WOMEN, KIDS PROTECTION. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative Dr. Leila Joudane (far left, white veil) talks to leaders of various women’s groups during her visit to Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Sunday (Dec. 12, 2021). The UN envoy visited the town as one of the highlights in her visit in pushing to end violence against women and children. (Photo courtesy of (UNFPA)

COTABATO CITY – An official of the United Nations in the Philippines has urged every Bangsamoro to once and for all end violence against women (VAW).

“It is crucial that women, girls, men, and boys are allies engaged in meaningful conversations about changing norms, beliefs, and practices that are harmful to women and girls,” United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative Dr. Leila Joudane said in a statement released here Monday.

Joudane was the guest of honor during the culminating program of the 18-day campaign to end violence against women in adjacent Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Sunday.

She stressed in her statement that ending violence against women “starts with us.”

“The entire community should be engaged in education and awareness-raising at school, through community mobilization, social media campaigns, events, and gatherings,” she said.

Joudane lauded the efforts and initiatives of the Bangsamoro and its instrumentalities in the fight to end violence against the Bangsamoro women.

“UNFPA is with you in this fight. We should not stop here, let’s continue to work together using the rights-based and survivor-centered approach to end gender-based violence and we will not stop until women and girls are safe,” the UN envoy said.

She said every day, women and girls face violence in their homes, communities, in public and private places, during conflicts, and in the aftermath of natural disasters and conflict situations.

She added that VAW happens everywhere and not only in the Philippines or BARMM.

For its part, the Maguindanao police office presented a report on VAW cases in the province.

Major Merle Glemao, Maguindanao police head of the women and children protection desk, said the province accounts for 70 of the 71 violence against women and children (VAWC) cases in BARMM from January to October this year.

Of the 71 cases, 34 cases are violence against women and of these, 27 are rape against girls and reportedly perpetrated by people known or close to the victims.

“We should not let this continue, we need to stop this silent pandemic,” Joudane said. “Wherever violence against women and girls occurs, it is a violation of human rights.”

She vowed that the UNFPA will keep pushing and will not stop until it sees a world free of violence against all women and girls.

“We will not stop until this violence is no longer tolerated and consigned to the shameful chapter of history where it belongs,” she said.

Joudane has been visiting areas across the region to get updates on the campaign and to push UNFPA programs that will save women and children from preventable circumstances. (PNA)