PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT: President Coleiro Preca addresses a high-level conference organized by the Council of World Women Leaders in New York

The President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca is currently in New York, where she has been invited to address a high-level discussion organised by the Council of World Women Leaders, of which she is a member, entitled ‘Economic Cost of Violence against Women’, together with the President of the Republic of Lithuania and Chair of the Council of World Women Leaders, Dalia Grybauskaite, the President of the Republic of Chile Michelle Bachelet Jeria, The President of the Republic of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovi?, and Kristalina Georgieva, Vice President of the European Commission, at the United Nations Headquarters.

“Violence against women stops an economy from attaining its full potential, while the whole of society suffers from the repercussions”

During her speech about the economic cost of violence against women, President Coleiro Preca quoted the World Health Organisation’s troubling statistic “that one in three women around the globe experience gender-based violence over the course of their lives. Another most troubling statistic is found within the European Union’s member states, where some forty-three percent of women have experienced psychological violence in their lifetime, while one in three women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15”. The President of Malta said that seeing this problem from an economic point-of-view might be what is needed to raise further awareness about violence against women, a topic which has also been identified as an area of increasing concern by the World Bank Group.

“Globally, conservative estimates of lost productivity as a result of gender-based violence, from research shared by UN Women, range from 1.2 percent of GDP to 2 percent of GDP. However, these figures do not even begin to account for the costs associated with long-term psychosocial trauma and reduced wellbeing. Indeed, some national studies from Guatemala and the United Kingdom, which take these factors into account, set their figures between 7 and 10 percent of GDP.”

Referring to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, agreed upon last year, the President of Malta stated that : “As a union of nations committed to the 2030 Agenda, we must speak out about the enormous social and economic costs of violence against women. We cannot achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, with their focus on tackling poverty and ensuring global peace, without focusing on Goal 5 in particular. Goal 5 states that all discrimination and violence against women is to come to an end everywhere, and this must mean securing women’s social and economic empowerment”.

President Coleiro Preca appealed to all present that the far-reaching implications of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention must be taken up, adding that the communities must be made aware that “there is no excuse for gender-based violence on the basis of custom or tradition”:

“All violence against women is a major violation of a woman’s fundamental human rights. Violence against women makes a mockery of our democratic values, and is detrimental to the ideals of our democracies. It is an invasion of a woman’s intrinsic dignity and a wound which has lasting effects on society”.

The President of Malta stressed the fact that gender-based violence manifests itself in widely different contexts, whether in the classroom, in the home, or in the workplace, in places of conflict but also in countries of apparent peace.

Suggesting a way forward, President Coleiro Preca said that opportunities for behavioural change need to be created, in order to benefit both our economy and societies: “we need cultural, educational and social policies and programmes to counteract violence against women” –

“We must challenge the social norms that perpetuate violence, and cultivate more equitable relationships between all members of society. We must also address gender inequality by supporting economic development, education, leadership and life skills training. Prevention, especially through education, is definitely our best strategy”.

President Coleiro Preca stated that the legal system, the medical and psychosocial services, the police and other support services all need to be strengthened, as it is “also through such services that we can learn from the narratives of women and girls. It is through them and their experiences that we can reformulate policies, as well as transform cultural and social attitudes”. The President of Malta also referred to the fact that gender-based violence places increased pressure on a country’s justice system, on its healthcare provision, on its social services, on its education sector, its business and employment sectors, as well as having intangible costs, in the form of chronic pain, emotional trauma and long term suffering:

“We must invest in prevention. We need to move from words to action. We cannot afford, any longer, to simply be reactionary”.

The President encouraged all women leaders present to use their power and influence to encourage greater synergy between governments, civil society, and the private sector:

“As women leaders, we must act on behalf of other women and girls, to bring about a real and effective change”.

On concluding, President Coleiro Preca quoted Desmond Tutu, in a last appeal addressed to the male leaders of the world: “It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up, as men”.

Source: Government of Malta.