Ladies and Gentlemen,
My name is Giovanna Martelli and I am the Gender Equality Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Italy.
For me it is a great honor to host this important event, together with my illustrious colleagues. Our goal today is to give a voice to the young women and girls who are fighting violence and gender inequality.
As my colleagues have underlined, violence against women and girls is a social scourge that afflicts millions of women in every Country of the world, none excluded. In every corner of the world, there are women and girls who fight this phenomenon every day to guarantee a better future, free from every form of discrimination and inequality, to take back their lives and their dreams.
Italy has always been a leader in the prevention and repression of this phenomenon and in the protection of its victims, at both the national and international levels.
Every three days in our Country a woman is killed by her partner, her ex, or a family member. More than one million women have been subject to at least one instance of harassment. Serious episodes that do not correspond, unfortunately, to an equally high number of reports to the police: one third of the women who have suffered violence, in fact, spend their lives without ever telling anyone. It is because of these alarming statistics that the Italian Government decided to focus action on the various forms of violence against women and girls.
The Italian Government has drafted a Special Plan of Action against sexual and gender-based violence that contains structured, shared actions in the social, educational, and training fields to guarantee a greater and more complete protection of the victims, also in consideration of the commitments made by our Country when it ratified the Istanbul Convention.
The Plan was developed through a collaboration among the main Ministries and with the contribution of the civil society organizations committed to the fight against violence. Despite past and current budgetary constraints, let me add that the Italian Government has committed a total of 40 million euros in resources until 2016.
Italy, as a Country of transit and destination, has always paid special attention to the prevention and fight against the phenomenon of human trafficking, including women and girls. This is why in recent months we have drafted a National Action Plan against human trafficking and the grave exploitation of human beings. The Plan will be approved shortly and represent the Italian Government’s response to this grievous phenomenon.
With regard to other forms of violence related to harmful traditional practices, Italy has adopted a special law to eliminate female genital mutilations. The UN Secretary-General called this law a good practice in his 2011 report on the subject. Italy has also drafted and enacted throughout the national territory two plans to finance projects to prevent and fight these practices.
Another phenomenon that is sadly also widespread among the girls of many Countries of the world is early and forced marriage. In this regard the Italian Government has drafted a specific qualitative and quantitative assessment to better understand the extent of the phenomenon within the national territory, thanks to the prior contributions of civil society organizations that have long been active in this field.
On the international front I wish to recall that in 1998 the Italian Government issued “Guidelines on Gender and Development” that set the goal of eliminating violence against women as a priority of Italian development cooperation.
Consequently, Italy has designed and implemented programs mainly in conflict situations and fragile countries, namely in the Balkan Countries, Algeria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Palestinian territories, as well as in Mali, Libya, and Somalia. In Afghanistan, since 2003, we have supported the economic empowerment of women through a program based in Kabul and Baghlan in partnership with multilateral agencies such as UNDP.
In Afghanistan Italy continues to be constantly engaged in the fight against violence against women in Herat, supporting the Afghani NGO HAWCA (Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan) and the ActionAid Association
In Lebanon, in the aftermath of the 2006 conflict, our Emergency Program has prioritized the economic empowerment of women.
During the 2008-2011 period, Italy also provided financing to UN Women, to support initiatives to be implemented in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Sudan, pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 132.
In the Palestinian territories, since 2005, Italy has supported the Mehwar Centre in Bethlehem, one of the first centres providing support to victims of gender-based violence. The centre is not only focused on offering protection to women victims of physical and sexual abuse, but it also seeks to empower them to play a fundamental role in society and to help women gain access to justice.
Italy is the port of the Mediterranean. For far too long, however, its geographic position has been considered a critical point, a disadvantage. It is my firm conviction, instead, that the geopolitical role of Italy represents and added value, also by virtue of the support that our Government has always offered to developing Countries.
Because of this privileged position, Italy can act as a prime mover in the promotion of the human rights of women and girls, thus helping to limit the insurgence of extremist reactions and to create a peaceful climate for women and men in a highly strategic area in the world’s geopolitical arrangement.
In conclusion, I am firmly convinced that, if we truly wish to eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls, all of us need to commit to the adoption of a global approach in the fight against this phenomenon.
Our Countries alone cannot win the battle against violence against women and girls. This violence is a global emergency, and it requires a global response.