United Nations Women (UNWomen) has stressed that achieving gender equality requires significant investment in and empowerment of women’s rights organizations. Speaking at the Regional Consultation with women’s rights organizations held during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, Ms. Beatrice Eyong, the Country Representative of UNWomen, expressed concern that substantial changes have not been made since the inception of the 16 Days of Activism two decades ago.
Eyong asserted that addressing and eradicating gender-based violence necessitate proactive and innovative solutions beyond reacting to violence incidents. She highlighted the pivotal role of investing in and empowering women’s rights organizations, stating, “You possess the knowledge, tools, and determination to reshape societies to be safer, more inclusive, and just.”
While acknowledging historic results in the first twenty years of the 16 days campaign, Eyong emphasized the need to recognize the ongoing challenges, including the limited transformation in the composition of peace tables and the continued impunity for those committing atrocities against women and girls. She urged the global community to view the campaign not just as a celebration but as a wake-up call, particularly in the face of gender equality pushbacks in West and Central Africa.
Eyong decried the well-coordinated, structured, and orchestrated pushback on gender equality, which seeks to undermine women’s and girls’ access to the human rights system. She warned of long-lasting and inter-generational effects on women and drastic consequences for world peace, especially in the West and Central Africa region.
Drawing on research, Eyong highlighted the crucial role of a strong and autonomous feminist movement in driving change to end violence against women and girls, influencing policy-making, and transforming social norms and power relations. She announced a new initiative called A.C.T. to end violence against women, a partnership between the European Union and UN Women focusing on strengthening global and regional advocacy, coalition building, and transformative feminist action.
The initiative aligns with the UNITE Campaign theme for the year, “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls.” Eyong called for collaborative efforts to make this investment successful for the benefit of women and girls in the region. Mrs. Eseme Stuart, the European Union focal point, highlighted that the ACT program is a joint commitment between the European Commission and UN Women, building on the experience of the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative.