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International Partnerships
News announcement4 March 2020Directorate-General for International Partnerships4 min read

Stand #WithHer and help end violence against women and girls


Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen and Dr. Natalia Kanem, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, will launch in Brussels on 5 March the campaign #WithHer to help end violence against women and girls.

#WithHer is a digital engagement campaign for European audiences. It draws from the Spotlight Initiative, a global partnership between the EU and United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030. It will raise awareness of, and challenge, harmful gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence against women. The campaign seeks to engage citizens into recognising and tackling prejudices and violence in their own community and beyond.

“Any kind of violence against women and girls is unacceptable and must be eradicated. Each and every one of us must contribute to this goal. I would like to invite you all to stand #WithHer, to speak up and make a difference. Help us end violence against women and girls and create a better world for all.” Commissioner Urpilainen said ahead of the event. “Ensuring women’s full and effective participation in society is the only way forward to truly achieve inclusive societies.”

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Kanem said, "Violence against women and girls, often by an intimate partner, is a widespread problem of epidemic proportions. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. We need to shine a light on this brutal human rights violation and urgent public health issue. It must no longer be an unspoken taboo, hiding in the shadows".

Gender-based violence and exploitation is a grave violation of women’s human rights, and a major obstacle to gender equality and sustainable development. It prevents women from fully participating in society, and carries huge costs to their families, communities and countries. Gender-based violence affects more than a billion people across the world.

The campaign #WithHer and the Spotlight Initiative are part of a broader strategy by the European Commission to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment within and outside the European Union.

On 5 March, the Commission will also launch its EU Gender Equality Strategy, which addresses social and economic discrimination, including the gender pay gap. It promotes women’s leadership and political participation, and tackles violence against women and girls.

By the end of 2020, the European Union will also adopt a new Gender Action Plan to guide its external action in the world, both politically and financially.


Background information

Violence against women

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. It affects all societies, cutting across generational, socio-economic, educational and geographic boundaries.


  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence.
  • 15 million girls aged 15 to 17 have experienced forced sex at some point in their life.
  • 137 women are killed by a member of their own family every day
  • 650 million women and girls have been married before age 18
  • At least 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation
  • Women and girls account for 72% of all human trafficking victims detected globally
  • More than 80% of trafficked women and nearly three out of every four trafficked girls are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation

Sexual and gender based violence in all its forms is ultimately anchored in social and cultural norms and stereotypes. To prevent and eliminate it, everyone at all levels of society needs to be engaged.

Spotlight Initiative

In 2017, the European Union and United Nations launched the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.

Launched with an initial investment of €500 million from the EU, the Spotlight Initiative represents an unprecedented global effort to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment as a precondition and driver for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Initiative responds to all forms of violence against women and girls, with a particular focus on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, femicide, trafficking in human beings and sexual and economic (labour) exploitation.

The Initiative gives prominence to prevention, protection and the provision of services, alongside broader efforts to ensure women's empowerment, to change social norms and stereotypes and engage with the whole of society, including men and boys.

Spotlight Initiative deploys targeted investments in more than 25 countries across the globe.

  • Africa: Africa regional programme*, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe,
  • Asia: ASEAN regional Safe and Fair programme, Central Asia regional programme*, Afghanistan*, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
  • Caribbean: Caribbean regional programme*, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Latin America: Latin America regional programme, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, Ecuador*
  • Pacific: Pacific regional programme, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu.

*Under development.

EU and Gender Equality

The Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union establish as tasks of the Union to:

  • promote equality between men and women;
  • to eliminate inequalities; and
  • to promote equality between men and women through all its activities.

Gender equality is enshrined in the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (1979) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995).

The Global Strategy and the European Consensus on Development (2017) reaffirm the Union’s commitment to establish gender equality and the promotion of women and girls’ rights as a priority across EU external action.

8 MARCH 2022
Annual Implementation report 2017 - EU Gender Action Plan II - Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations 2016-2020


Publication date
4 March 2020
Directorate-General for International Partnerships