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Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Overseas

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 10 December 2015

My Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Verma) has today made the following statement:

I am pleased to take this opportunity to update the House on my plans following my appointment as Ministerial Champion for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Overseas.

It is an honour to be appointed to this position. I have been personally committed to tackling violence against women and girls for a long time and given my role as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for International Development (DFID), I have identified some significant opportunities for pushing forwards this agenda.

I have chosen to issue this statement today because the 10 December marks the end of the formal 16 days of activism that the UN leads, to address the human rights abuse that is violence against women and girls. It also formally marks the beginning of an even more concerted effort from myself to lead work to tackle this issue.

Violence against women and girls is a systematic, widespread human rights violation, faced by one in three women worldwide in their lifetime. Tackling violence is essential: to women and girls, their families and communities. It is critical to sustained poverty reduction and the achievement of the new Global Goals. Furthermore, it is a top priority for the UK Government and DFID.

The 25 November marked the international day to eliminate violence against women and girls, followed by 16 days of activism that culminate today, on international human rights day. Ministers across the UK Government, myself included, have done a number of things to mark this period, including pushing for change through a number of events. On 25 November, I spoke at a Parliamentary panel discussion hosted by ActionAid UK, outlining the importance of empowering women’s organisations in order to tackle violence against women and girls. I was delighted to see such a large and engaged audience at this event, reflecting the huge strides we have taken in raising awareness of violence against women and girls. We heard first-hand accounts from women who have experienced and witnessed such violence. I was proud to share the important work that DFID and the UK have done to empower and protect women and girls in these situations.

I have been championing the White Ribbon Campaign within DFID during the 16 days of activism, an international campaign that mobilises men to stand up to violence against women and girls. I have spread the message in DFID and on social media, shown solidary for this by wearing a white ribbon, and encouraged pledging to never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women and girls. I encourage parliamentarians to do the same. You can do so here:

This period of focused activities provides a strong foundation from which to begin my role as Ministerial Champion and I have every intention to build on the momentum that we have created here in the UK and across the world.

Looking forward, I would like to take this opportunity to announce my new objectives for the Ministerial Champion role, which build on the work done by my predecessors. My objectives are:

1. Securing and defending the rights of women and girls to live free from violence, through international frameworks;

2. Further linking and ensuring policy coherence across the entire UK efforts to end violence against women and girls overseas;

3. Forging strategic partnerships and influencing the international system to increase financial, political and technical commitment for tackling all forms of violence against women and girls in all contexts;

4. Leading step change in galvanising the use of evidence of what we know works to prevent violence against women and girls;

5. Eliminating FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation;

6. Driving forward a new and significant push on all forms of domestic and intimate partner violence as a policy and programme priority for the international community;

7. Stepping up global leadership on tackling violence and abuse against adolescent girls overseas.

I look forward to driving forward work on this agenda, and working with Ministers and parliamentarians to achieve our ambitious, but ultimately achievable goal of eradicating violence against women and girls for good.