Violence against women must be top priority for UN Women, say women’s rights campaigners

Published: 24th February 2011

More than two-thirds (72%) of activists working on women’s projects around the world say ending violence against women must be the top priority for the new UN Women agency, according to a new report published today by Oxfam and VSO at the annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women  in New York.

Released a day ahead of the official launch of UN Women, the Blueprint for UN Women outlines for the views of the role UN Women should play of 100 civil society organizations working in 75 countries on women’s human rights, gender equality and social justice. 

Commissioned by Oxfam and VSO UK, the survey findings send a clear message that UN Women must deliver on its promise and work with governments to ensure accountability for delivering rights equality and development for their women.

“UN Women is a great opportunity to change the status quo on women’s rights. The message hundreds of activists are telling UN Women is loud and clear: reach out to women and help empower them to change their lives. Without aligning its work with the needs and priorities of women at country level, especially in rural areas, it‘s unlikely the agency will achieve its mission,” said Farah Karimi, Executive Director of Oxfam Novib, a member of the Oxfam Confederation. 

“UN Women needs to stand out from the traditional ways of operating to have impact on the ground by leaving the UN’s comfort zone of doing business as usual.”

Eighty four per cent (84) of respondents said rural women were the group in most need of targeted approach. The report outlines that disabled and uneducated women also need urgent attention.

Women’s rights advocate identified other priorities for UN Women, which are closely linked to eradicating all forms of violence against women. These included ensuring women’s access to decision making at all levels (42%), deliver reliable justice systems for women (41%) and address the economic empowerment of women (41%).

VSO Chief Executive Officer Marg Mayne said UN Women offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver real change for women everywhere, and especially the world’s most disadvantaged and impoverished women.

“The UN so far has largely failed women in the developing world. Seventy per cent of people living in poverty are women, 60% of people living with HIV in sub-Sahara Africa are women and girls, and violence against women continues to be at alarming levels. The Blueprint for UN Women  clearly lays out a direction for UN Women from the people that know best and are working on the ground to deliver change for women in developing countries. UN Women needs to act on the report, but it also requires funding at levels not previously seen in order to deliver. As UN Women is officially launched tomorrow, it is still awaiting a funding commitment from both the US and UK governments. Having received just 1% of the UN’s budget to date – it is at risk of failing before it has even begun.”

Read more

Blueprint for UN Women: What does civil society at country level expect from the new UN Women's agency (PDF, 4.3MB)

Gender justice: Why equality for women?

The message hundreds of activists are telling UN Women is loud and clear: reach out to women and help empower them to change their lives.
Farah Karimi
Executive Director of Oxfam Novib

Notes to editors

  • Data on violence against women is scarce and reporting of incidents of violence very low, especially in developing countries. A WHO study of 200* concluded that between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and sexual violence in their lifetime (WHO, WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women, 2005.)
  • Women who have experienced violence are at a higher risk of HIV infection: a survey among 1,366 South African women showed that women who were beaten by their partners were 48% more likely to be infected with HIV than those who were not UN Women , original source: Violent male partners put women at greater risk of HIV infection (Dunkle, K. L.; Jewkes, R. K.; Brown, H. C; Gray, G. E.; McIntyre, J. A.; Harlow, S. D. / The Lancet (2004).)
  • It is estimated that more than 200,000 women and children have been raped over more than a decade of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo UN Women . (Original source: Statement of Hilde F. Johnson, Co-Chair of UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, 5 March 2009.)
  • There is strong evidence that a one-year increase in schooling for a woman, increases her family’s income UNIFEM, Gender Equality Now,  2007, p.8. Women are more likely than men to spend their money on their children’s education and nutrition, continuing the cycle of opportunity (USAID,   Family Planning Improves Quality of Life and Opportunities for Women,  July 2007.)
  • VSO is an international development charity that works through volunteers. Since 1958 more than 44,000 volunteers have worked in more than 120 countries. Today there are over 1600 international volunteers working in 42 countries around the world.
  • Oxfam  is an international confederation of 14 organizations working together in 98 countries and with partners and allies around the world to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice.

Contact information

Louis Belanger on +1 917 224 0834