The UN just agreed a historic goal on ending violence against women. That's great news and a big step in the right direction, but a target alone isn't enough. Here's what the UK government can do to make sure the world's leaders keep their promises and take some serious actions to end violence against women, for good.
David Cameron's promises
David Cameron launched his new Government with a nice bit of theatre. He allowed the TV cameras into his first Cabinet meeting and there, holding a copy of his winning manifesto for all to see, he set his Minister the challenge to implement it all… in full.
Now, many of those Ministers were probably quite surprised to find themselves sitting at the Cabinet table, so I’m not sure many of them had even read the thing in full. But I did – all 80 pages. It’s the kind of thing you have to do in my job.
And here’s why. Squirrelled away in there, on the very last page in fact, you’ll find a pretty important line. It says, “We will continue to lead efforts to tackle violence against women and girls… at home and abroad.” Not just work on it you’ll notice, but lead.
For the PM and his ministers the first test of this commitment is just around the corner.
Standing with fearless women
This September world leaders will gather in New York to sign up to the new Sustainable Development Goals. Thanks to the persistence and collective action of women’s groups – and with the support of the UK Government – these goals contain a dedicated target to end all forms of violence against women and girls.
20 years ago, the Beijing Summit on women broke new ground for women’s rights. But summits alone don’t bring change.
Today, shockingly, one in three women still face violence. Women like Wangu from Kenya, who was car-jacked and raped in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi.
Wangu is not a victim, she is a survivor of violence. She has been a fearless activist, campaigning for the rights of her fellow Kenyan wanawake (women) to be free from violence; founding her own NGO and setting up a small business to provide economic opportunities for other survivors of violence.
Wangu Kanja, 40, founder of the Wangu Kanja Foundation in Kenya
In truth, it is not prime ministers or governments who will lead action to end violence. It is individual and collective fearless women, like Wangu, standing up and speaking out, taking action and demanding their rights.
But political leaders can stand alongside these fearless women. We know from decades of experience that when women are empowered to lead change, when they are given adequate resources with a proper plan and institutions to hold governments and perpetrators to account, that we can reduce violence.
The three things he can do
We are asking David Cameron to stand with fearless women like Wangu when he goes to New York at the end of this month, by joining a special meeting of Heads of Government and committing to:
- Back a fund that will ensure that vital resources get directly to women’s rights organisations battling against violence on the frontline;
- Work with other key countries to develop and deliver national plans to end violence;
- Support a global watchdog report to track progress on the new target on ending violence against women.
We have two days to get David Cameron to join this meeting in New York, where we hope he'll stand with Fearless women to end violence for good. Help us ask him to show up.
Photos: The Open University, Georgina Goodwin/ActionAid.