6 June 2018: The UN and the EU highlighted the role of their joint ‘Spotlight Initiative’ in achieving SDG 5, at the 2018 European Development Days (EDD), which convened in Brussels, Belgium with a focus on gender equality.

In September 2017, the UN and EU launched the Spotlight Initiative to help eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s focus on leaving no one behind. The multi-year partnership aims to galvanize high-level political commitments and provide large-scale, targeted support to tackle violence against women and girls. Country-specific programmes are currently being developed, and will build on existing efforts.

Speaking during the event, on 6 June 2018, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that without progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment, the world will perpetuate the paradigm of “trying to address all the world’s challenges with only half the assets.” She emphasized that “significant investments of time, resources and political will” are necessary to address deeply embedded social norms, attitudes and practices that have contributed to violence against women and women’s unequal participation in the labor market. As an example, Mohammed pointed to a finding by the World Bank that women’s equal participation in the labor force could “unlock” US$160 trillion, which is nearly two percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). Mohammed highlighted the UN’s efforts to empower women within the UN, noting that it recently achieved full gender parity in the UN’s senior management group and individuals nominated to be Resident Coordinators.

The Spotlight Initiative will use school-based campaigns to challenge the notion of a manhood “premised on violence.”

The Spotlight Initiative will support governments and focus on urgent needs to end violence against women and girls, such as preventing violence, providing services for survivors and reforming the criminal justice system. Mohammed said that in Malawi, the Initiative will use community theater and engage with traditional leaders and educators to facilitate dialogue on discriminatory social norms. In Mexico, the initiative will train health care workers to identify early signs of abuse and to prevent violence, through school-based campaigns that challenge the notion of a manhood “premised on violence.” The Initiative will also work to tackle femicide in some countries.

During a panel discussion at the EDD event, UN Women Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa Jaha Dukureh described how perspectives on women have changed over time. She explained, “when I first started doing activism on female genital mutilation (FGM), back at home I was insulted.” Now, she said, “I am celebrated as a hero.” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called on countries to not only pass laws to end violence against women, but also “actively work” to change culture within communities.

The 12th edition of the European Development Days aimed to bring together the EU’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment with the 2030 Agenda. This year’s EDD, held from 5-6 June on the theme, ‘Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development: Protect, Empower, Invest,’ highlighted the importance of the full and equal participation and leadership of women in achieving the SDGs through three sub-themes: ensuring the physical and psychological integrity of girls and women; promoting economic and social rights and empowerment of girls and women; and strengthening girls’ and women’s voice and participation. [UN News Story] [UN Deputy Secretary-General Statement] [UN Women Coverage of EDD] [Spotlight Initiative Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Initiative Launch]