NEW YORK, 26th November, 2015 (WAM) — Ending gender-based violence is a top priority for achieving the United Nations founding mission of peace, development and human rights, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said, noting his specific concerns about rising violent extremism and its impact on women and girls, and calling for global collective action to end the scourge.

“If we are united, between men and women, among government leaders, business communities and civil society leaders, I think there will be nothing which we cannot overcome. There will be nothing which will stand in our way to achieve gender equality and gender empowerment,” said Mr. Ban in his remarks during the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Mr. Ban called for ending all attacks against women and girls, including domestic abuse, sexual assault, slavery, trafficking, female genital mutilation, child and forced marriages and all other forms of abuse.

Citing the attacks on activist Malala Yousafzai, the kidnapping of the Chibok girls in Nigeria, the terror inflicted on women in Syria, Iraq and other countries, Mr. Ban stressed that all crimes against women must be punished.

Focusing specifically on the impact of violent extremism on women and girls, he said that many women and girls suffer other gender-specific abuses from terrorist groups and security services.

“Women, especially young women, may fall prey to false promises of violent extremists. These extremists pervert and shame the religious teachings they claim to represent. In some cases, the recruiters – even the attackers – are women. We have to confront this disturbing reality and take decisive action to address it,” said Mr. Ban.

The UN chief announced that he is preparing a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, a framework to underpin action to stop violence against women, where challenges pertaining to this issue will be discussed in the weeks ahead.

For her part, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who also spoke at today’s commemoration, stressed that violence against women, one of the most tolerated violations of human rights, can be prevented.

“Violence is directed at women because of their sexual orientation, because of their race, because of their religion and because they are indigenous women. It affects women in rich and poor countries alike. It is a universal problem. In our work, we must leave no hurting and no violated women behind. Our responses must be comprehensive and targeted because the problem is complex,” she said in her remarks at the commemoration.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that ending violence against women requires commitment and zero tolerance at the highest levels of leadership.