Experts in health, gender, law and human rights have called for more action aimed at eliminating gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence.
A Commonwealth seminar entitled ‘Peace in the home: ending domestic violence together’, brought together representatives of governments, academia and civil society to consider progress made and to share effective strategies to guide collective and national action by Commonwealth member countries towards eliminating violence against women and girls (VAWG).
According to the World Health Organisation, one in three women worldwide is a victim of domestic violence, making it a leading cause of death in women and girls.
Speaking at the seminar in London on 20 June, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Unless there is peace in the home, there can never be peace in our communities.
“Our Commonwealth focus is on developing and piloting new ways to assess the economic costs of VAWG to raise awareness in member countries of the far-reaching economic costs of violence which disproportionately affect women and girls.
“The findings of the assessment will provide member countries with empirical data to support their policy decisions to act and support appropriate responses in policymaking and programme interventions.”
Canada’s deputy high commissioner in London, Sarah Fountain Smith, applauded the Secretary-General for her leadership in ensuring the scourge of violence does not impede progress.
She said: “Canada sees a unique role for the Commonwealth in sharing best practices in ending early or forced marriages in support of national efforts. The Commonwealth’s value added is its ability to be agile and respond to needs.”
During the two-day seminar, delegates heard about Commonwealth collaboration to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through a range of activities in member countries.
These cover areas such as preventing violence against women in elections, reintegrating women returnees of conflict, strengthening their access to justice and eliminating harmful practices such as female genital mutilation.
Seychelles high commission’s principal counsellor, Terry Romain, said: “Seychelles recognised that if we want to put a stop to domestic violence and build a peaceful future for generations to come, there is a need to bring about a change of minds, hearts and behaviour.”
Looking forward, Amelia Kinahoi Siamomua, head of the Commonwealth’s gender section, said: “The Commonwealth’s efforts to eliminate VAWG are key to achieving one of the targets of the sustainable development goal 5 on gender equality, specifically that women and girls everywhere, must have equal rights and opportunity, and be able to live free of violence and discrimination. Every small step counts towards peace in the home.”