Joint Statement by UN Resident Coordinator and Head of the Delegation of the European Union on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

As COVID exacerbates violence against women, the UN and EU renew calls for action at every level to end this violence.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, our thoughts are with the women and girls of Papua New Guinea (PNG) who are faced with the threat of violence every day, the victims, and survivors of various forms of gender- based violence.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world. Yet, it is one of the least prosecuted crimes. The effects of violence can remain with women and children for a lifetime, and can pass from one generation to another, damaging generations to come.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, reports of violence against women, and particularly domestic violence, increased exponentially around the world and in PNG. For instance, the free phone helpline service - 1 Tok Kaunselin Lain - received double the amount of calls reporting violent incidents and women attempting to reach out for help in recent months.

Violence against women and girls is rooted in the gender inequality that women face throughout their lives. Equality in decision making at all levels – from the national parliament down to families – is an essential step in changing gender norms that underpin violence against women and children.

In 2016, the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence was launched to ensure a strategic and coordinated approach to addressing violence within the country. It is evident that Government now more than ever is committed to urgently accelerate the implementation of the National Strategy, as seen in the tremendous partnership and commitment made by different Government agencies at the recently concluded first ever national dialogue on ending gender - based violence, and subsequent establishment of the GBV Parliamentary Committee. Only comprehensive whole of government approach will overhaul disintegrated coordination realities that frontline services face every day in efforts to prevent and respond to violence.

To help achieve gender equality and address gender-based violence, the EU has initiated the Global Spotlight Initiative, in partnership with the United Nations (UN). With EU funding of 80m Kina, the Spotlight PNG program started in March 2020. However, 80m Kina is a just drop in the ocean and will only work in complementarity with PNG’s own domestic driven measures. 

The UN and the EU commend the intention demonstrated by the 20 political leaders who stand united for equality and signed up to be part of the historic coalition to address violence against women and girls in Papua New Guinea. The momentum growing to create a country where women and girls enjoy equal rights to live free of violence and can reach their full potential, equally as men is very encouraging.

The UN and the EU further acknowledge the tremendous work done by the civil society in Papua New Guinea with very limited resources to meet the enormous needs of women and girls who face discrimination and violence every day. It is of much encouragement that commitments made at the inaugural national Summit on ending gender-based violence will bring much relief and enable the scaling up of the good work that the civil society has been doing.

Sorcery accusation related violence and killings, whose victims are mostly women, are also of great concern. The EU has allocated more than 6m Kina to support civil society organizations address this issue in PNG communities.

On 24 November, the EU put forward a renewed and more ambitious Gender Action Plan to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the world. Together with partners, it will address the challenges in PNG with reinforced ambition and instruments.

The road ahead is not smooth, changing mentalities and cultural patterns is not easy, but with joint efforts, commitment and initiatives to empower women in PNG, it can be achieved.

The United Nations and the European Union reaffirm our commitment to continue working with Government, community and faith-based organizations, human rights defenders’ networks, school communities, women and girls, men and boys, traditional and religious leaders to address the root causes of violence against women and girls through the EU – UN Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls.

The UN and the EU commend efforts to ensure representation by women. Today, we have four female Members of the House of Representatives in Bougainville and there is a steady progress to have reserved seats for women in the National Parliament. 

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women marks an occasion for Papua New Guinea, to join the rest of the world in taking a stand to protect women and girls against all forms of violence and in unity rally behind the growing movement for change where every woman and every girl leads a life free of violence and fully participates in decision-making at all levels of society.

UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Children’s Fund