Jaya Ahsan
Jaya Ahsan

Bangladeshi actress Jaya Ahsan 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, said a press release sent by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

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.

I feel proud to join Commonwealth in saying no more to domestic and sexual violence, and a pledge to say no more to domestic violence. For too long, people have said it is a private matter, but it's not. It's a pandemic that destroys lives and cripples the community. For too long, our society has not done enough to resist it.
Jaya Ahsan, Bangladeshi actress
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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.

Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, said: “I'm pleased to lend my name to the Commonwealth's campaign to stop domestic and sexual violence in the Commonwealth. That violence is a pernicious blight on the ability of women and girls and children everywhere to fulfill their potential. That's why we are saying no more to such violence. No more terror in our homes. No more terror against women, girls, boys [and] children on our streets. Let’s stop it. No more is my pledge.”

Jaya Ahsan said: “I feel proud to join Commonwealth in saying no more to domestic and sexual violence, and a pledge to say no more to domestic violence. For too long, people have said it is a private matter, but it's not. It's a pandemic that destroys lives and cripples the community. For too long, our society has not done enough to resist it.

“The protection of women and girls from domestic and sexual violence must be at the heart of the governmental response and everything we do to create a safer, fairer and better world. Please join me and the Commonwealth in saying, no more."

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.

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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.

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
Taneti Maamau, President of Kiribati

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.

The ‘Commonwealth Says NO MORE’ digital portal is part of the partnership, which both organisations announced late last year.

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