Tania Farha, a policy specialist with UN Women, spoke to a large audience at the Sir Roland Wilson Building on Tuesday 4th August about global efforts to end violence against women and girls.

The talk was hosted by the ANU Gender Institute in partnership the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), whose chief gender specialist Sally Moyle introduced Farha to an audience of professionals, academics, and students alike.

The New York-based Farha, extensively experienced in her career with UN Women, the Victorian police and the Department of Defence, among others, began by illustrating the UN’s institutional architecture for combating global violence against women. She said that this problem, “based in unequal power relationships between men and women”, continues to persist because its root causes remain unaddressed. She also blamed a “lack of political will to implement international agreements” on ending gender discrimination.

She also noted UN Women’s shortfall in information and data collection, and expressed the organisation’s desire to develop a “knowledge base” on violence against women internationally. Similarly, she also said service usage needed to be improved; “even in developed countries, the use of services was low” with only 14% of women afflicted by violence reporting to police and 19% reporting to other services in European countries.

Furthermore, she spoke on Australia’s problems with gendered violence, with Australia being second on the Human Development Index (HDI) which measures life expectancy, education, and income, but 24th in gender equality by the World Economic Forum in 2014. “Community responses are really critical,” she said, and “everyone has a role to play” in diminishing violence against women in Australia, even if it just means ceasing to make sexist jokes.

Speaking to Woroni, Farha said: “Without a public dialogue on violence against women, we don’t fundamentally understand what’s at the heart of the issue, basically the unequal power relationships between men and women.”

“I think that for many years, violence against women was considered a private issue. I think it’s really important to get the issue in the public space so that people can understand it’s a social problem,” she said.

“We as a whole society need to work to address the issue of violence against women, both to respond effectively and to prevent it from happening at all.”

On the future of her career, she said: “I see myself coming back to Australia and working in the domestic context… It’s really effective to work locally as well, to be able to see projects being operationalised personally.”

Overall, Farha enjoyed speaking at the ANU, and was impressed by the student body’s interest and its informed questions.

“It was great to see so many students interested in this issue. I think we need to get more young people involved in the debate, and I think we need to bring more people into the discussion, especially young people who communicate in a different way.”