On 8 March 2013, ESCWA commemorated International Women’s Day in its Beirut headquarters, in the presence of UN officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations working on women’s rights, and a host of activists, media and academia. The Commission held a panel discussion to speak up against violence against women, consisting of ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary Nadim Khoury, Senior ESCWA Economist Abdallah Al Dardari, Former Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Wafa Al Diqa Hamzeh, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the International Centre for Transitional Justice Anne Massagee, and Director of KAFA Enough Violence and Exploitation Zoya Rouhana. Director of the ESCWA Centre for Women (ECW) Samira Atallah delivered the introductory statement of the meeting.
For her part, Atallah expressed her desolation that despite repeated cases of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, early and forced marriage, honor killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking in persons, and discrimination in economic rights, this issue cannot be defined with precision in the region. The reasons behind this is the absence of comprehensive statistical studies, fear of social stigma, lack of trust in the legal protection system, and the lack of knowledge and awareness of available services. She said that the courage to face up to these violations against women takes source in the courage of women and girls, and in many cases of men who take a supporting stands and initiatives. The ECW Director underlined that the responsibility of eliminating violence against women is not that of the state alone, but it also lies within every member of the society, and every organization, whether governmental, semi-governmental, or non-governmental.
In her intervention, Rouhana laid out the principle of “due diligence” and the commitment of states in eliminating violence against women in times of peace. Al Dika Hamze highlighted the role of national machineries in empowering women in preventing and eliminating these violations, especially in rural areas and among the most marginalized groups.
In assertion of the important economic aspect of violence against women and girls, Dardari shed light on the economic repercussions of this case, especially since this issue is not taking its due right in full attention in the region.
Finally, Massagee dealt with issues related to protecting women during and in post-conflicts periods. Following these interventions, Fateh Azzam, Human Rights Expert and Former Regional Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Middle East, moderated a panel discussions with the participants in terms of international human rights law.
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