Photo: Adam da Cruz

Media Releases

  1. 18 December 2017

    Joint Statement for International Migrants Day, 18 December, by the Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and UN Women

    On International Migrants Day, we call for the development of a gender-responsive global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration that promotes and protects the human rights of all migrants, and especially women and girls.

    For too long, the gender dimensions of migration have been overlooked in policies and programmes that govern international migration. This means that the specific needs, experiences, vulnerabilities and priorities of women and girls in migration have not been adequately addressed. Nor have the voices of migrant women and girls been really heard, and their leadership and participation in decision-making processes promoted to their full extent.

    Gender-based discrimination in migration policies continues to limit women’s access to safe and orderly migration pathways, and limits their job opportunities in transit and host countries. Hence, many migrant women end up in informal employment, particularly in the care and domestic sectors. These jobs not only perpetuate traditional gender stereotypes about what constitutes ‘women’s work’ but also offer no or few labour protections. This heightens the exposure of migrant women to severe forms of human rights violations which often occur inside homes where victims are unseen and unprotected. Along the migration trajectory and particularly if using irregular migratory channels, migrant women and girls also face increased risks of sexual and gender-based violence. This includes harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and cutting, sexual exploitation and trafficking, child, early and forced marriage, intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.

    We must end this situation. The global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, which will be finalized in 2018, represents an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that migration policies respond to and reflect the particular needs of migrant women and girls. As the first ever blueprint for international migration, the global compact will shape migration governance for generations to come—and women’s human rights need to feature prominently in this blueprint.

    We, the Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, Mr. Jose Brillantes, the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Ms. Dalia Leinarte, and UN Women call upon States to ensure that the global compact for migration will promote and protect the human rights of all migrants, and in particular women and girls. The global compact needs to be aligned with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW), and the other relevant international human rights instruments. The global compact should also contribute to achieving commitments made and targets set for migrant women and girls in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

    We call on Member States to ensure that the global compact for migration contributes to:

    1. Eliminating of all forms of violence against migrant women and girls including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation throughout all stages of migration. This requires putting in place access to services (both prevention and response) and means of redress for victims/survivors of violence, and holding perpetrators accountable.
    2. Promoting women’s and girls’ leadership and full, equal and effective participation in all migration-related decision-making processes at all levels.
    3. Guaranteeing equal access for migrant women and girls to human rights-based and gender-responsive services, including education, health care, including sexual and reproductive health care services, social services, and access to justice. Access to decent work and social protection needs be provided to all migrant women.
    4. Recognizing and supporting migrant women’s economic rights, roles and contributions to the well-being of their families, communities, and countries of origin and destination.
    5. Advancing international cooperation and migration governance that responds to the rights, needs and priorities of migrant women and girls. Root causes of migration such as deeply entrenched gender inequalities, conflict and poverty which are also often drivers of irregular migration should be addressed to ensure that migration is a choice.
    6. Strengthening the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data and gender statistics in migration.

    Together with other experts from treaty bodies, UN agencies and civil society partners, we developed expert recommendations on addressing women’s human rights in the global compact for migration which provide specific and concrete guidance on how to develop a gender-responsive global compact. We reiterate the importance of these recommendations in developing a global compact that works for all migrants.

    We are confident that the global compact can put an end to gender-blind migration policies and facilitate a world where migration is a choice for everyone and an expression of agency and empowerment: A world in which the human and labour rights of all migrants are realized, a world where no migrant is discriminated against on the basis of their gender, race or migratory status, a world where no migrant woman and girl needs to fear or experience any form of sexual and gender-based violence, a world that appreciates the myriad contributions of migrant women to sustainable development.

    Today, on International Migrants Day, we stand together with all migrants: women, men, boys and girls, and count on all Member States and stakeholders to continue to promote and protect the human rights of all migrants, ensuring that no-one is left behind.

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  2. 13 December 2017

    UN Initiative to boost resilience of women and youth in the Sahel through climate-smart agriculture launched at One Planet Summit

    Initiative aims to transform livelihoods of a million people by doubling their income in three years.

    Paris/New York –  A new United Nations initiative, aimed at building the resilience of a million women and youth in the Sahel to climate impacts through smart agriculture, was launched today at the One Planet Summit in the French capital. The launch coincides with a gathering of world leaders to mark the anniversary of the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement.

