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Empowering adolescent girls: ending the cycle of violence
by UN News, agencies
The International Day of the Girl Child was created to recognize girls rights and highlight the unique challenges girls face worldwide. This year focuses on “empowering adolescent girls: ending the cycle of violence.”
“All over the world, an alarming number of adolescent girls are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated and even murdered,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message marking International Day of the Girl Child.
“The threat of violence at the hands of family members, partners, teachers and peers grossly violates their rights, diminishes their power and suppresses their potential”.
Adolescent girls, in particular, face “multiple deprivations” such as unequal access to education, sexual and reproductive health services and social and economic resources.
“Girls are subjected to discriminatory social norms and harmful practices – such as female genital mutilation – that perpetuate a cycle of violence. A culture of impunity allows violence against adolescent girls to continue unabated”.
We must all join forces and reaffirm our commitment to ending violence against adolescent girls and to promoting their empowerment.
We need to invest in adolescent girls to equip them with skills, confidence, and life options; we need to make services and technology accessible to girls and effective in meeting their needs for safety, connectivity and mobility; we must facilitate adolescent girls engagement in civic, economic and political life; we must all continue to advocate for making any violence against girls and women visible and unacceptable both in private and public domains. And we must continue to strengthen the measurement, data, and evidence base in relation to the empowerment of and violence against adolescent girls.
The UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign is working to raise awareness and increase political will and resources in the ongoing fight against violence against women and girls. The campaign known as HeForShe calls on all men to become active participants in the continuing efforts for gender equality.
“Ending gender violence and promoting the empowerment of girls and women must be at the heart of our global agenda”.
The level of violence and abuse adolescent girls continue to face remains distressingly high, according to a new compilation of data issued by the UN Children"s Fund (UNICEF).
An estimated 70 million girls aged 15 to 19 report being victims of some form of physical violence while around 120 million girls under the age of 20 have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts. At the same time, 70 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 who had been victims of physical or sexual violence never sought help as many said they did not think it was abuse or did not see a problem.
“These numbers speak to a mind-set that tolerates, perpetuates, and even justifies violence – and should sound an alarm to everyone, everywhere,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta.
“The problem is global but the solutions must be found at the national, community and family level. We have a responsibility to protect, educate, and empower adolescents. We are all accountable for ending violence against girls.”
UN Women"s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, warned that such widespread gender-based violence ultimately led to “a catastrophic loss of human potential”.
“The promise made to girls must be delivered. Protecting girls from all forms of violence and promoting girls empowerment must be at the heart of the global development agenda,” she said.
“The International Day of the Girl Child is an opportunity to step up collective action to break the cycle of violence against girls and women. Empowering girls today makes for a safer, healthier, more prosperous and sustainable tomorrow.”
A group of UN human rights experts also called on Member States to bring their efforts against gender violence “to the next level” to “move beyond awareness-raising to supporting adolescent girls as key actors in shaping the present and the future.”
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, said, "today, the international community pays tribute to the one billion young girls living around the world; acknowledges their immense potential for the future of humanity and once again commits to eradicating the unique challenges that regrettably still stand in the way of fully realizing such promising potential.
Today, we must renew our collective commitment to do all that we can to protect their daily lives as children and ensure their promise for adulthood as constructive and productive citizens is fulfilled.
The shameful truth remains, however, that the cycle of violence against girls is yet to be decisively broken. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of girls subjected to terrifying forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based crimes, whether in armed conflict or otherwise.
Sexual violence is often used as a most destructive criminal weapon of war. As we have seen time and again, it has the power to not only destroy the individual, but to shatter the family unit and tear violently at the social fabric of society.
Forced marriages continue to blight the lives of countless girls, and an estimated 100,000 girls are currently being used as child soldiers in raging conflicts around the world. The effects of such crimes on the girls are unbearable to contemplate. It is a global curse that weighs heavily on our collective consciousness.
Violence against girls and women is a scourge that must be confronted with unified resolve. We all have a role to play in this struggle.


Disappearances, Deaths of Mexican Students sparks Federal Investigation
by Melissa del Pozo
AP, Vice News, agencies
October 07, 2014
43 students declared missing after attack on buses carrying group to their school.
Responding to the discovery of a mass grave thought to contain the bodies of dozens of students who were attacked by local police last month, Mexican federal agents on Monday were dispatched to the city of Iguala in southern Guerrero state to investigate the scene.
On September 26, two busloads of students from a local teachers college, the Raúl Isidro Burgos Ayotzinapa Normal School, were attacked. According to surviving students who were interviewed by VICE News, local Iguala police and other armed men "surrounded and confronted the buses on the outskirts of Iguala," and opened fire.
After the gunfire, six students were dead and dozens of the survivors fled the scene or were detained; forty-three have been declared missing.
On October 5, authorities said they had discovered mass graves containing the burned remnants of "at least" 28 bodies thought to be the missing students. However, proper identification through genetic testing could take up to two months, say officials.
President Enrique Peña Nieto called the deaths "outrageous, painful and unacceptable" and said that he had ordered a newly created preventative unit of the federal security forces to take over security in the city, "find out what happened and apply the full extent of the law to those responsible."
Charged with keeping "law and order" in the city of 140,000, the paramilitary-like forces and convoys of Army trucks are now patrolling the streets of Iguala, while federal soldiers man checkpoints.
According to the Associated Press, "The Guerrero state prosecutor Inaky Blanco said there was no known motive for the attack, but officials have alleged that local police were in league with a gang called the Guerreros Unidos." Twenty-two officers from the Iguala force have reportedly been detained.
Though the Mexican government has tried to distance itself from the killings and alleged police corruption by laying the blame on Guerrero governor Ángel Aguirre, in an interview following the disappearances, human rights activist Father Alejandro Solalinde charged that the events in Iguala were not isolated events, and that Mexico was an "assassin state" that has become repressive and persecuted rights activists, youth and journalists, driving civil society to a breaking point.
The students, known widely as "normalistas," had reportedly traveled to Iguala to protest an event featuring the Iguala mayor''s wife, María de los Ángeles Piñeda, and solicit donations for supplies for their school.
According to VICE News reporter Melissa del Pozo, the school is a "Revolutionary-era rural teachers college known nationally for the ardently leftist politics that guide everything the students do and study."
The Iguala police force reportedly has a history of clashes with the leftist school. "The Ayotzinapa school has long been an ally of community police in the nearby town of Tixtla," Manuel Martinez, a spokesman for the students’ families, told AP. Martinez said that along with the teachers’ union and the students, the school "had formed a broad front to expel cartel extortionists from the area last year."
Caught in the cross-fire of the September attack was another bus mostly containing members of a soccer club from the capital city of Chilpancingo, which was traveling in a nearby area. According to reports, around the same time as the student attack, police or armed men also opened fire on that bus "apparently mistaking it for one carrying normalistas," killing three people.
Many of the relatives of those missing have descended on the Ayotzinapa school, which, in response to the murders and disappearances, has become a "hub of planning and organizing for protests as students and relatives have taken to blocking major highways and protesting in Chilpancingo," del Pozo reports.


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