Opening speech by UNDP Resident Representative a.i., Charu Bist, at the 1st National Conference of Gender-Based Violence Responders

November 29, 2021

Photo: UNDP Azerbaijan / Javid Gurbanov

Your Excellency Mr. Litzenberger,

Ms. Muradova,

Dear partners and guests,

Thank you all for joining us today for Azerbaijan’s first National Conference of Gender-Based Violence Responders.

Each and every one of us has a role to play in standing up against such violence.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which was originated by activists at the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991. Over 6000 organizations in more than 180 countries have participated in the campaign since 1991, with a reach of 300 million people.

According to the latest global estimates, nearly one in three women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.

Data and reports from those on the front line have shown that all types of violence against women and girls have increased since the outbreak of COVID-19, especially incidences of domestic violence.

In Europe and Central Asia, gender-based violence has increased by 65% since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many countries have seen a significant rise in calls to domestic violence helplines, including Azerbaijan.

This surge in gender-based violence throughout the world has become known as the ‘Shadow Pandemic’. And just like with the ongoing health crisis, we will need a global collective effort to stop it.

As COVID-19 cases continue to strain healthcare systems, domestic violence shelters and helplines have reached capacity. Much more urgently needs to be done to prioritize addressing violence against women in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Globally, UNDP has been working tirelessly with its global partners to counter this shadow pandemic, supporting some 80 countries in tackling gender-based violence.

In Azerbaijan we have joined forces with the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs and the US Agency for International Development to help address gender-based violence and improve women’s access to legal and social support in the country.

Since October 2020, our joint efforts have achieved some really remarkable results in tackling gender-based violence in this country.

We have established ‘safe spaces’ for women in Women’s Resource Centres in nine regions of Azerbaijan: Masalli, Khachmaz, Zagatala, Qusar, Khazar, Sabirabad, Bilasuvar, Salyan, and Neftchala. Psychosocial support and legal counselling have been provided to more than 600 women in those safe spaces.

Since 2011, the Women Resource Centres have provided over 6,000 women with places to meet, network, exchange ideas and forge partnerships. More than 3,000 women have already joined the Women Resource Centre’s network, and over 400 women have built their own small businesses with support from the Centres.

Since November 2020, 52 survivors of gender-based violence have been supported in acquiring essential work and job-seeking skills.

A social theatre project has helped 181 boys and girls in nine regions to gain a better understanding of gender-based violence issues in their communities and ways to respond and prevent such violence.

12 data specialists in rural regions have been trained to conduct studies on gender issues, including gender-based violence, and to work closely with national and international organizations in reporting and tackling this issue.

In addition to these initiatives, UNDP Azerbaijan and our partners have also advanced gender equality as part of many other programmes and actions.

For example, we have successfully involved many more women in the country’s growing vocational education sector.

In the Jalilabad region, the number of women students in vocational education training has increased from below 2 percent to 10.6 percent over the past two academic years.

Through our Women in STEM programme that we are implementing together with USAID, we are encouraging women to choose careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Our mentorship programme helps to equip young female professionals and students working or studying in the field of STEM with the tools and advice they need to overcome some of the challenges faced by women in breaking into these fields.


All of these efforts are supported by hard-working and dedicated people on the ground.

In the case of gender-based violence, these people working on the front line are the responders who provide victims of gender-based violence with the shelter, comfort, and advice they often desperately need.

With this work comes huge responsibility, as survivors of gender-based violence often depend on responders for their safety, ultimately trusting them with their lives.

Many of these responders are here with us today and I would like to express our immense gratitude and admiration for their courage and selflessness. You serve as models to us all.

As we mark the 30th anniversary of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we can and must do more to eradicate gender-based violence, including as part of our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Finally, I would like to thank the State Committee for Women, Children and Family Affairs and the Women Resource Centres for their close cooperation with us in our efforts to eradicate gender-based violence.

We continue to enjoy this outstanding partnership.

Likewise, I would like to thank USAID for their very generous support and continuous commitment to this important cause.

Thank you.