Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25 November 2012

22 November 2012
 UNESCO/Landry Rukingamubiri

The world was shocked by the brutal attack on 9 October against Malala Yousafzai, a fourteen year old girl, shot for claiming her right and that of other girls to an education. This attack has shined the spotlight on the prevalence of violence against girls and women. The story of Malala Yousafzai is sadly far from unique. Across the world, girls and women face violence as they try to exercise their basic rights, including that of education. Sexual harassment and assault, bullying and psychological violence, corporal punishment -- all of these types of violence remain prevalent. Violence, and its threat, is one of the key factors forcing girls to drop out of school.

This is a violation of individual human rights that undermines the health of all society. UNESCO is working to eliminate all forms of violence -- physical, psychological and economic. We start by promoting the right to education for all girls and women in societies across the world, including especially in and after conflict situations. We act also at the global level. On 10 December, 2012, UNESCO is organizing a high-level advocacy event to mobilize a deeper commitment to educating girls and also to celebrate the courage of young girls like Malala Yousafzai.

UNESCO also supports the fight against the scourge of human trafficking. This global threat affects an estimated 2.4 million victims every year -- 80 percent of whom are women, 75 percent under the age of 25 years old. All countries are concerned, as places of origin, transit, and/or destination.

Education must stand at the forefront of the fight against trafficking, building on comprehensive efforts that bring together education, communication and media and policy-making in receiving, transit and sending countries. Working at the intersection of these dimensions, UNESCO is promoting integrated actions to eliminate this insidious form of violence. This is the objective of the conference UNESCO is organizing on 26 November 2012.

It is unacceptable that one in seven women is today a victim of violence during her lifetime. On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we must all stand up for Malala Yousafzai and for the rights of girls and women across the world.

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