dr. Hamid Naeem Al-Ghazi, the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, who stated in his speech that combating violence against women (VAWG) is among the main priorities for the government. He affirmed that the development of the Second National Strategy for Iraqi Women (2023-2030) is an important step to providing legal and social protection to women, in line with the Iraqi constitution and governmental plans.

Mr. Mohamed Shiaa Al-Sudani, the Iraqi Prime Minister, expressed his government’s commitment to further promoting gender equality, and ending violence against women, referencing the importance of the National Iraqi Strategy to Combat Violence against Women (2018-2030). He cited the unprecedented appointment of a female minister to a key ministry in his government; Tayf Sami as Finance Minister, as an important step to empowering Iraqi women, but emphasized that more needs to be done. He said that economic reforms cannot be successful without the inclusion of women, and combating corruption can only be possible with women’s support and contribution.

Mrs. Evan Faik, Minister of Displacement and Migration, elaborated on the efforts made by the Ministry to support and protect internally displaced women and girls, highlighting how they face greater risks of violence committed against them.

Dr. Yusra Karim Mohsen, Director General of the Department for Women’s Empowerment, stated that protecting women from VAWG is essential to promoting gender equality in Iraqi society, which is enshrined in Iraq’s constitution, and is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. She highlighted some of the achievements that the Department has made in this regard including the ongoing implementation of the Second National Plan for the Implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR1325). She also outlined one of the key pillars of the Second National Strategy for Iraqi women, currently being developed, which focuses on the protection of women and girls. She added that this can only be achieved through empowering women and girls themselves, and through ratifying and modifying laws and legislations to protect women and girls, and by providing the necessary infrastructure to support survivors.

Mrs. Jessica Svärdström, Swedish Ambassador, stressed that promoting gender equality and combating gender-based violence is one of Sweden’s main objectives in Iraq, in line with Sweden’s Development Cooperation Framework with Iraq. Similarly, Mr. Eric Chevalier, French Ambassador, expressed his solidarity and support to Iraqi partners in combatting VAWG, and encouraged Iraq to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention. Mrs. Anna Malinen, Finnish Deputy Ambassador, highlighted Finland’s priority to combat online violence, which is increasingly being used to harm women and girls, thus affecting many aspects of their public and private lives.

Dr. Ammar Abdulqahar, Head of Programmes at UNWomen Iraq, highlighted the UN’s support to its Iraqi partners to combat all forms of violence against women and girls. He said that the UN is supporting a number of strategic preventative and responsive measures, including the development and implementation of key national strategies. He elaborated on the partnerships UNWomen Iraq has in particular with WFP and UNFPA to strengthen Iraqi women’s resilience and improve the access, protection and wellbeing of women and girl survivors of gender-based violence. He also expressed gratitude to the support provided by the Swedish, Finnish and French governments, which has enabled action to be taken on this very important issue.

The speeches were followed by discussions between government, academics and civil society, which focused on the importance of ratifying laws, namely ADVL in order to prevent VAWG, and guarantee the protection of women survivors.

Eliminate violence against women, the most widespread, pervasive human rights violation

Eliminate violence against women, the most widespread, pervasive human rights violation

According to the UN, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is not only one of the worst forms of discrimination but also remains the most widespread and pervasive human rights violation in the world, 11 UN entities said on Friday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

One in three women are thought to experience gender-based violence in their lifetime, according to a statement launching the “UNiTE! Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls campaign.”

Moreover, that last year, nearly one in five 20- to 24-year-old women had been married before turning 18 and less than 40 percent who experience violence sought the help of any sort.

Violent triggers

At the same time, global emergencies, crises, and conflict have further intensified VAWG and exacerbated the drivers and risk factors.

The statement reads, “Since the beginning of COVID-19, 45% of women reported that they or a woman they know has experienced a form of VAWG.”

Combatting the scourge

While ending gender-based VAWG might seem unimaginable, the UN underscored that “it is not”.

The statement continued, “Significant reductions in violence against women can be achieved through intensive feminist activism and advocacy along with evidence- and practice-informed multisectoral action and investment.”

Citing evidence suggesting that “strong and autonomous feminist movements” as being “the most critical factor” in ending VAWG, UN Women and its sister agencies are calling upon governments and partners to “act now to end violence against women and show their solidarity to women’s rights movements and activists”.

Taking steps, making a stand

The UN is requesting more long-term funding and support for women’s rights organizations working to prevent and address VAWG through the UNiTE campaign.

It is also advocating for resisting the rollback on women’s rights; amplifying the voices of women human rights defenders and feminist women’s movements; mobilizing more actors to join movements to end VAGW globally; and promoting the leadership and participation of women and girls in political, policy making, and decision-making spaces.

The statement also underscores the need to strengthen protections to prevent and eliminate violence, harassment, threats, intimidation, and discrimination against women human rights defenders and women’s rights advocates/activists.