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UN Secretary General's Campaign Being Launched from Guatemala

Posted on: Thursday, November 5, 2009

Keywords: Combating Violence Against Women, Guatemala, UN

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In awareness of this day and the ongoing violence that women face in their homes and communities, the UN launched a campaign calling on governments, civil society, organizations and the entire UN system to join forces in order to address the global pandemic of violence against women and girls: UNiTE to End Violence Against Women.

This year, there will be an emphasis on Latin America and the Caribbean, with Guatemala acting as the focal point due to a recent escalation of violence against women and femicide in the country.

MADRE joins the UN, other women's organizations and progressives around the world in demanding the creation and enforcement of laws protecting women from violence and legal recourse for women who have been abused.

MADRE stands with the women of Guatemala, as well as with women and men from around the world who face gender-related violence.

Join MADRE in sending a statement of solidarity to the women of Guatemala.


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From Feminist International Radio Endeavor (RIF/FIRE):

Special Announcement for the Actions of November 23-30, 2009

This year in Guatemala, on November 25th, the United Nations will launch Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's campaign “uniting to put an end to violence against women” for the region of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The campaign focuses on strategies to counter violence against women at the regional, national, and local levels. At the Directive Board’s Fortieth First Regional Reunion Conference about women in Latin American and the Caribbean, the Secretary General suggested an agreement to formally initiate the campaign and many UN organizations proposed to lead implementation activities in the region.

The regional efforts are focused on ending impunity for the crime of violence against women and girls through the implementation of international and national legal mechanisms; the increased commitment of governments to fulfill their promises to put and end to violence against women and girls; and the mobilization of  key actors working for the empowerment of women and their communities.

Women’s organizations have been invited to be part of the campaign with the understanding that they are the key actors in this international and national effort, and that November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, was born of the movement’s efforts to position the issue in the political agenda at all levels, especially the Latin American feminist movement.

Why Guatemala?

Guatemala has been chosen as the focal point of this effort because of the escalation of violence against women in the country, a level of violence which has yet to be fully recognized by the international community.

In 2007, Guatemala ranked third highest in death rate in Latin American resulting from violence against women.  In 2009, Guatemala moved to first (depending on the method of classifying causes of death). Between January and May of 2009, 265 femicide cases were recorded.

Between 2005 and 2007, there were 19,600 murders of women; however, only 43 of those responsible for the deaths were sentenced.  A factor that explains the increase of assassinations in 2009 is that, in the previous three years, 1,912 murders were let free.

Since the law against femicide came into force in May of 2008, only 2 offenders have been sentenced, even though 722 women died that year due to violent crimes committed against them (Sobrevivientes).

Of these 722 murders, 32% of the women were murdered in their homes, 43% outside of their homes, and 25% in unknown locations. In 2008, there were 39,400 reports of domestic violence in which 95% women were present. After 2008, the Legal Crimes against women 2000 Report was made (Observations made by the Feminist Resistance Watch in May, 2009).

Violence in Guatemala generates a cost of more than 300 thousand million dollars annually, equivalent to 7% of the GDP.

It is evident from the observations of OTF that women's organizations and the specialized programs that they have created for the promotion of their rights in Guatemala show a strong measure of resilience and resistance, as well showing the infinite creativity possessed by these women as they organize, prepare, and mobilize for the struggle against the adverse conditions of social devaluation, misogyny, and ethnocentrism. The UN campaign supports these efforts by promoting solidarity among regional and international organizations and initiatives in order to share knowledge, strength, and resistance.

One of the central focuses of the campaign is amplifying women's voices to raise awareness about violence against women among all people in all places and organizations working for social progress and peace. The voices of victims and survivors will be emphasized during the launch of the campaign. This activity is led by women for women, in the pursuit of justice and reparation – which are the best ways in which violence against women can be addressed and prevented.

Feminist International Radio Endeavour (RIF/FIRE) is has undertaken a special consultancy with UNIFEM to help motivate and organize women’s NGO activities for the Regional Launching, along with women’s organizations in Guatemala and the region. For several days around the official launch of the Campaign, it will be carrying out some activities in Guatemala and in the region.  
This is a call to join us during this time in Guatemala and participate in the elaboration of an URGENT AGENDA that will be presented by a Honduran spokeswoman representing the women of the region to the public on November 25th.

