Remarks: International HeForShe Roller Derby Invitational

Date: Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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Remarks by Anna-Karin Jatfors, Deputy Regional Director, UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, at Roller Derby HeForShe event on 3 May 2016

Anna-Karin Jatfors, Deputy Regional Director, UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Photo: UN Women/Yan Haoran and Zhang Ruohan

Fellow delegates and representatives, participants, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of UN Women, I want to begin by thanking you all for your participation in this event, which is part of the HeForShe global solidarity movement for gender equality. Tonight we are here to celebrate the HeForShe spirit through the sport of roller derby, a growing world sport being led by women. We are very grateful for your support to UN Women and for your commitment to our common goal of advancing women’s empowerment and to the elimination of violence against women in China and beyond.

On 27 December 2015, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China passed a landmark national law on domestic violence, the first of its kind in China and a major step forward. The Law took effect as of 1 March 2016. This is the culmination of more than 10 years of advocacy, by Chinese civil society, the Women’s Federation, the UN system, embassies, and other national and international organizations.

Domestic violence occurs in all countries and affects all groups of people. Strong laws are needed to prevent domestic violence, to provide assistance to survivors of violence, and to penalize those who commit violence.

The passing of the Law means that now the real work begins. To implement the Law requires strong action from all sectors. Police officers, judges, social workers, health personnel, women’s federation staff, and civil society personnel all need to be trained. Even more importantly, the Chinese public needs to be aware of the Law. Potential victims need to know their rights; potential perpetrators need to understand the consequences.

In a way, a law to address domestic violence is much like good refereeing for a sport. The referees make sure that all the players stay safe by enforcing the rules. As fans, we might not always like referees, especially when they make a call against our favorite team, but no sport can stay safe without rules, and rules are meaningless without referees to enforce them. Players would suffer if the rules are not enforced. Society is much the same when it comes to domestic violence.

When it comes to domestic violence, though, it’s not just the government acting as the Head Referee to stop domestic violence. Actually every member of society can be a referee and say NO to violence. We can all take little actions to prevent and stop domestic violence in our communities and in our families.  These two Chinese Ring the Bell videos show how.

[The two 15-second Chinese Ring the Bell videos are shown on the big screen.  Both show ordinary Chinese citizens taking simple actions to stop domestic violence when they hear it happening in their neighborhood. ]

The idea that we all can and should take actions brings me to HeForShe, a global solidarity movement for gender equality that was launched just a year and a half ago by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson. The campaign seeks to engage men and boys as agents of change and as advocates for the rights of women and girls, by encouraging them to stand up, speak out and take action against the inequalities that women and girls face. This is the first campaign of its kind at the United Nations. We want to try to mobilize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for change. And, we don’t just want to talk about it; we want bold and concrete action.. And we need you for achieving that.

The HeForShe conference was watched over 11 million times, sparking 1.2 billion social media conversations, culminating in the #HeForShe hashtag becoming so popular that Twitter painted it on the walls of its headquarters. And men from almost every country in the world signed up to our commitment. In the words of UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, “The groundswell of response we have received in support for HeForShe tells us we are tapping into what the world wants: to be a part of change. Now we have to channel that energy into purposeful action.”

At the heart of HeForShe is the understanding that achieving gender equality in our lifetimes is possible, but only if we engage men as partners for women’s rights, and acknowledge the ways in which they also benefit from this equality. Being a HeForShe means to join a struggle that for gender equality that for too long was seen as the business of women alone, as equal partners in helping to realize a common vision that will benefit not just women but all of humanity.

Quoting our Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “HeForShe has signed up fathers who want to raise empowered daughters; leaders who know their societies will be stronger when there are as many women in parliament and in business as men; and ordinary people who are fed up with violence and discrimination against women - and want to be part of a global force for change.”

So, while we root for the two teams that are about to play, let us all think about how, among our friends, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and in our families, we can all be referees. Let’s all create a safer world to play in.

Thank you.