Launch of the 16 days against Gender Based Violence
25 November 2020
Speech by the UN Resident Coordinator at the launch of the 16 Days Against Gender Based Violence in Maseru, Lesotho.
On behalf of the UN Family in Lesotho, I am honoured to make this statement as we launch 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
Let me start by expressing my sincere gratitude to the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation for organizing this forum and for leading and coordinating all the efforts geared towards ensuring that women and girls live their life’s free from harm and violence.
This years’ commemoration of 16 days of activism is a special one as the world retreated inside homes due to lockdown measures introduced to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies showed an alarming increase in the already existing pandemic of violence against women. The studies also showed a worsened situation for already vulnerable women, leading to likelihood of negative coping mechanisms.
To these; the UN family in Lesotho reiterates its commitment to support the Government of Lesotho to work towards the elimination of violence against women and Girls and to ensure that there are safe spaces for women and reporting mechanisms in place.
Distinguished Guests, Bo M’e’ le Bo Ntate
I am glad to note that today Lesotho launches its Gender and Development Policy, 2018-2030. This Policy celebrates achievements of the gender and development Policy of 2003. Some of the achievements include the promulgation of laws that provide protection to women and girls against sexual violence, and laws against Human Trafficking.
The successes of the previous Policy also include the promulgation of laws that promote gender equality and Recognition of the girl child’s right to education. The laws include the Legal capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006, which removed the marital power that husbands had over the person, and property of their wives and the Land Act of 2010, which is celebrated, for introducing joint ownership of land by spouses and giving unmarried women leave to own land in their own name.
We look forward to the implementation of the new Gender Policy with eagerness for the promises it contains for ICPD and SDGs, in as far as women’s rights are concerned.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It knows no social, economic or national boundaries. This scourge has been even further exacerbated by the COVID19 pandemic. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. The 2018-2030 Gender and Development promises to tackle systematic issues that affect women and girls in Lesotho.
As a development partner of Lesotho, the UN is well aware of the strides the country has made in advancing education and training for women and girls, with the Education Act of 2010 making a specific mention of the right of girls to access education to the enrolment of girls into primary schools to tertiary. The UN is cognizant of the efforts of the Government to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls and all other vulnerable groups. All these efforts resonating well with the UN principle of “leave no one behind”.
We celebrate these achievements, but we need to remind each other of the remaining challenges. There is evidence from studies that women remain marginalised by poverty due to high unemployment. As heads of households particularly in the rural areas, their situation has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of COVID 19. The pandemic affected the livelihoods of everyone but groups which were already vulnerable were hit harder and those include women
As different UN agencies working with Government, we look forward are looking forward to the promise of the Policy to eradicate child marriages and other harmful practices that escalate teenage pregnancies which affect negatively the development of the girls. We remain committed to supporting the government and stakeholders in this regard.
Distinguished Guests, Bo Mme le Bo Ntate,
May the simultaneous launch of the 16 days of Activism and the Policy ignite the conversation on how all of us, those who are present and those who are not, can play a vital role to end Violence against women and girls. It is my hope that the 16 days of activism will be utilized to bring a young generation of gender equality advocates and those who remain on the side-lines into the centre of a whole-of-government, whole-of-society effort.
I have no doubt in my mind that, if we work together – UN, government, civil society and partners, we have the capacity to overcome and eradicate the root causes of gender inequality and chart a path forward for genuine, substantive equality, with equal rights and equal opportunities for women and girls.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the Ministry of Gender Youth, Sports and Recreation and its partners for putting the Policy together. I congratulate the UN team for supporting the Ministry including with development of the Policy Implementation plan. Thank you!