Netherlands Embassy in Tirana, Albania

"Engage men and boys in fighting violence against women"

Speech of ambassador Van de Weerd at ‘National Round Table “React as a Human, Without Violence”'

Dear minister, dear friends and colleagues,

It is a privilege for me to address this National Round Table “React as Human, Without Violence” that aims to also engage men and boys in fighting violence against women and gender based violence. This weekend in Albania some tragic domestic violence incidents were reported in the media. I feel very sorry for the victims involved.

Let me express my appreciation to the organizers for their daily efforts in promoting women’s rights and playing a key role in fighting domestic violence and all forms of violence against women and girls. The issue of domestic violence is problematic worldwide, also in the Netherlands and in the rest of Europe. I was shocked when I first learned of the Fundamental Rights Agency 2014 report that around half of all women and girls experience violence against them somewhere during the course of their lives. Rights of women and girls are violated on a massive scale, whether in the form of discrimination at work, domestic violence, sexual exploitation or human trafficking. And let us not forget the current situation with many female refugees, and the threats they face on their difficult journeys.

The Netherlands has equal rights for women and the fight against domestic violence as one of the priorities of our human rights policy, and we cooperate worldwide with many organizations supporting their efforts to prevent all forms of violence against women. We work every day to move women’s rights higher up the political agenda in our bilateral contacts, in an EU context, within the Council of Europe and at the UN. And yes, for that we very much need men and boys too. Political attention is needed. Last week, Dutch minister Bussemaker launched the White Ribbon Campaign, involving men and boys in the fight against domestic violence. Because we very much need men and boys on our sides to fight this fight.

Let’s look into the situation in Albania. There is also positive news to mention. Did you know that 1 in 3 entrepreneurs in Albania is a woman? Albania has been progressive in politics, with quota of 50% women for the municipality councils. I regularly make time to meet with women municipality councilors in cities all over the country. And they have all been trained, which is excellent. But what comes up in our discussions is that they think also the male municipality councilors need training. I understand their concern. I hope this positive trend of political participation of women will be translated at the general elections level next year, with more women in parliament. This would definitely be another push for Albania’s image abroad. And even more important, it would bring our topic of today higher on the political agenda.

I would like to cite the paragraph about domestic violence in the EU Country Report for Albania of this year. In 2015, almost 4000 cases of domestic violence and other crimes in families were reported by the police. 74 % of domestic violence victims were women, which illustrates the gender dimension of this violence. The statistics indicate a continuous high incidence of this phenomenon which should ring the bell to all relevant institutions to take a role for the prevention of it. We do not only need good laws, they have to be enforced and implemented by professional services. The report states that the online system for reporting gender-based violence still only operates in 29 out of 61 municipalities. There is a need for better coordination between equality bodies and relevant actors at all levels, including the national referral mechanism, in order to maximize results. Services for victims of domestic violence should improve in quality, quantity, accessibility and geographical coverage.  

The Netherlands promotes respect for human rights throughout the world by reminding countries of their international obligations, working on concrete progress with civil society and by protesting against violations. However, for a society to change, pressure from outside is not enough. In the end people have to stand up for their own rights. Leaders have to give the right example. So I thank Minister Klosi for taking ownership for this topic today. I hope he will be able to secure the necessary government budget for measures that still need to be taken.

It is clear that we need all actors in society, not only government. The fight against domestic violence needs to be fought also in schools, on sports fields, in the media. Education is key. And if I can just focus on the role of the media for a moment. I am appalled by the general representation of women as sex objects in mainstream media. Every bar you go to in Tirana, you see video clips all day long of dancing women in subordinate roles. I regret to know that our sons, brothers, husbands see us women portrayed like that the whole time, every time they are having a drink. This should change. Media should focus on more objective reporting.

I am proud to be a He4She ambassador, I will continue to ask men and boys to also do their part. As a mother I raise my sons with the notion of equal rights for all, every day. This goes for my daughter too by the way. I want them to stand up if they see injustice to women or girls being done. I think we all need to join hands in doing so.

Thank you for your attention.