Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence

Take Five : "Achieving gender equality by 2030 will require bold and sustained action from the international community" Alberto Pieri, Ambassador of Italy to Kenya

The urgency to end violence against women and girls has been stressed at the highest levels of the international community. Preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV) is complex and requires a collaborative effort on a global scale. The Government of Italy is one of UN Women’s top donors and is committed to supporting Kenya in the fight and prevention of VAWG through a multi-year programme to strengthen survivors’ access to justice. In an interview, Ambassador of Italy to Kenya Alberto Pieri explains the importance the Government of Italy places in ending violence against women.

Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Alberto Pieri, Ambassador of Italy to Kenya. Photo courtesy of Alberto Pieri
Alberto Pieri, Ambassador of Italy to Kenya. Photo courtesy of Alberto Pieri

Why is Italy committed to supporting Kenya in the fight against GBV?

Eliminating violence against women and girls has also been a priority topic included in the “G7 Roadmap for a Gender-Responsive Economic Environment”, which was adopted at the G7 Taormina Summit during the Italian G7 Presidency in 2017. As a member of the G20, in the past, we have been supporting the inclusion of the gender and youth concerns as well as the gender approach in the work of the development dimension of this Group. Women empowerment and youth will continue to be a priority area and cross-cutting theme of the incoming Italian Presidency of the G20, next year. These two groups have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19, shouldering most of the burden of its socio-economic consequences, and their empowerment is pivotal to ensure a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery from the pandemic. Women and girls have also been victims, worldwide, of increasing episodes of violence during the lockdown, in particular domestic violence.

Robust legislative framework and adherence to numerous international and regional human rights treaties and conventions demonstrate the Kenyan commitment towards the elimination of GBV and any other form of violence. Such commitment has been reiterated by President Kenyatta during his speech at the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Nairobi in 2019. Furthermore, in response to the COVID-19 situation, the Government of Kenya has recently rolled-out an Inter-Agency Programme to prevent Gender-Based Violence during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to successfully fight domestic violence. Italy welcomes Kenya’s commitment in this area and shares the conviction that ending GBV represents a key priority.

How does it fit into Italy’s broader support to women’s empowerment and gender equality overseas?

Italy has long been engaged, both at the national and international level, in promoting gender equality and women empowerment and in countering and preventing discrimination and violence against women and girls, including by ending harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriages. These are also priorities of our current mandate in the Human Rights Council (2019-2021). We have been doing so by proactively negotiating resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (e.g. RES/67/146RES/70/138) and by the Human Right Council (RES/38/6).

In November 2019 Italy, represented by our Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Emanuela Del Re, endorsed the Nairobi Statement on ICPD+25: accelerating the promise, to reiterate our commitment to the achievement of the ICPD goals by 2030. This current year is another milestone on the path toward gender equality since it marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. Italy is also one of the major donors committed to eliminating female genital mutilation (FGM). To this end, we disbursed funds of approximately 25 million Euros in the period 2004-2019, including allocations for activities in Kenya.

How does your support translate on the ground and has there been any early progress?

Since 2016, Italy is supporting UN Women in order to prevent violence against women during elections, but also to enhance gender equality principles and their implementation in the Kenyan political and social milieus. Initially, this support was channelled through the UNDP basket fund ‘Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya (SEPK)’. Starting from 2019, our collaboration with UN Women has been also concretized through the initiative ‘Let It Not Happen Again’, whose goal is to strengthen the response and accountability mechanisms with regards to GBV in elections, but also during emergency periods, such as the current COVID pandemic. In this regards, UN Women has published and disseminated the gap analysis report Breaking Cycles of Violence: Gaps in Prevention of and Response to Electoral-Related Sexual Violenceproviding technical support independent commissions and CSOs organizations and human rights defenders in their advocacy efforts towards duty bearers, and soon will launch the Criminal Justice Manual, training duty bearers on the chain of evidence custody. All very important actions to help to achieve access to justice for SGBV survivors.

What challenges do you foresee for in accelerating gender equality/ending violence against women?

Different forms of violence against women are often justified under the pretext of culture or religion, and this represents one of the main challenges when programming effective actions.  

As our Deputy Minister Del Re explained at ICPD last year, Italy believes that only when simultaneously tackling the three legislative, cultural and behavioural dimensions, one can accelerate toward gender equality and end any form of violence. This means acting, at the national and international levels, to enforce laws and policies that protect girls and women against violence; raising everybody’s awareness and understanding about the dangers and injustice of gender inequality and violence against women and girls; and, finally, targeting, with our message, the entire range of “enablers of social norm change”, at every level of our societies.

How can we mobilise more of the international community to accelerate EVAW?

Achieving gender equality by 2030 will require bold and sustained action from the international community to address the structural barriers and root causes of discrimination against women. Events like “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” are crucial to raising awareness, keep the attention high and motivate actions, while also mobilizing other partners to accelerate EVAW, which is why we are grateful for this forum for allowing us to share our experience and commitment to end GBV.