COSLA President Councillor Shona Morrison made a speech to council leaders to mark the beginning of the 2023 16 Days of activism against gender-based violence campaign.
Councillor Morrison's speech can be read below:
"As we gather today to address an array of pressing matters, as COSLA's President, I want to open with a short reflection on a profoundly significant cause, both for Scotland and the world.
We're on the brink of the United Nations' annual global campaign, '16 Days of Action Against Gender-Based Violence.' This campaign begins tomorrow on the International Day Against Violence Against Women and ends on International Human Rights Day, December 10th. It serves as a continuing reminder of the need to eliminate violence against women as a violation of human rights.
COSLA's commitment to this annual campaign is unwavering. In partnership with the Scottish Government, we work to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in Scotland's communities. Our leadership in delivering the national Equally Safe Strategy underscores our commitment.
It's crucial to acknowledge that no single entity — government, sector, organisation, or service — can prevent or eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls alone. We need the collective leadership and cooperation of national, local strategic partners, and specialised organisations to instigate the systemic changes needed to protect the human rights of women and girls within our communities.
Over the next 16 Days, we will join hands with millions of others worldwide. Here in Scotland our Violence Against Women multi-agency Partnerships and many of our Equally Safe stakeholders across local authorities will this year work to the chosen and powerful theme for 2023, ‘imagine a world without violence against women and girls’. We will raise awareness about the causes, nature, prevalence, and impacts of gender-based violence. Our collective challenge is to highlight solutions and focus on the powerful antidote – gender equality.
This focus starts in our communities and extends beyond Scotland and the UK. International Human Rights instruments emphasise our duty as leaders to advance this goal in our relationships, professions, and organisations, and in our communities, our country, internationally and globally.
Violent conflicts and wars disproportionately harm women and children. They increase insecurity, violence, and displacement. The impact and trauma of conflict and war on females and those reliant on their care is profound, devastating, and far-reaching. Women and girls confront heightened insecurity and fear for their personal safety. This constrains their mobility and access to resources. The spectre of direct physical and sexual violence, including rape, abduction, and forced marriage, looms larger.
Many women and girls become internally displaced or refugees. They often endure harsh living conditions and a dearth of basic necessities. In these setting some will experience sexual exploitation and trafficking. The resulting harm compounds the health and psychological trauma, educational disruption, and economic hardships. Together these undermine women's access to their human rights, dignity, and, in some cases, life itself.
It's essential to address these challenges through local and international cooperation. COSLA's leadership in our Equally Safe Strategy persists.
In closing, our commitment to preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls transcends borders. Today let our own actions, as leaders, reflect our resolve to do what we can to eradicate gender-based violence and promote gender equality - not only in Scotland but across the world.
Further information about the 16 days campaign