    The climate smart agriculture programme will leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) to provide access to agriculture assets. Using a digital platform, known as ‘Buy-From-Farmers’ or AgriFed, small-scale women and youth farmers will be connected to customers, suppliers, information, markets and finance to help build their economic identity and make them valued entrepreneurs, able to end food insecurity in the Sahel.

    The initiative is a programme of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) and the G5 Sahel Secretariat. The participating UN agencies are the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization; the International Fund for Agricultural Development; the UN’s children’s organization UNICEF; UN Women; the World Food Programme; the International Organization for Migration, the UN Population Fund, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Development Programme, under the umbrella of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWAS).

    The G5 Sahel, the institutional framework for development coordination among the five countries in the region – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger -, has identified combating climate change and environmental degradation, along with their effects on rural populations, as a priority. At the national level, governments are working on adaptation strategies; the new initiative is designed to support those efforts.

    UN Women presented the programme, which is among some 12 showcased at today’s Summit, on behalf of the UN system.

    Women make up over 40 per cent of the agricultural labour force in the Sahel and play a critical role in enhancing food security and nutrition. In most places with high prevalence of undernourishment, women farmers have significantly less access to land, information, finance and agricultural inputs.  This makes them more vulnerable to climate shocks, affects their health and the food security and nutrition of the entire household. Lack of employment, on the other hand, puts youth at risk of terrorist recruitment.

    The One Planet Summit, co-hosted by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron; the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres; and the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, is aimed at supporting the formal UN process on climate action as nations look to raise climate ambition in the run up to 2020.

    The Summit aims showcasing and launching innovative projects and initiatives that boost financial flows to support developing countries’ national climate action plans in areas ranging from agriculture to renewable energy.

    It also looks at measures needed to reform, redirect and reset the global financial system so that eventually trillions of dollars of finance flows into climate action under the Paris Agreement and the wider Sustainable Development Goals.

    Background on the new programme to boost resilience of women and youth in the Sahel

    The joint UN initiative responds to 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and has the potential to economically empower at least 1 million people, mostly women, youth and marginalized groups in the Sahel, doubling their income in 3 years.

    Building upon climate-smart programmes currently being implemented by the UN agencies participating in the joint initiative, it will contribute to the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture.

    These include: increasing productivity and incomes without damaging the environment; enhancing adaptation by strengthening local communities’ resilience and capacities; and mitigation, by reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions through responsible farming, soil management and afforestation.

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  3. 5 December 2017

    Launch of New Report Chronicling Diverse Workplace Responses to Violence

    The 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence may wrap up officially on 10 December, but the commitment of countless Australian workplaces, large and small, across diverse industries, to support survivors of violence and stop violence before it starts, will carry on.

    Interviews with thirteen organisations form the latest report chronicling Australian workplaces’ world-leading response to gender-based violence, Taking the first step: Workplace responses to domestic and family violence, by UN Women National Committee Australia.

    Violence against women is one of the most serious, life threatening and widespread violations of human rights globally. In Australia, 40.8% of women have experienced some form of violence since the age of 15.[1] Of those Australian women experiencing domestic and family violence, two-thirds of them are employed.[2]

    Violence against women carries with it significant costs, to individuals, businesses and societies. It results in loss of income and increased costs for women who experience violence, due to the cost of accessing services and days off work. For businesses, research has found significant costs in terms of decreased productivity due to violence against women, both in and outside of the workplace.[3] It is estimated that domestic and family violence will cost Australian businesses $609 million annually by 2021.[4]

    “For women working out of the home, who are experiencing violence at home, a job may provide one of the only escapes from abuse,” states Janelle Weissman, Executive Director, UN Women National Committee Australia. “Workplaces with policies in place to protect and support their employees experiencing violence can provide a vital lifeline to safety. And Australian organisations are leading the globe in their recognition of violence as a workplace issue, and their comprehensive response to keep people safe. These are stories we want to share not only within our country, but across the region and around the world to spur action throughout the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence and beyond.”

    Today, UN Women National Committee Australia, joined by representatives from business, government and the community sector will launch a new report, Taking the first step: Workplace responses to domestic and family violence at an event hosted by Commonwealth BankWith interviews, links to practical policies and templates, candid stories from organisations about what works and doesn’t, the report offers guidance to any organization that wants to take the first step to tackle domestic and family violence. Several community and customer-facing initiatives are featured, from Telstra to Commonwealth Bank, Rio Tinto to Mirvac.

