A gathering of influential women leaders from the Commonwealth convened in London to commit to protecting women and girls from domestic and sexual violence. This initiative seeks to mobilize efforts across various professions to ensure the safety of women and girls, even in hard-to-reach areas spanning the 56 Commonwealth nations.
The meeting, presided over by The Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland KC, Commonwealth Secretary-General and graced by Her Majesty The Queen, brought together over a hundred representatives from Government, business, academia and civil society. The focus was on crafting a collective approach to combating the prevailing issue of domestic and sexual abuse.
Emphasizing a united stance against this silent pandemic, the Secretary-General stressed the urgency to act, rejecting the notion that ending such violence is impossible. Addressing the attendees, she declared a resounding “NO MORE” to this pervasive crisis, asserting that collective action could bring about significant change.
Diverse panel discussions delved into advocacy, the psychological impact of domestic violence on women and children, and the support structures for survivors and their families. Commonwealth First Ladies from Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Zanzibar highlighted concerning statistics and discussed initiatives aimed at protecting women and girls within their respective countries.
The First Lady of Sierra Leone spotlighted the ‘Hands Off Our Girls’ campaign, advocating targeted measures for women’s and girls’ protection. Her efforts led to an increase in minimum sentencing for rape in Sierra Leone from four months to 15 years.
Speakers outlined various measures, including education to dismantle harmful cultural norms, one-stop centres offering comprehensive support, campaigns to engage men, and legislation ensuring equality under the law. Efforts were also directed toward addressing the vulnerability of people with disabilities to violence and sharing successful interventions, such as Rwanda’s one-stop centres and mobile clinics reaching remote areas.
Later, Her Majesty, The Queen received a report on the outcomes, emphasizing the need for actionable commitments to improve the well-being of women and girls.
The event featured prominent global figures including the UN Deputy Secretary-General, representatives from WHO and leaders from Foundations and Charities advocating against domestic and sexual violence. Insights were shared about campaigns offering tools for individuals, communities and Governments to combat these issues at various levels.
The recommendations from this crucial gathering will guide the ongoing work through the Commonwealth Says NO MORE campaign, a significant step toward eliminating domestic and sexual violence worldwide.