UN Women ED Visits South Africa and World AIDS Day, 16 Days Events

Photo: UN Women

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka cutting the ribbon. Photo: UN Women

Johannesburg, South Africa — On December 1st, 2015, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, visited her home country of South Africa, of which she is also former Deputy President.

Coinciding with World Aids Day and 16 Days of Activism, the UN Women Executive Director’s visit was a brightly coloured one, with orange, red and white (the South African Department in Women’s colour for ending violence against women), the palette for the morning’s activities.

The day began with a breakfast at the Joburg Theatre, organised by the City of Joburg (Department of Social Development) and UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office. The City of Joburg’s Chief Operating Officer, Gerald Dumas and Executive Director of the Department of Community Development, Dudu Maseko were in attendance, and the event was chaired by UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office Deputy Representative Themba Kalua. Executive Director Mlambo-Ngcuka delivered the keynote speech to 150 guests, to much ululation and cheering.

Photo: UN Women

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka delivering her speech. Photo: UN Women

In her speech, Executive Director Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “Violence against women and girls is not only one of the most serious human rights violations. It is also one of the most tolerated violations of rights – including here in South Africa. We know from statistics that the levels of crime and violence against women and girls in South Africa are some of the highest in the world. Recent studies found that more than a third of South African girls experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. 63 % of reported rape cases are perpetrated against girls aged 12-17.”

At the end of the speeches, audience members were invited to ask questions or make statements about the 16 Days of Activism campaign and violence against women in South Africa, in particular.

Photo: UN Women

Guests in attendance. Photo: UN Women

Among the issues that arose were the lack of protection for sex workers and illegal immigrants and the need for media to promote gender equality. One audience member stressed the need for discussion about violence against women to be more open and common.

Executive Director Mlambo-Ngcuka responded to each question, emphasizing the importance of the role played by government in encouraging women to report abuse. She spoke about UN Women’s Safe Cities Programme as well as Planet 50/50 by 2030, highlighting the importance of equal pay, recognising unpaid care work performed by women, and ensuring that all macro-economic policies are gender-responsive.

Photo: UN Women

Balloons being released after cutting the ribbon at the Nelson Mandela bridge. Photo: UN Women

The guests then headed to the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge, 5 minutes away, which, to mark UN Women’s #orangetheworld campaign, will be lit up in orange from tonight until the end of 16 Days, on December 10th.

With the bridge closed to traffic and a tremendous orange and white ribbon waiting to be cut, guests were handed red, orange and white balloons.

Executive Director Mlambo-Ngcuka said a few more words and cut the ribbon, at which moment 100 balloons were released. The national anthem was then sung, followed by hymns as the guests posed for photos and began to make their way home. Tonight, the bridge will be lit orange and white, and will continue to be lit until the campaign ends, on December 10th. The colours are in support of the UN Women and South African Department of Women campaigns, “shining a light on the issue of violence against women and girls, and symbolising a brighter future for all,” in the words of Executive Director Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Many thanks to the Department of Social Development for their tireless work on the day’s activities. We wish the ED safe travels to DRC, and for the remainder of the 16 days campaign.

Coverage of the day is expected to appear in The Star (Johannesburg daily) and Sunday Times (national weekly) newspapers, as well as on SABC news (the national broadcaster).