UN, EU Launch Spotlight Initiative for Central Asia, Afghanistan to Support Women

NUR-SULTAN – The United Nations (UN) Office and the European Union (EU) have launched a multi-year Spotlight regional programme for Central Asia and Afghanistan designed to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The EU will fund the programme with an initial budget of $4.3 million.

The Spotlight project was launched in 2016 by the UN and EU and now extends to more than 25 countries around the world. It focuses on addressing violence against women and is part of a broader effort to achieve gender equality and female empowerment in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Addressing the gathering, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed said the initiative is a way to “invest in gender equality as a precondition and driver for achievement of SDGs.”

“Collective comprehensive action on ending violence against women and girls could not be more urgent. I urge all of you today to work on reducing gender-based violence to zero.  Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there are reports of a global surge in gender-based and domestic violence. Central Asia and Afghanistan are no exception,” said Amina J. Mohammed.

In Central Asia and Afghanistan, she said the initiative will “promote zero tolerance to sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices like bride kidnapping and early marriage.”

“It will support legislative reform, strengthen institutions, tackle social norms and attitudes, offer strength and support to civil society and women’s empowerment movements throughout the programme area,” she added. 

In his remarks, Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi said the initiative is “really timely and critical.”

“It is symbolic that the launch takes place on the eve of International Human Rights Day (Dec. 10). President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev expressed his full support for the implementation of the Spotlight initiative, both on the national and regional levels. The pandemic with its social and economic impact has been a set back to the progress made in gender equality globally,” said the minister reaffirming his country’s commitment to striving for highest international standards in gender policies and female empowerment.  

The Spotlight initiative, he noted, could have a positive impact on other UN efforts in the region. 

EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan Sven-Olov Carlsson said the Spotlight initiative will “benefit from the longstanding leadership and active support of governments, institutions and civil society organisations in this region.”

The programme will cover several areas, said the UN Resident Coordinator for Kazakhstan Michaela Friberg-Storey.

“We will work to enhance and change attitudes through youth peer networks in the regions, we will carry out the first region wide study and analysis of men’s attitudes towards sexual and gender-based violence. We will support legislative reforms and when we do this, we will ensure we include the experiences, concerns and perspective and the knowledge of women with disabilities, women in rural areas, women in early or forced marriage. We will leave no one behind,” said Friberg-Storey noting the importance of partnership with governments, and NGOs. 

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