Women from Misrata and Tawargha at the Psychosocial Support Center in Tommina. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

By Gerardo Noto, UNDP Resident Representative in Libya

It was in 1991 when activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute started the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence annual international campaign to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. A lot has happened ever since.

We have witnessed in the recent years an increase in campaigns such as #HeforShe, #PovertyIsSexist, #MeToo, #TimesUp, #NotOnemore, and #EndFGM, which not only vindicate the place women rightly deserve in society, but also call out the injustice and violence they experience every day.

These movements show that women and men are speaking up worldwide to give women what is theirs: the equal ease of access to resources, opportunities, justice, and human rights.

These campaigns are changing conversations, culture, even laws, and they are here to stay.

The International Human Rights Day has marked the end of the 16 Days of Activism campaign against Gender-Based Violence, ran this year under the theme “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!”

Men’s commitment to eliminate all forms of gender discrimination is also key for the effective implementation of human rights, for all people and all nations. I have joined the 16 Days campaign to stand up beside the survivors.

During these days, women all around the world have united with a chant calling out sexual violence to shift the narrative that places blame on victims and use the power of language in service of survivors, not perpetrators:

"The fault is not with me, nor where I was, nor how I was dressed... The rapist is you!"

Victims’ voices have been silenced for a really long time, but these days, through this campaign against rape, the world has said that it is ready to listen to them.

UNDP is committed to leave no one behind in it pursue of the achievement of the sustainable development goals and the Agenda 2030. It has been proven that empowering women and girls is not only the right thing to do, since no-discrimination based on gender is a basic human right, but also it is the smart thing to do, since gender equality is crucial for economic growth and development.

To build the future that all of us want, it is vital to give women equal rights to land and property, sexual and reproductive health, to technology and the internet, and to justice, but also to stop abuses against women, particularly rape.

Although today there are more women in public office and in the labor market than ever, there is still a long way to go to reach gender parity.

As UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, pointed out during the launch of the Human Development Report 2019 “On gender, based on current trends, it will take 202 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity alone.”

In Libya, for example, only 16.0 percent of parliamentary seats are held by women, and there is a low participation of Libyan women in the labor force (25.7 percent compared to 79 percent for men), despite the fact that 69.4 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 45.0 percent of their male counterparts.

The same happens when talking about abuse and sexual violence. The silence is breaking, but, according to UNWomen, “Work on preventing and ending violence against women at the global, regional and national levels shows that there is widespread impunity on sexual violence and rape.”

Furthermore, sexual violence and rape is been used against women and girls as a deliberate tool in conflicts around the world.

In Libya, the stories of the women from Misrata and Tawergha about post traumatic recovery supported by the Psycho-social Center in Tomina get to your deepest sense of humanity, resilience and hope.

Talking to women from the brink of suicide for post-traumatic stress to successfully rebuilding their lives or going into careers studying abroad, or how women from Tawergha and Misrata even afraided to sit together in the same room rebuilt their interactions through dialogue and studying together in the Center and now building partnership for joint businesses and social initiatives, confirm that we are in the right way, but there is still much more we all can do to speed up the journey towards the effective implementation of human rights for all.


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