Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is the Executive Director of UN Women and continues to be a strong advocate of women’s rights, especially in so-called ‘conflict zones’ in Africa, the Middle East, and around the globe.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is South African, and the first African woman to hold the post of Executive Director at the UN Agency, recently has spent a considerable amount of her time, and focus, on the plight of women touched by the Boko Haram violence in Nigeria.
In May, the Executive Director made a visit to Nigeria to show visible and moral support for the continued education of young women. Now, her attention turns to the Middle East, with the focus on the on-going recent conflict in Iraq. In a statement issued to the media in New York, and obtained by SaharaReporters, the UN Women Executive Director makes the following statement here below.
“UN Women is outraged by the deliberate targeting of women and girls in Iraq and reports of kidnapping, rape and forced marriage by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed groups.
“The targeting of women and girls is a grave violation of human rights, and is a common characteristic of conflicts around the world, with devastating and enduring consequences for women and girls, families and societies. UN Women is especially concerned by the risks to women’s rights posed by growing extremism in various parts of the region and worldwide.
“We are deeply concerned by recent reports that four women have committed suicide after being raped or forced to marry ISIL militants as well as reports of men committing suicide after being forced to watch their wives and daughters being raped. UN Women strongly condemns sexual and gender-based violence, and calls on all parties to address such reports and protect the rights of Iraqi women and girls.
“Since the recent outbreak of violence, an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes amidst indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas. In such circumstances, women and girls are especially vulnerable to violence and exploitation. It is with regret that UN Women notes that the Iraqi parliament did not manage to start the political process of forming a new government this morning. Only a political solution can help end this violence.
“UN Women joins Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, in calling for the immediate formation of an inclusive government and in calling on all sides to cease targeting civilians and take immediate and urgent steps to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected from violence.
There is a United Nations presence in Iraq during this current conflict, as there is in several African nations where there is also civil unrest, and military tensions. Much of the largely under-reported sexual and gender-based violence currently taking place in Iraq has come to the UN’s attention from ordinary citizens who’ve stepped forward.