    “We must remember that violence against women is entirely preventable. Every organisation has a role to play to support its people who are experiencing domestic and family violence, and create a culture that does not tolerate violence or discrimination and actively promotes gender equality, to address the root cause of violence. Every change starts with a single step. We hope this report offers practical guidance and inspiration for people leaders and organisations willing to make change by taking a stand against violence,” says Janelle Weissman.


    [1] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013). Personal Safety, Australia, 2012, Cat 4906.0. Available from:

    [2] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, 4906.0 – Personal Safety, Australia, 2005 (Reissue),
    [3] Smith H. (2015). Private Sector Development Synthesis Note – Women’s Economic Empowerment”, The Donor Committee for Enterprise Development.

    [4] The National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children (2009). The Cost of Violence against Women and their Children. KPMG.

    Taking the first step: Workplace responses to domestic and family violence will be available from 9am AEST 5 December, you can download the report here.

    Janelle Weissman and several of the organisations represented in Taking the first step are available for comment. For enquiries, contact UN Women National Committee Australia, as below.

    Leisa Quinn 02 6185 0010/Janelle Weissman 0423 408 830
    UN Women National Committee Australia

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  4. 1 December 2017

    Statement by UN Women Executive Director: Leaving no one out from health

    Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women for World AIDS Day, 1 December 2017

    Every four minutes, three young women become infected with HIV (UNAIDS Right to Health report, 2017). They are clearly not enjoying their right to health, nor will they, until we are able to reverse the inequalities and discrimination that fuel HIV spread. Those whose health and future are currently least prioritized must become our focus, if we are to achieve the changes we seek.

    Across communities and countries, imbalances in power relations, confining social norms and the prevalence of gender-based violence and discrimination are resulting in large gaps in both prevention of HIV for women and girls and treatment of it. This is especially true for marginalized groups, who often face high levels of stigma and discrimination, such as women with disabilities, sex workers, women who inject drugs and women in prison, with resulting increased difficulty in accessing health care, especially when more than one reason for discrimination applies. So, for example, pregnant women who inject drugs and are living with HIV face even greater difficulties in accessing services to prevent their infants from acquiring HIV infection than other women who are living with HIV (UNAIDS 2014).

    Women experiencing high levels of discrimination are also at high risk of violence, which again compounds the likelihood of infection (UNAIDS 2017). For example, data from sub-Saharan Africa suggest an increased risk of HIV infection among women with disabilities compared with those without disabilities (UNAIDS Disability and HIV, 2017).

    Several significant initiatives are under way that use knowledge of the drivers of risk and are building capacity to implement successful best practices.

    Urgent steps to ending discriminatory laws against those at risk of HIV and creating an empowering and just legal environment have resulted in an unprecedented call to put women and girls at the centre of the health system, with the Joint United Nations Statement on Ending Discrimination in Health Care Settings signed by UN Women and 11 partner agencies.

    The SASA! programme, which originated in Uganda has successfully used understanding of the connection between discrimination, violence and HIV infection to reverse the situation,  through local activism, advocacy and training that led to significantly lower community acceptance and experience of intimate-partner violence, including sexual violence (Abramsky 2014). The UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, managed by UN Women, has supported SASA! implementation in Kenya, Haiti and Tanzania.

    Leaving no woman or girl behind in the HIV response means ensuring their meaningful participation and engagement in designing that response, improving access to services and demanding their right to health. To do that, we foster women’s voices and leadership and support their place at decision-making tables. In 2016, UN Women supported networks of women living with HIV in 31 countries to increase their engagement in the national HIV responses.

    Similarly, we are building the leadership skills of adolescent girls and young women to engage in agenda-setting fora and national level discussions on ending AIDS, using digital technologies. For example, in Malawi, Uganda and Kenya our “Engagement + Empowerment = Equality” programme mobilized over 1,000 young women champions, including 250 girls living with HIV, in just nine months, using online and face-to-face mentoring, providing peer support and social media programmes reaching thousands of other young women. The voice and activism of youth is especially important when we consider that young women make up 74 per cent of new infections in eastern Africa and 91 per cent of the new infections in southern Africa among 15-19 year-olds (UNAIDS 2016).

    This World AIDS Day, UN Women calls for a commitment to prioritize and reach all the women and girls being left behind in the HIV response: every last woman and girl. Leaving no one behind means including everyone, without exception and without discrimination.

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