Another main focus is that violence against women is a “State problem” – it is the primary responsibility of states to fulfil their obligations under international law, to work for the security of all their citizens, particularly women, and to promote equality between women and men. To improve the socio-political condition of our planet, the right of women to live without violence must be recognized.

Regional Initiatives

The Secretary General's campaign was founded last year as a call to all social sectors, the media, and the UN system to work towards the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. The campaign will last until 2015, and has enumerated five major objectives, including the launch of regional and national campaigns, and social mobilization for the promotion of civil society participation in the prevention of violence and the effective support of women and girl survivors. The campaign includes actions to prevent and sanction sexual violence in conflict areas, and to promote a politics of peace and security, with sufficient financial commitment and the implementation of mechanisms to protect and prevent systemic violations of human rights.

Human rights violations in this context include violence against women in all its forms (physical, psychological, sexual, economic, etc.) For this reason, to effectively eliminate all forms of violence against women, we must adopt measures to promote gender equality and the human rights of women in tandem with the international framework of human rights.

The campaign intrinsically recognizes diverse forms of violence – socio-cultural, economic, and political – and is conducted in a way that is sensitive to structural inequality and imbalances of power between women and men. Race, ethnicity, and other fault lines of discrimination that affect women and girls in the region will be specifically taken into account (e.g. Rural residence, disability, HIV/AIDS).
The basis of the campaign is respect for the human rights of women and girls; on this point, the campaign compliments the existing efforts to confront violence beyond the traditional boundaries – beyond being a campaign exclusively focused on women – with the objective of formulating a clear and effective answer to violence itself. The campaign follows a holistic and integral approach to the issue of violence against women, promoting collaboration among a wide range of social sectors and actors (e.g. Health care, education, justice, security, labour, etc.)

The inter-agency initiative includes: UNIFEM, UNFPA, CEPAL, ACNUDH, UNICEF, CIM, IICA, OPS, PNUD, ONUSIDA, and OIT.

The slogans of the campaign shape the character of this struggle against gender based violence: “No a la impunidad” (no more impunity), promotes the adoption of means to protect women and children against violence; “Ni una más” (not one more), calls for preventative actions, requiring changes of attitude, behaviour, and interpersonal relations in society between women and men; “La responsabilidad es de todos” (it is everyone's responsibility), calls for multi-sectoral participation and greater visibility of the campaign in public life. These slogans transmit the message that violence against women must be eradicated at the individual, family, and community levels, building on the work of feminist and women's organizations, which have struggled against violence and discrimination against women, and have paved the road for this effort. 

The upcoming campaign follows the 2006 Secretary General report, presented to the General Assembly, entitled “In-depth study on all forms of violence against women”.  The study reconfirms, at the highest institutional level, what was documented in the previous 12 months – that this type of violence is a result of power inequalities between women and men.

To this effect, the study finds that:

A particularly problematic challenge is the elimination of discriminatory sociocultural attitudes and economic inequalities that reinforce women’s subordinate place in society. Male violence against women is generated by sociocultural attitudes and cultures of violence in all parts of the world, and especially by norms about the control of female reproduction and sexuality (see sect. III). Furthermore, violence against women intersects with other factors, such as race and class, and with other forms of violence, including ethnic conflict (F 57, p 23).

Facio adds that we will not be able to eradicate violence against women without the political will and determination necessary at the local, national, regional and international levels.

Political will can be expressed in diverse forms – through legislation, national plans of action, the distribution of resources, the establishment of mechanisms for the promotion of women’s rights at the highest levels, efforts to end impunity, the public condemnation of violence against women, and the support of leaders and those who form public opinion in these efforts.  

Other indicators of political will include the creation of a favourable environment for non-governmental organizations and contributions to their work.

As the report demonstrates, the elimination of violence includes the elimination of discrimination against women in all spheres. 

This requires a comprehensive effort, coordinated and maintained.  It requires the adoption of measures in different settings, among them, legislation, the justice system, political economy, and social services, including consciousness raising and education.

Facio underlines the term “coordinated” because one of the key factors compromising the efficacy of existing laws and mechanisms is the lack of coordination between the efforts of different organizations working in isolation.


Translated by Hannah Powell Losada
Edited by Ross Ryan

More information is available online at



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