South African actress Thuso Mbedu has joined leaders and celebrities from across the Commonwealth for the first-of-its-kind ‘Commonwealth Says NO MORE’ campaign against domestic and sexual violence.
The Commonwealth Secretariat and NO MORE Foundation have launched the campaign designed to help tackle the immediate crisis of the rapid increase in domestic and sexual violence due to the impacts of COVID-19, while also providing support for governments, organisations and individuals to confront this issue through longer-term prevention strategies and support.
The launch was held at a special virtual event attended by representatives and advocates from across the Commonwealth and representing nearly one-third of the world’s population.
At the event, the partners unveiled the first pan-Commonwealth digital portal designed to support governments and civil society in identifying and implementing joint solutions while also providing individuals with concrete actions they can take to support both the campaign and those affected by domestic violence.
The new ‘Commonwealth Says NO MORE’ campaign is launched at a time when organisations across the globe have seen calls to hotlines for victims of abuse and demand for support services rise from between 25 and 300 per cent during COVID-19 lockdowns. Even before the pandemic, one in three women across the world are beaten or sexually abused within their lifetime, making it a leading cause of death in woman and girls.
As part of the initiative, leaders, celebrities and individuals globally are taking the ‘Commonwealth Says NO MORE’ pledge towards ending domestic and sexual violence. Ahead of the launch, many shared video messages endorsing the effort and encouraging other people across the 54 Commonwealth countries to get involved.
Among them are Kiribati President Taneti Maamau, Antigua and Barbuda’s Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams, New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, British singer and Royal Commonwealth Society’s Ambassador Geri Horner, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, Indian actress and advocate for women’s rights Shabana Azmi, Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, Ghanaian actress Joselyn Dumas, British actor Colin Salmon and Australia actor Ryan Johnson.
In a video message, Thuso Mbedu said: “”I’m not a poet, I am not a musician, I am not an artist and so I cannot draw my pain, I cannot sing my sorrows and I cannot find the perfect words to best articulate the fear, and the state of mind of the everyday woman right now. All I can do is [to] urge the powers that can actually make a difference to do something.
“Stop gender-based violence against women and children. We are saying NO MORE. It is not ok. It has never been ok. It will never be ok. Make a decision. The Commonwealth is urging everyone to take the pledge and say NO MORE.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, speaking at the launch of the portal, said: “It is indisputable that while the virus will pass one day, for many women, the ever-present threat of violence will remain.
“COVID has emphatically exposed just how urgently we need a cure to flatten the rising curve of domestic and sexual violence. Business-as-usual is not an option. That is why we are announcing this first-of-its-kind portal, offering an impressive array of expert resources and tools to support concerted action by everyone from governments to private individuals. We must all use this opportunity to redouble our efforts to tackle and end this violence now.
“We need to say NO MORE because if we don’t have peace in our homes we will never have peace in our world.”
Speaking in a video message to the conference, President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau added: “COVID-19 measures imposed by governments around the world, further increase the risk for women as homes are no longer the safest place. In this trying time and with increased incidences of such violence, our global community can and must do better.
“We all have an important role to play. Let’s stop the silence on violence and make every home a safe and peaceful land for all women and girls around the globe.”
The digital portal provides easy-to-use tools and resources to help governments and community-based organisations strengthen their efforts to support victims of domestic and sexual violence and those at risk, and train communities in a culturally sensitive manner.
In addition, it also provides help to those affected by violence to understand and recognise violence and gives them one-stop access to information such as local hotlines, safety plans and legal guidance – a critical service for victims in places where such support is either not available online or is disrupted by the pandemic.
The portal will also feature guidelines to help citizens intervene when they witness violence, and offers good practice guides for preventing abuse, delivering services and protecting survivors.
The virtual event was an opportunity for governments and community-based organisations to learn how the portal can support their efforts towards tackling violence and ultimately achieving the UN’s sustainable development goal for gender equality.
Leaders, advocates and supporters are encouraged to go to CommonwealthSaysNOMORE.org, take the pledge and join the conversation with #CommonwealthSaysNOMORE.
- Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General
- Taneti Maamau, President of Kiribati
- Sir Rodney Williams, Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda
- Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, former President of Mauritius
- Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand
- Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General
- Pamela Zaballa, NO MORE’s Global Executive Director
- Mitcy Larue, Minister of Family Affairs, Seychelles
- Fatou Kinteh, Minister of Women Children and Social Welfare, The Gambia
- Aishath Mohamed Didi, Minister of Gender, Family and Social Services, Maldives
- Prof Margaret Kobia, Cabinet Secretary for the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, Kenya
- Leilua Lino, Samoan survivor and activist
- Shabana Azmi, Indian actress and advocate for women’s rights
- Geri Horner, British singer and Royal Commonwealth Society’s Ambassador
- Colin Salmon, British actor
- Mahira Khan, Pakistani actress
- Heather Small, British singer
- Joselyn Dumas, Ghanaian actress
- Jaya Ahsan, Bangladeshi actress
- Amber Chia, Malaysian model
- Sarah Hassan, Kenyan actress
- Ryan Johnson, Australian actor
- Nina Wadia, British actress
- Dinakshie Priyasad, Sri Lankan actress
- Brenda Wairimu, Kenyan actress
- Edwina Bartholomew, Australian TV host