“Violence against women affects the entire society – and all societies have stereotypes concerning genders”, said Finnish Minister of Gender Equality Affairs Mr Paavo Arhinmäki in a special CSW57 side event hosted by Finland, South Africa and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The fully booked event tackling transforming social norms to prevent violence against women generated so much interest that everyone willing to participate couldn’t make it inside the conference room. Finnish Ambassador for Gender and Equality Jorma Paukku chaired the discussion.
“Civil society has a crucial role in advancing a positive mindset when talking about gender equality”, Minister Arhinmäki said. He pointed out that in addition to education and awareness-raising, attention should be put towards media – especially social media. “Social media should be used to promote human rights for women and girls around the world.”
He also disclosed that in April the Finnish government is launching a media campaign against violence called My Body – I decide, targeted to young people and social media.
“Success calls for a comprehensive approach”, he reminded. “It’s an ongoing process and much remains to be done. I hope that CSW57 will provide us with some much-needed new tools in battling violence against women and girls.”
South African Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Lulu Xingwana underlined the fact that violence against women and girls is a violation against human rights, and we all have to work together to tackle it. She said that education -- and especially educating men and boys -- is crucial in transforming social and violent norms. “It’s about creating a more just, more equal society for both men and women.”
“Legislative change alone is not enough”, added Parliamentary Under Secretary for International Development, Ms Lynn Featherstone from the UK. She pointed out that rape and violence against women is more common, and getting help for survivors is harder, in contexts where social norms accept violence towards women. She compared the discussion to that of genital mutilation, where community workshops and education with men and boys had proven successful in shifting attitudes and behavior.
Related projects, programs and good practices were introduced. Ms Somali Cerise and and Ms Angela Hariche of the OECD presented the Social Institutions and Gender Index 2012, SIGI, a statistical analysis, which shows a connection between norms and attitudes towards statistical behavior. Wikigender, an online discussion on the status of women organized by the OECD a few weeks ago, also served as an introduction for Monday’s event. Both SIGI and the online discussion resulted in similar conclusions: interventions on both laws and social norms, education and empowerment, data collection and evaluation and cooperation of all stakeholders are needed in order to make a change.
Founder, President and CEO of human rights organization Breakthrough, Ms Mallika Dutt introduced a campaign in India called Bell Bajao – Ring the Bell, targeted to communities for people to stop ignoring domestic violence in their own neighborhoods. National Programme Coordinator of Women in Law and Development in Africa, Ms Bernice Sam presented a community leader volunteer program, where members of a community participate in changing their local norms in a way that is easiest for them to understand and adapt.
The event was organized on March 4th as a side event of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women at United Nations headquarters in New York.