News Releases

News Release - Manitoba and Winnipeg

December 10, 2013


Province, City Partner with Community to Reduce Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls: Irvin-Ross, Fielding

Winnipeg has been selected as the first city in Canada to join the UN Global Safe Cities Initiative to reduce sexual violence against women and girls, Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross, minister responsible for the status of women, and city councillor Scott Fielding announced today.

“All over the world, women and girls face sexual harassment and violence as they go about their daily routines on their streets, buses and in their own neighbourhoods,” said Minister Irvin-Ross.  “These daily occurrences of violence rob them of their rights as citizens and make it harder to get an education, work, play and participate in all aspects of life.”  

The Safe Cities Initiative will generate innovative approaches to preventing and reducing harassment and sexual violence against women and girls in public spaces, the minister said.  This will enable women and girls to move more safely, allowing them to exercise their right to enjoy their cities, she added.

Manitoba Status of Women is partnering with UN Women, representatives from the Winnipeg Police Board, Winnipeg Police Service and community groups on this initiative.  This steering committee will identify which locations in Winnipeg require targeted efforts to address this serious crime.

“I am honoured to be a part of this initiative,” said Councillor Fielding.  “Every person has the right to feel safe and live in a world free of sexual harassment.  The adverse effects sexual violence has on woman and girls are devastating, and it is my hope that education and prevention will help mitigate this terrible epidemic.  We have a lot of work ahead, but this is a step in the right direction.”

“Indigenous women are especially targeted by sexualized and racialized violence,” said Leslie Spillett, executive director, Ka Ni Kanichihk.  “Winnipeg’s Crime Statistics confirm that economically and socially marginalized neighbourhoods have significantly higher rates of violence against women than areas of concentrated economic and social privilege.  This is also demonstrated by the extremely high numbers of sexually exploited victims and data related to missing and murdered Aboriginal women.  It is hoped that this initiative will shine light on the underlying factors that replicate this alarming and increasing rate of violence and, more importantly, to find appropriate and long-term prevention strategies.”

“Coming from South Africa, I know that development, democracy and organization do not automatically ensure that there is safety for all citizens,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women.  “This is especially true for women and girls, no matter where they live.”

“If girls are to thrive and reach their full potential, it is critically important that the environments they grow up in are safe,” said Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, president and vice-chancellor, UWinnipeg.  “Ending violence that is targeted to females is a community responsibility, and this UN initiative recognizes we must collaborate to create a culture of respect.”

The initiative is being launched today as part of the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, which runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.  Today is also International Human Rights Day. 

Many victims of violence or sexual violence don’t report the crimes out of fear or because they think it won’t do any good, Minister Irvin-Ross said.  One of the goals of the initiative is to help women and girls feel more comfortable about reporting the crimes.

“Only when women and girls believe they will be taken seriously and not be victimized again, will more victims step forward,” the minister said.  “Unless more of these crimes are reported, the perpetrators will continue to think they can get away with it.”

The UN Women Global Safe Cities Initiative was launched in 2010 in five pilot cities – Quito, Ecuador; New Delhi, India; Kigali, Rwanda; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; and Cairo, Egypt.  In 2011, an additional eight cities around the world joined the initiative.

Global partnerships involve municipal and national governments, civil society organizations, women’s and grassroots groups, research and private-sector organizations, and the media as well as several bodies within the UN system including UNICEF.

Earlier in 2013, in line with the UN Women’s Universal mandate, Dublin, Ireland, became the first developed city to join the initiative.  Partnerships with developed cities are being encouraged to share their knowledge, and strengthen and expand their initiatives to prevent violence against women and girls in public spaces.

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The Province of Manitoba is distributing this release on behalf of the Government of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg and the University of Winnipeg.