26 September 2012

Africa: Football Unites International Community in Campaign to End Violence Against Women

New York — Top officials, staff and ambassadors to the United Nations took time out during the UN General Assembly today to play a friendly football match against a team assembled by the President of Bolivia Evo Morales.

Both teams united to end violence against women in support of the Secretary General's campaign--globally and in Latin America and the Caribbean, which has some of the world's highest rates of gender-based crimes. The match also supported Bolivia's Year to End all forms of Violence against Women and Girls.

"Sport is a vital tool for building peace and understanding across nations, and can also be a powerful instrument to oppose violence against women, helping promote gender equality and also children's rights," said UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Heraldo Muñoz.

Held at Roosevelt Island Soccer Field, close to UN headquarters, the match was co-organized byMuñoz, who scored two goals, and President Morales, who scored one goal and whose team clinched the match 10-5.

"Since football is a passion--globally and in Latin America--it is a great way to reach out to men directly and advocate for women's rights," Muñoz added.

"In Bolivia we are working to implement laws to protect women and also to give them more political representation, which requires--more than anything--political will," President Morales said.

UN Under-Secretary General and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet kicked off the match hoping that the final winner would be all the world's women, their rights and their causes.

Violence against women takes many forms - physical, sexual, psychological and economic, with patterns often being passed down through generations. Some types of violence, such as trafficking, cross national boundaries.

In 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, nearly 50 percent of women said they had been victims of at least one sexual assault during their lifetime, according to a recent World Bank study. And nearly 70 percent of physical abuses were committed by their own partners.

Moreover, Central America has one of the highest rates of female murders (femicide) worldwide: two out of three murdered women lost their lives simply because they were women. Guatemala and El Salvador registered 675 and 580 cases of female murders in 2010 while Honduras recorded 312 in 2008.

Abuse also takes place in the work place. In Latin America and the Caribbean 30 to 50 percent of women have suffered some type of sexual harassment while at work, according to the International Labour Organization. In Brazil a survey in 12 cities revealed that more than half of women have suffered some type of harassment at work, whereas in Mexico the number reaches 70 percent of women.

UNDP works with governments, parliaments and civil society organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean to develop laws and public policies that guarantee gender equality and women's rights.

As part of the UN Secretary-General's campaign, UNDP also works with governments to create strategies that help eliminate violence against women. In collaboration with UN Women, UNDP is developing region-wide studies and mapping good practices to eradicate violence against women, through plans, policies and recommendations.

In El Salvador, for example, UNDP is working with Women's Parliamentary Groups to create a specialized unit to address women's rights in the legislative assembly, helping ensure that the national budget's expenditure reflects different needs and priorities for women and girls.

In Haiti and Nicaragua, UNDP works with sister UN agencies to improve access to justice, with a special focus on women. The Haiti initiative helped train more than 150 police officers and judges on gender-based violence, and also involved assessing the capacity of police stations to respond to violence against women.

UNDP is also a partner in the annual Match Against Poverty.

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