New York, USA - Men and boys are responsible for violence against women and girls, and they must be the ones to end it. 

This was the message shared by United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres during a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Dialogue on the role and responsibility of men and boys in ending gender-based violence, ‘From perpetrators to allies’.

“We must end violence against women and girls now – and it starts with changing the hearts and minds of men and boys. Men created this scourge, men must end it,” said Mr. Guterres.

 

The high-level conversation was presented by the UN Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls and the Spotlight Initiative. It was moderated by UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming and featured EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the UN Egriselda Gonzales Lopez, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN Collen Vixen Kelapile, UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem and UN Global Advocate for Spotlight Initiative Siya Kolisi.

Mr. Guterres called on every member state to develop an emergency plan to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and urged them to draw on UN expertise and the positive models provided by the Spotlight Initiative.

“We must end violence against women and girls now – and it starts with changing the hearts and minds of men and boys." - UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Head of the EU Delegation to the UN and Chair of the Group of Friends, Olof Skoog, said that the Group of Friends was formed during the pandemic, when global rates of violence against women and girls soared.

“It’s a global phenomenon with added urgency during the pandemic, when women and girls were locked in with perpetrators of this violence,” he said.

“Like COVID-19, violence against women and girls is contagious,” said Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the UN Egriselda Gonzales Lopez. “No country will be safe until all countries are safe… No woman or girl will be safe until all are safe. That’s why an intersectional approach is so important.”

Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN and President of the UN Economic and Social Council Collen Vixen Kelapile said it was critical to engage men and boys in communities as well as ensuring gender-sensitive laws and policies are in place.

“We must work with our communities to do some redesigning or socialization to unlearn these kinds of [negative] behaviours… [We must be] working with communities to contribute to the solution, especially men and boys.”

“Today, let me call on others to join this global initiative. Help us turn commitments into action," - EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen

When asked whether funds invested in engaging men and boys might be better directed to supporting women, UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem responded that both were necessary.

“It’s not a tradeoff,” said Dr. Kanem. “It’s not an either/or situation, gender is for everyone. It’s not a female issue. The issue of stopping gender-based violence has to be an all-of-community effort.”

UN Global Advocate for the Spotlight Initiative and captain of South Africa’s national rugby team, Siya Kolisi, said that he often senses hesitation from men on the topic because it forces them to ask themselves uncomfortable questions – something he experienced himself.

“Not a lot of men want to talk about it, not a lot of men want to hear about it,” he said. “Me adding my voice will hopefully help other men to join the journey.”

EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen thanked Siya Kolisi for setting a positive example and said that Spotlight Initiative serves as a unique model of multilateral partnership. 

“Today, let me call on others to join this global initiative. Help us turn commitments we have taken at Generation Equality last year into action to build a truly gender equal world,” she said.