Gender Based Violence and Human Trafficking Forum

High-level officials from ten countries in Africa built a collaborative network to fight gender-based violence (GBV) and human trafficking at a week-long forum.

Ministers, Justices, Attorney Generals, Police Commissioners, Inspector Generals and law enforcement professionals, it is my honor to be here today for this high-level forum. It has been a tremendously productive week, and I am grateful to the International Law Enforcement Academy and the United States Agency for International Development for bringing this impressive group of individuals together.

Never before have we hosted an event where the most senior officials from police, prosecution, and the judicial branches have gathered in the same room to collaborate on this serious and pressing topic. Our goal this week was to facilitate a bond across nations, combining our efforts to address and prevent gender-based violence and human trafficking. We wanted to set the stage for continued engagement with each other and to encourage governments to work at the community level in their individual countries.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent and tragic human rights violations in the world. It knows no social, economic, or national boundaries. Gender-based violence is devastating to the millions of individuals who experience it and it has grave consequences for the public health, economic stability and security of nations.

Gender-based violence is intertwined with human trafficking to form a toxic combination that ruins lives and remains shrouded in a culture of silence. It is our duty to work together to bring these crimes to light and these criminals to justice.

Although each branch of government represented here has its own track, the common goal is the same: to maintain law and order, and to protect citizens. Until all women fully enjoy their human rights and freedom from violence, countries cannot achieve their potential, and development progress will fall short.

The U.S. Government has partnered with governments around the world to combat gender-based violence and human trafficking – by increasing awareness of the problem and its impact, by improving services for survivors, and by strengthening prevention measures.

This forum was designed to get down to the details – the “nuts and bolts” as we say in America. We need specific, targeted solutions to fight the massive scale of this problem. The people here in this room – with your skills, knowledge, and expertise – represent our best hope for finding these solutions.

I want to thank each one of you for the important bonds you have developed this week, for the vital wisdom and experiences you have shared. I believe this is the start of something special: working across borders to better the lives of millions and put an end to terrible crimes that destroy individuals and communities.

As President Obama said at the United Nations in 2010: “We know that countries are more likely to prosper when they tap the talents of all their people. And that’s why we’re investing in the health, education and rights of women, and working to empower the next generation of women entrepreneurs and leaders. Because when mothers and daughters have access to opportunity, that’s when economies grow, that’s when governance improves.”

Before women and girls can access these gains, oppression and abuse must come to an end. Before they can bring their countries’ economies to the next level, they need their own economic freedom and dignity. Before they can pursue education and fulfill their dreams, they need to be freed from forced labor, exploitation, violence, and fear. Together, we can make that happen.

Thank you.