London branch promoting UNiTE campaign to End Violence Against Women and Girls

Guest blog by Alice Fookes, London Committee member

Launched in 2008, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign aims to eliminate violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. It is vital that we keep this campaign alive and I was delighted to be invited to speak about UN Women’s work on tackling VAW recently.

I was recently invited by the Southwark Forum for Equalities and Human Rights to represent UN Women UK at a conference marking the UNiTE campaign and involving community and health organisations working in the London Borough of Southwark.

The event was opened by the Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Althea Smith, and then I spoke about the UN and UN Women – beginning by saying how delighted I was to see that the event had already been recorded in the ‘actions’ list on the UNiTE website. I gave a brief overview of UN WOMEN and its role at the UN, stressing the importance UN Women places on women and men working together to end VAW. Ban Ki-moon’s Network of Men Leaders initiative is an example of one of the early UNiTE actions.  We also looked in detail at the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, which UN Women manages, and at examples of recent actions recorded on the UNiTE website from Nepal, Peru and Kenya. The website is very interactive and I recommend everyone check it out at www.saynotoviolence.org

Other speakers of particular interest  at the event were Cllr Richard Livingstone who spoke about the success of Southwark’s efforts to tackle gangs and VAW in the borough;  Rita Buhanda, from FORWARD who talked about key issues surrounding female genital mutilation (FGM); and Chaz Akoshile from the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit who discussed ‘honour’ based violence.

Supporting the event were the Southwark Community Safety Unit and other local organisations, many of which had stalls throughout the day: Bede House, Solace Women’s Aid, Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Faces in Focus Young Women’s Group, Refuge, and Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation.

Following the main speakers a panel of specialists took questions about various issues raised. I was pleased that one of our London members, Ahlam Akram, who recently addressed one of our Brunches on Palestinian Women, had been invited to be part of that panel, representing her NGO, BASIRA (British Arabs Support Integration, Recognition and Awareness).

It was a great initiative and I felt honoured to be a part of it and many thanks to Kyla Morris (now a member of UN Women London branch I am delighted to say) for organising such a hands-on, vibrant event.

The UNiTE ‘Say No’ website records what individuals, organisations and governments are doing to end VAW and over 5.5million actions have been recorded so far. If you haven’t already done so, you can add your name to the global online call to make ending VAW a top priority: www.saynotoviolence.org

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