Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
25 November 2019
The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women.” As such, it covers a harrowing range of acts, including physical abuse, rape, unwanted sexual advances, sexual abuse, forced marriage, slavery, sexual exploitation, and female genital mutilation. It is often simply measured by the number of femicides – the number of women killed by partners or family members. Currently, an estimated 137 women die this way every day.
But this statistic ignores less visible, more insidious forms of violence against women. Female journalists, for instance, are frequent targets of sexist hate speech, including threats of rape and murder. According to a study by the International Federation of Journalists, 64% of women journalists have experienced online abuse. In politics, women face discrimination and harassment, which limits their ability to fully participate in political life. The recent deaths of female politicians are clear evidence of this problem. Women teachers are frequent victims of defamation, insults and threats – by both pupils and their parents.
In the face of this violence, we are not without arms. For instance, artificial intelligence, freed of its gender biases, can be used to ensure that women are able to express themselves freely and safely. AI tools can identify instances of cyberbullying, online discrimination and hate speech, automatically report them to moderators, and direct victims to relevant support. A group of five Kenyan girls calling themselves “The Restorers” have created an app to help over 200 million girls and women who have been subjected to female genital mutilation or cutting. We need to harness the power of this technology, and put it to work for gender equality.
Society cannot thrive if half of the population lives in fear of being assaulted. This is why UNESCO marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, followed by the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. This year, UNESCO is running a social media campaign featuring the stories of women around the world. Share your photos and videos using the hashtags #25Nov and #IDEVAW, to help us to say no to violence against women.