Image courtesy Commonwealth Secretariat.

■   A new “Join The Chorus” initiative, led by the Commonwealth Secretariat and The NO MORE Foundation, launches today during the 2021 UN General Assembly session.

■   The initiative includes a global public service campaign created by GentleForces to raise awareness of domestic and sexual violence with celebrity participants, led by FKA twigs and including Rose Byrne, Joselyn Dumas, Mahira Khan, and Thandie Newton.

■   In response to an alarming rise in domestic and sexual violence, Commonwealth countries are being urged to make this “hidden crisis” a priority and are being provided with additional resources to do so.

■   Communities and individuals are also being encouraged to get involved with a newly-created Bystanders Action Guide.

The Commonwealth Secretariat and NO MORE Foundation are launching a new “Join The Chorus” initiative to help the 54 member countries tackle an alarming rise in domestic and sexual violence during the COVID-19 pandemic while urging leaders to make prevention a top priority in rebuilding efforts.

Unveiled today at a virtual event on the margins of the 2021 UN General Assembly (UNGA) session, the initiative, part of the Commonwealth Says NO MORE campaign, offers governments, non-profits and the public new tools and strategies to expand coordinated action to prevent and stop domestic and sexual violence in their countries, communities and homes across the world.

Event participants included Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, NO MORE Global Executive Director Pamela Zaballa, Pakistani actress Mahira Khan as well as representatives from women’s affairs ministries, high commissions and civil society organisations.

‘Join The Chorus’

Central to the initiative is an animated public service message (PSA) that features five Commonwealth celebrities, who stress the dire need for collective effort to stop the violence which affects one in three women in their lifetime.

Created and produced pro bono by the creative and social impact company GentleForces, and with the support of more than 80 volunteers from cross-industries including brand, creative, design, animation, film and entertainment, the message is based on the fable “The Flock”, in which one bird gets trapped in a tree by a perpetrator of violence and can only break free with the help of the entire community of birds.

A live-action version of the PSA stars British artist FKA twigs. Additional versions for each Commonwealth region are voiced by actresses Rose Byrne from Australia, Joselyn Dumas from Ghana, Mahira Khan from Pakistan and Thandiwe Newton from the UK.

The film urges leaders and bystanders to raise their voices to “Join The Chorus” against the violence in their communities, stressing that “while one voice might go unheard, a chorus cannot be ignored.”

A priority for rebuilding efforts

As countries continue to tackle COVID-19 and rebuild from its impacts, the Secretariat is calling on all 54 member governments to make domestic and sexual violence prevention a top priority.

The Secretariat, in partnership with the NO MORE Foundation, will soon provide a new toolkit to each country’s leadership to guide their ongoing efforts in meeting Sustainable Development Goal 5 for gender equality, in particular its target for the elimination of violence against women and girls.

In addition to the critical governmental efforts, “Join The Chorus” encourages communities, non-profits and individuals to get involved and have a greater impact through collective action. The Secretariat and the NO MORE Foundation are launching a new “Join The Chorus” action guide for bystanders to learn more about domestic and sexual violence, its signs and effective intervention strategies.

All of the films and assets are being shared for free to be used by schools, businesses and other organisations in their communities around the world.

‘NO MORE complacency’

Image courtesy Commonwealth Secretariat.

Speaking ahead of the event, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland described domestic and sexual violence as a “universal phenomenon of epidemic proportions.”

She added: “If anything else was affecting one in three people, the world would have been brought to a complete standstill and would have mobilised all actors and resources to put an end to it. Yet, we see this violence being largely regulated to the side-lines of the public safety agenda. To that, we say NO MORE, NO MORE negligence, NO MORE complacency.

“All of us must join the chorus by playing our part to both prevent violence from happening in the first place and providing necessary support to those experiencing it. A world without violence is possible, but it involves all of us taking action just as we are doing in tackling the COVID-19 crisis.”

In her remarks, NO MORE Foundation Global Executive Director Pamela Zaballa said, “As world leaders gather for UNGA to solve the biggest social challenges we face, ending domestic and sexual violence must be added as a top agenda item. Not only do these issues directly impact one in three women, but they also pose huge economic, public health and security threats.

“Only when governments, non-profits and bystanders come together to take collective action will we change the culture that has allowed violence to persist. We are grateful to our partners and the powerful artists and actors who are lending their time and talent to encourage everyone to ‘Join the Chorus’ and say NO MORE.”

‘A human rights crisis’

In a written statement, British artist, FKA twigs wrote: “This is an urgent global call to action and a human rights crisis.  Only when we as a collective community normalize the conversation and insist on NO MORE violence against women will we finally end one of society’s most harmful ills. I am proud to be part of this global movement for change.”

Addressing the event participants, Pakistani Actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Mahira Khan said: “We must break the culture of silence that has enabled domestic and sexual violence to persist for so long.”

Describing the idea behind the initiative, Danni Mohammed, founder of GentleForces, said: “‘Join The Chorus’ is a global call-to-action that uses the strength of film and animation to engage. In its purest form, it’s based on the power and wisdom of a fable. By creating a fable we can turn a complex issue into a simple call-to-action and unearth what’s been typically seen as a private issue, into everybody’s issue, and that is what domestic violence needs help with.

She added: “Fables have incredible storytelling power; are passed down from generation to generation; between cultures and in the end they leave you with a powerful message ‘a chorus cannot be ignored.’ We all have a role to play and can when we ‘Join The Chorus’ to help end domestic and sexual violence.”

The Commonwealth Says NO MORE campaign is part of the partnership between the Secretariat and the NO MORE Foundation.

About the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states. The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights.

The Commonwealth spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-two of our members are small states, many of which are island nations.

Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.

Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.