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UN's Mlambo-Ngcuka: mobilising a new generation of activists for gender equality

As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign is marked around the world, Refiloe Mpakanyane speaks to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women.

The former South African deputy president (she served under president Thabo Mbeki) is the recipient of the 2019 Cannes LionHeart award for her advocacy for women, human rights and social justice around the world.

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Mlambo-Ngcuka explains that for the 16 Days campaign, held under the umbrella of the Generation Equality campaign, the UN is calling on people from all walks of life to take their boldest stand yet against rape.

She says the colour orange was chosen to make it stand out among all the other campaigns on the go.

Through this colour we are shining a light on all these deeds. Many of them happen away from the full view of society, though more and more some these horrific incidents also happen in public spaces.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive director - UN Women

This year's reference to Generation Equality is in anticipation of the commemoration of the 25 years of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration which will be in 2020.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive director - UN Women

Mlambo-Ngcuka says rape is being highlighted amongst the many crimes against women because it is such an outrageous crime and so difficult to fight.

In many parts of the world, instead of seeing the rape incidence decline, we see an increase and it gets more and more gruesome in areas where there is conflict but also in others like our country (SA) where there isn't war.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive director - UN Women

We're trying to mobilise a new generation, a younger activist, younger women and men to be part of the fight for gender equality.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive director - UN Women

She notes that even in countries that have legislation to prosecute rape in place, the woman is often the one shamed.

Even when you can identify the perpetrator... justice is not served.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive director - UN Women

Listen to the in-depth conversation with Mlambo-Ngcuka on Weekend Breakfast with Refiloe Mpakanyane:

Images from @UN_Women on Twitter


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