Ladies and Gentlemen,
Firstly, let me sincerely thank our co-hosts, UN Women and the International Labour Organization. But also everyone joining us here today in Bangkok to raise awareness and our voices about this critical issue.
As I have said on many other occasions - violence against women and girls is an injustice of epic proportions and a stain on all of our societies.
This is one of the most widespread human rights abuses – which crosses all generations, nationalities and communities.
One in every three women worldwide will suffer violence in their lifetime. For every woman here today, that's one of your two closest friends, colleagues, or relatives. No one is left untouched.
And perhaps the most shocking and saddest part of all is that gender-based violence most often happens within homes and families – the one place where we should all feel safe and secure.
As many as 200 million girls may never have been born because they were unwanted, or considered a burden. And every minute of every day a woman dies unnecessarily - from complications often related to unplanned or early pregnancy, or unattended childbirth.
Another 200 million have suffered the appalling and often dangerous act of female genital mutilation.
And it is women and girls that make up over 70 percent of all victims of human trafficking, with a staggering 96 percent of those sold into sexual exploitation.
Too often these terrible crimes go unnoticed – unseen and unspoken.
And the cycles of violence continue to thrive, in silence, in the darkest corners of our society.
So it's up to each and every one of us – women and men alike - to stand up and to speak out! To drive out the darkness. And to break the walls of silence.
This is exactly what our new Spotlight Initiative aims to do.
With "seed money" of around 500 million euros, and through our partnership with the United Nations, the European Union is calling loud and clear to end all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide.
We are focusing our efforts on the most prevalent forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, femicide, domestic and family abuse, and trafficking and exploitation.
Moreover, we are asking all of our partners to join forces with us. We want to spark a genuinely global movement, which spreads light and hope wherever it is needed.
Just two months after launching our Spotlight Initiative in New York, I am very proud that we are presenting our first project in Asia today.
The "Safe and Fair" initiative aims to empower female migrant workers in the ASEAN region with 25 million euros of funding.
Nearly half of all migrant workers in the region are women and girls, and this percentage is growing.
We know that they make an important contribution to the economic growth of both their countries of origin and destination. And that they are more likely than men to send a greater share of their income home, and invest in ways that benefit their families, communities and countries.
However, we also know that female migrant workers are more often in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, and working in informal sectors, with insecure conditions and limited rights. And that they are thus more vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking and abuse.
This situation is often made worse by undocumented and irregular migration, and the limited capacity of local law enforcement and social services to address these challenges.
At the same time, many migrant women workers and other brave women in the region have shown their tremendous capacity to challenge negative practices, create support networks, and fight for change.
We have the privilege of being joined by some of them today – from migrant workers themselves to human rights lawyers, advocates, lecturers, project managers. Through your real life stories and experiences and tireless efforts to promote the rights of migrant women workers you are helping to give a voice to the voiceless, and to shine a spotlight into the darkness.
Our new programme aims precisely to support your important and inspiring work, also by improving data, knowledge and attitudes on the rights and contributions of female migrant workers.
Working with ASEAN countries, and through local organisations and service providers, we want to help to address the legal, policy and institutional gaps and barriers.
And to support the implementation of more gender-responsive policies, better access to information and services, and ultimately put an end to exploitation, violence and trafficking.
We are also working here in the region to tackle this issue from other angles.
For example, by providing agricultural and entrepreneurial skills to help 3,000 young women run their own agri-businesses in a rural province in Indonesia – thereby reducing the pressure to leave.
As Delphi, one of the beneficiaries has said: "If I had not joined the group, I would still be jobless, stuck at home and lost in a daydream."
We must build on the example that these women are already setting – in bringing positive change to their lives and their communities.
Through our global Spotlight Initiative, and other ongoing initiatives in the ASEAN region, we want to reiterate our commitment to ensuring that all women and girls can truly shine!
(Check Against Delivery)