U.S. Department of State joins 'Together for Girls' to end sexual violence

The U.S. Department of State became an official partner of Together for Girls – the global partnership to end sexual violence against girls announced last year by President William J. Clinton at the Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. Through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and in collaboration with the Office of Global Women's Issues, the U.S. Department of State is the newest partner to join Together for Girls and lend support to end sexual violence.

The initiative has three critical categories: conducting national surveys, using these new data to base country-specific interventions tailored to address sexual violence, and launching public awareness campaigns to motivate changes in social norms and behaviors.

Reflecting the importance of addressing sexual violence to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the announcement about the expansion of the partnership was made at a reception coinciding with the United Nations Summit in New York. The event brought together key stakeholders to explore avenues for private-public collaboration to end sexual violence against girls.

Sexual violence against girls affects over 150 million girls worldwide. It is a global human rights violation of vast proportions, with severe health and social consequences. Rape and sexual exploitation of girls contribute to HIV transmission, and young girls in particular are at increased biological risk of contracting HIV. In many places, schools are unsafe for girls, fundamentally undermining their opportunity to receive an education. Protection and education of girls is a contributing factor to overall economic growth in developing countries. Ending sexual violence will allow girls worldwide to live safer and healthier lives and fulfill their rights to freedom from violence, exploitation and abuse. Ending sexual violence against girls is central to achieving justice and prosperity.

Since the launch of Together for Girls last year, the partnership has been working in countries to inform and implement a coordinated approach to policy and programs for ending sexual violence against girls.  In Swaziland, interventions to prevent and respond to sexual violence against girls are ongoing by the government and civil society partners, supported by UNICEF and other key partners such as UNAIDS. In Tanzania, a comprehensive national survey was completed in 2009 to estimate the magnitude and impact of sexual violence against children, supported by UNICEF and CDC.

Addressing the event marking the U.S. State Department's entry into the partnership, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, and Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, outline how the partnership contributes to their common goal of addressing gender-based violence, particularly sexual violence against girls, in countries severely affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Ambassador Verveer said: "Not only is sexual violence a widespread denial of the human rights of girls, but it is also seriously impeding a country's economic performance and our world's attempts – now at a most critical stage – to achieve the ambitions of the Millennium Development Goals."

Ambassador Goosby said: "HIV/AIDS continues to have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, and it is in part fueled by gender-based violence. Through the Together for Girls partnership, PEPFAR will work with governments, civil society and other partners to end sexual violence against girls. PEPFAR will utilize our extensive programs, partnerships and networks as a platform to develop appropriate, tailored and sustainable responses to sexual violence, and bring countries closer to a future free of sexual violence and HIV/AIDS."

Amy Robbins, Executive Director of the Nduna Foundation, Gary Cohen, Executive Vice President of BD, and Honorable Nonhlanhla Dlamini, Member of Parliament in Swaziland, also addressed the event.  

Amy Robbins said: "For too long sexual violence against girls is a problem which has been swept under the carpet or tackled in a piecemeal way. Our goal through this partnership is to bring this problem out into the open and to put in place the coordinated and effective steps needed to protect girls and prevent sexual violence and help to change attitudes towards girls."

Gary Cohen said: "Sexual violence against girls is an underlying driver of many of the world's most intractable problems.  We would never tolerate this if it were our own daughters, or granddaughters.  As we pursue 'Together for Girls,' you'll see girls learning, contributing and reaching their individual potential, enabling their families, communities and societies to reach their collective potential."

Honorable Nonhlanhla Dlamini said: "Ending sexual violence requires the support of organizations and individuals who are deeply concerned about the injustices girls face and are committed to driving change.  Together we can build societies where girls are safe and valued.  The result will be a more hopeful world for girls – and for us all."

In addition to PEPFAR and the U.S. State Department's Office of Global Women's Issues, the Together for Girls partnership includes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNIFEM (part of UN Women), the CDC Foundation, the Nduna Foundation, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), and Grupo ABC of Brazil.

SOURCE Together for Girls

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