QUITO – The European Union and the United Nations launched on Tuesday their Spotlight Initiative – a program aimed at combating violence against women and girls – in the Andean nation of Ecuador.
During the launch ceremony in Quito, held two days after the worldwide observation of International Women’s Day, the EU and UN unveiled their action plan for bringing visibility to this scourge in that traditional, conservative society.
Spotlight aims to raise public awareness about abuses that “take place in obscurity” and usually remain hidden, “exacting a severe toll on victims,” said Spain’s Bibiana Aido, the representative in Ecuador of UN Women, an entity working for the empowerment of women.
She mentioned incest as an example of a “problem that has been swept under the rug.”
The Spotlight Initiative, which is deploying targeted, large-scale investments to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, also will focus in Ecuador on combating femicides (gender-based killings of women), which have claimed the lives of 17 girls and women since Jan. 1 of this year.
“Femicide is the leading cause of death in women between 14 and 39 years old in our region, ahead of cancer and traffic accidents; that’s why we need to create awareness and take immediate action,” the former Spanish equality minister said during a working breakfast with the media in which she and EU representatives presented their action plan.
According to the Latin American Association for Alternative Development, a total of 748 women and girls have been murdered nationwide in Ecuador since January 2014.
The EU’s ambassador to Ecuador, Marianne Van Steen, said for her part at the launch event that “violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights abuses worldwide.”
“In Latin America, 12 women die every day from gender violence,” she added.
During the event, the two officials said violence also serves as a barrier to gender equality, women’s empowerment and achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Spotlight focuses on the following core areas of action: legislation/policies; institutions; prevention; delivery of, and access to, services; data collection and management; and the strengthening of women’s and civil society organizations.
The initiative had been launched previously in five other Latin American countries: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina and Mexico.