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National ceremony on 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence was held today. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's event was organized online. The ceremony was attended by Dr. Win Myat Aye, Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Mr. Ola Almgren, UN Resident Coordinator, high-level government officials, parlimentarians, members of the Myanmar National Committee on Women, head of UN agencies and development partners. 200 representatives from the Government, CSOs, NGOs and the UN agencies participated in the event.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign, which takes place each year and runs from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day). It is widely known as the ‘16 Days Campaign’. This year's global theme is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”.

In Myanmar, the 16 Days of Activism celebrates across the country under the leading role of the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) - Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MoSWRR), Myanmar National Committee on Women (MNCW) with support from UN agencies through the UN Gender Team Group (UNGTG).


Speech delivered by Mr. Ola Almgren, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar


H.E Dr Win Myat Aye, Union Minister, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement;

Members of the Myanmar National Committee on Women;

Representatives from the line ministries and civil society organizations;

International development partners, UN Colleagues and media; 

Ladies and gentlemen;

On behalf of the United Nations Country Team in Myanmar, I am delighted to join you for this important event on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls.

Today also marks the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign that takes place each year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, in order to flash a spotlight on the scourge of violence against women and to generate action to eliminate it.

The reason we mark the 16 Days of Activism, year after year, is because violence against women remains one of the most pervasive violations of human rights worldwide.

It is estimated that globally, one in every three women will be subjected to violence by a man or several men, during her lifetime. This violence can be physical, emotional, economic or sexual and often takes places at the hands of someone close to the victim, in the family or workspace.

With the rapid spread of social media, violence against women and girls has taken new forms, such as bullying (including by women and girls), internet-based grooming aimed at sexual abuse, sexting or uploading of intimate pictures by ex-partners.

As in any other country, violence against women remains an important challenge also in Myanmar. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey data showed that 21 per cent of ever-married women between 15-49 have experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. However, only a fraction had sought help[1]. Women and girls from ethnic and religious minorities, those who live in areas of conflict, those who are the furthest behind, remain especially vulnerable as they often suffer multiple forms of gender-based violence and the vast majority of cases go unreported and unacknowledged.

Distinguished guests,

The COVID-19 pandemic started as a health emergency, but it affects us in many more ways across all aspects of society and economic activity. It poses a direct risk of reversing important progress in the fight against poverty and exacerbating already high levels of inequality. As a result, disadvantaged and marginalized women such as migrant women, IDPs, homeless, sex workers, women living with HIV or disabilities become even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

There are worrying signs that cases of intimate partner violence have increased especially during times when stay-at-home orders are in place. Lockdown restrictions and working from home arrangements are intended to protect us from the pandemic, but they have unfortunately left many survivors trapped behind closed doors with their abusers.

The survivors of gender-based violence also find it more difficult to access police-, justice-, health care- and social protection services in a timely manner because of the lockdown measures. They are often cut off from support systems they used to have, such as families and friends.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The COVID-19 pandemic has again highlighted the importance of having accessible support services and comprehensive legislation in place to effectively address gender-based violence. The adoption of the Protection and Prevention of Violence against Women law and other gender-responsive legislation would be an important step, as they not only help to protect women and girls from abuse, but also to hold perpetrators of violence accountable. Such legislation must be in compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, ratified by Myanmar already in 1997.

Myanmar now has a historic opportunity to adopt the Protection and Prevention of Violence against Women law. I am confident that the elected Members of Parliament recognise the significance of this law and will take decisive action towards its timely adoption.

Distinguished guests,

On April 6th 2020, the UN Secretary-General urged all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women and girls a key part of their national response to COVID-19. 146 Member States and Observers responded by expressing their strong support to his appeal.

In Myanmar, important progress has been made by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, and the Ministry of Health and Sports, to develop case management standard operating procedures and clinical guidelines for a better response to gender-based violence.

While these developments are promising, we must continue working together to remove remaining barriers survivors face when trying to access essential services. There is a need to continue existing health care-, justice-, policing- and social services for survivors, while increasing their accessibility in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, we also have to scale up gender-based violence prevention and response services, such as hotlines, safe houses, government subsidies, awareness-raising through radio, television and social media.

I encourage government agencies and related organizations working on social protection to prioritize resources to respond to incidents of gender-based violence and to develop specific plans on how to respond to such incidents during and after the emergency.

To monitor our progress, there is a need to collect data to get a better understanding of the availability and accessibility of gender-based violence services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This will help us to make evidence-based decisions on how to improve our services and programmes. However, we need to ensure ethical and safety standards can be met when collecting the data.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

One of the most difficult challenges to ending violence against women and girls is addressing cultural norms that maintain gender stereotypes. Too often gender-based violence is seen as ‘just a women’s issue’. We need to convey the message to the public that violence against women and girls is first and foremost a “men’s issue”.

As a man privileged to be speaking on this special occasion, I call on all men to be role models at home and at work. You have a critical role to play! We need men to raise their voice side by side with women on gender equality and gender-based violence. Ending violence against women and girls cannot succeed without your help and contribution!

Distinguished guests,

As we kick off the 16 Days of Activism today, we open the door to new opportunities for stronger cooperation in addressing violence against women and girls.

We are here today to show our commitment to end violence against women and girls and to be advocates for their rights. We must do so because stopping gender-based violence is not just beneficial for women and girls, but it helps the entire family and community and contributes to a more peaceful and inclusive society, which is a necessary foundation for a prosperous country and sustainable development. The promise of the Sustainable Development Goals—to leave no one behind—cannot be fulfilled without ending violence against women and girls.


Let me finish by thanking the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement for organizing this virtual event today and by acknowledging the important contribution of all development partners, embassies, UN Agencies, and media who are supporting the 16 Days of Activism campaign in Myanmar.

Thank you very much for this opportunity and for your attention.