Convictions and strong sentences for violence against women send a firm message that it is completely unacceptable, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed said on Friday.
Mohammed arrived in Johannesburg on 24 November ahead of delivering the 15th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Cape Town on Saturday 25 November. This year’s theme is “Centering gender: reducing inequality through inclusion”.
Mohammed was speaking on the day South African judges sentenced former South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius to 15 years in jail for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, and East London businessman Christopher Panayiotou to life imprisonment for the 2015 murder of his wife, Jayde.
Mohammed said that it has to be made clear that any gender-based violence is unacceptable, and country authorities have to make sure citizens can see justice is done when women are abused.
“It’s a good sign,” she said of the two South African sentencings. “It needs to happen more.”
Mohammed was taken on a tour of the Nelson Mandela archive at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory by Foundation chairman Professor Njabulo Ndebele and CE Sello Hatang.
It had been “very emotional” to walk through the premises of the Foundation. Although she had not met Nelson Mandela, despite trying to, he was a role model.
“Credit to the Foundation, through the books that have been published about him, whether about his quotes or his work we all feel like we met him” said Mohammed at the press conference at the Foundation.
Although “absolutely stunned” at having been selected to give the 2017 Annual Lecture, Mohammed said it is not difficult for her to use any available platform to speak out against gender-based violence.
“As a leader who is a woman, you need to address this head-on,” she said.
Still, given the stature of previous speakers, Mohammed said she feels she has “huge shoes to fill”.
Previous speakers include philanthropist Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft; French economist Thomas Piketty; Chilean President Michelle Bachelet; philanthropist Mo Ibrahim, who founded the Ibrahim Index of African Governance; former US President Bill Clinton; and South African Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Mohammed said although she is deeply pleased to have been given another platform to speak out against the abuse and marginalisation of women, words are not enough.
“What’s important is what will we do about it,” she said. “This [the incidence of violence against women] must just go to zero.”
The 15th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre at 2pm on 25 November.