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- The Honourable Mrs Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo, Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Local Government and Outer Islands, Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare
- His Excellency Mr Emmanuel Cohet, French Ambassador
- Mr Keith Allan, British High Commissioner
- Mr Dheeraj Seetulsingh, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
- Mrs Asha Burrenchobay, Ag Senior Chief Executive, Attorney General Office, Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Institutional Reforms
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps
- Distinguished guests
- Members of the press
- Ladies and Gentlemen
Today's event shows our collective support to the United Nations' campaign on the elimination of violence against women - 16 days of activism - which started on 25 November and will end on 10 December for the International Human Rights Day.
Violence against women is a grave violation of human rights and yet it is still widespread across the world. The perception that harassment or being violent towards women is normal and acceptable is wrong and must change. We all have the responsibility to say no, openly reject acts of violence or harassment, and stand by the victims.
Violence against women is violence against the entire society. Therefore, it is the responsibility of each and every one to say no to violence, to protect women and to raise awareness.
The fact remains that violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations across the globe. It is estimated that one third of women and girls worldwide experience violence at some point in their lives.This violence is a barrier to gender equality, women's and girls' rights and empowerment. It impedes their overall development, and is an impediment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals a universal commitment to which we have all subscribed.
Violence against women happens everywhere: at home, at work, in schools and universities, on the street, in public transport and online. It can happen to any woman, affecting her general well-being and preventing her from fully participating in society. Around half of women in the European Union have experienced verbal, physical or online sexual harassment. According to Eurostat, 80% of trafficking victims in the EU are female.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Mauritius is not spared in terms of violence against women. Recent studies have shown that one in four Mauritian women has suffered from gender based violence. The aggregated economic costs of domestic violence for Mauritius are estimated as 2 billion rupees per year, approximating 0.6% of GDP. This is an extremely high cost.
We have all read in the papers the recent cases of three Mauritian women who have met tragic deaths at the hands of their partners. This is a very sad situation. Such type of violence must be stopped.
The EU is working hand in hand with our local partners namely the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare and the National Human Rights Commission to reduce the incidence of violence against women.
Today's workshop is being organised by the National Human Rights Commission, in the context of a project funded by the European Union for the promotion of respect for human rights. Part of this project focuses on raising awareness on women's rights, so as to contribute to reduce violence against women.
We have set up with the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare a High Level Policy Dialogue on Gender. Through this dialogue, the EU and the Government of Mauritius have agreed on key objectives and actions to be monitored jointly for the promotion of gender equality, to address gender based violence, and the economic empowerment of women and girls among others. Thank you Hon Vice Prime Minister for your commitment. Through this framework, we want to see girls and women achieving equality in all aspects of life: access to education, equal pay for equal work, access to top positions in companies and politics as well as protection from violence. We are already implementing this framework through various EU funded projects, including the one with the National Human Rights Commission.
I know that the Hon Vice Prime Minister is piloting a number of initiatives for elimination of violence against women and I congratulate her for her actions.
The National Human Rights Commission is also doing important work in going to various parts of the island to sensitise various groups on the need to protect women's rights. More than 4000 people, women and students around the island have been trained on human rights over the last few months through the EU funded project that the National Human Right Commission is implementing. I congratulate the Chairperson and his team on this good work done. My thanks also go to the National Human Rights Commission for the organisation of the half day workshop today.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Last but not least, today the National Human Rights Commission and the EU will be launching a bracelet campaign to celebrate the 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Bracelets with articles of the Declaration will be distributed as from today, and we will encourage participants to publicly support the universal values by posting their photo on social media with the hashtags #HumanRightsPower and #Standup4HumanRights. This bracelet will symbolise your commitment to promote respect for human rights.
Respect for human rights is a founding value of the European Union, particularly in light of this year's 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The European Union strongly supports the pledge by the UN to raise the profile of human rights and address human rights violations and abuses.
The campaign we are launching today aims to publicly show the EU's support to the UN human rights system, particularly at a time, when there have been serious negative trends around the world in human rights.
To conclude, I will re-iterate that we must all contribute to end gender-based violence. The European Union will continue to workrelentlessly with the Government of Mauritius and all stakeholders towards this goal.
Thank you for your attention.