I’m very pleased to join you today to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and to launch the 16 days of activism campaign against gender-based violence.
In the next 16 days, the campaign will take place in Baku and all the regions of the country through awareness raising sessions on GBV, distribution of the information materials at ASAN service centers, youth flash-mobs, joint awareness activities with AFFA football federation and the Baku city underground station.
All of these are intended to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls in Azerbaijan.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for being here. In particular, I would like to thank Khanum Hijran Huseynova for taking the lead in observing this day and bringing attention to one of the most prevalent form of human rights violations in Azerbaijan.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Ambassador Robert Cekuta, and Ambassador Malena Mard, Head of EU Delegation for joining the campaign today.
The more agencies and individuals we have on board, the more people we can reach and the louder our message against all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls can be.
It is very rewarding to see that the campaign which was initiated several years ago by the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs and UNFPA has grown into a major national level observations bringing together more and more actors every year including USAID, EU, other UN agencies, and non-governmental organizations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While Azerbaijan has been quite successful in narrowing many gender gaps over the past decades, challenges remain in a number of areas that require prompt action of the Government and the support of the international community.
The country is still having highly skewed sex ratios at birth (114 boys per 100 girls born versus the biological norm of 103-105) that shows the extent of the phenomenon of son preference in this country.
Many women have limited economic opportunities that render them vulnerable to different forms of gender based violence and discrimination in the course of their life time.
The shelters and support centers for the victims of GBV are regrettably still not widely available throughout the country to provide safe refuge, as well as protection and rehabilitation services.
Gender based violence should not only be treated as a human right issue mainly concerned with the individuals but also recognized as the manifestation of structural inequality reflected in unequal relations in the structure of organizations, institutions, or social networks.
We believe solutions to these issues and challenges can be found in sound policy choices, and can be addressed through stronger, smarter and better development programmes.
The Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015 which includes specific targets on ending violence against women offer a unique opportunity to address structural inequalities and concentrate on prevention, protection, and promotion of these issues.
The SDGs call us to Prevent GBV by challenging the stereotypes that give men power over women by addressing gender norms and attitudes perpetuating violence against women and girls before they become deeply ingrained in children and youth.
The public awareness campaigns like the one we are launching today should be delivered via all possible means of mass media to change the existing attitudes and behaviors.
The SDGs also demand us to Protect women by ensuring that an effective inter-agency referral mechanism is in place to provide the minimum essential services to all survivors.
The SDGs also imply that these efforts need to be accompanied by legal and policy measures to Promote gender equality by providing women with quality education and enabling them to make genuine choices over the lives they want to have.
This would require concerted efforts to reduce gender disparities in access to, control over and benefit from resources, wealth, opportunities and services.
Mainstreaming gender into macroeconomic and social policies is instrumental in this process.
Finally any policy and programmatic measure must be adequately funded in order to bring real and significant changes in the lives of women and girls.
At the end, I would like to thank all my UN colleagues in working with the State Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs and other institutions in putting together this campaign. Lets hope that our message will reach every corner of Azerbaijan and our efforts shall continue until total elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls in this country and around the world.
I wish us all a successful campaign.
Thank you very much for the attention!