Ending violence against women helps achieve development goals

23 Nov 2009

Mujer pidiendo que se elimine la violencia

Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions – in all continents. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her lifetime. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25th, is a unique opportunity to remind governments and societies of persisting and dramatic inequalities.

Despite the progress that has been made in achieving gender equality worldwide, women represent 60 percent of the world’s poorest, less than 16 percent of the world's parliamentarians, two-thirds of the world’s illiterate and, both in times of armed conflict and behind closed doors at home, they are still systematically subjected to violence.

The roots of violence against women lie in historically unequal power relations between men and women – and persistent discrimination against women. From domestic violence, to human trafficking and female genital mutilation, gender-based violence is a cruel reality in the 21st Century.

For these reasons the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has renewed the call to end violence against women and girls. Launched in 2008, the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign is a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls in all parts of the world.

“Violence against women and girls is a devastating reality in all cultures, countries and continents, causing damage, trauma and despair,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said. “Ignoring this violence perpetuates a culture of impunity and undermines prospects for human development. Our world will always fall short of development goals if we do not ensure access to opportunity – and security – for women and men equally.”

Violence and conflict

In conflict and post-crisis countries, violence against women increases, further endangering the lives of women and young girls.

In response, UNDP developed an Eight Point Agenda for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality in Crisis Prevention and Recovery:

1. Stop violence against women.
2. Provide justice and security for women,
3. Advance women as decision-makers,
4. Involve women in the peace process,
5. Support women and men to build back better,
6. Promote women as leaders of recovery,
7. Include women’s issues in the national agenda, and
8. Work together to transform society.

As a result, In 2008, UNDP worked to end gender-based violence in the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia, Nepal, Somalia and Sudan.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment

Political commitment is essential to stop violence against women is political commitment. For that, UNDP is working with governments to create, enhance and implement laws that protect women’s rights. We are also partnering with civil society organizations to help raise awareness and create effective abuse-reporting mechanisms.

  • In Albania, Argentina, Paraguay and Venezuela, UNDP and partners are working with the governments on national awareness raising campaigns to prevent and report abuse.
  • UNDP partnered with the Egyptian government – targeting media, legal and medical professionals – to advocate for a law that criminalizes female genital mutilation. The law was passed by Parliament in 2008, and we have since been working with the government to implement it. One of the initiatives has reached 120 villages, raising awareness and training advocates to speak out against the practice.

Democratic governance

  • In Honduras UNDP is partnering with the Government in the development, ratification and implementation of the Second National Plan of Gender Equality and Equity, as well as the Manual for Political Participation of Women. In addition, UNDP has trained over 19,000 people in 70 educational facilities around the country on how to prevent violence in schools and within families.

Rule of law

  • In Sudan/Darfur, to improve access to justice and enhance security, UNDP and partners have trained more than 10,000 governmental agents, civil society and community members on rule of law and human rights. The programme also founded a network of 19 Legal Aid Centres to provide the poor access to justice. To date, more than 2,000 cases have been brought to justice by a network of Darfurian lawyers.
  • In Somalia, a UNDP-supported rule of law programme helped ensure that an estimated 10 percent of the graduates of the police academy were women. We also supported in the establishment of the first Women Lawyers’ Association to provide legal assistance to victims of rape and domestic violence.
  • In Liberia, UNDP’s work in reconciliation and consolidating the peace has helped establish 15 Truth and Reconciliation Commission offices throughout the country and helped some 500 women through the ordeal of testifying before the hearings, advising them on the procedures and the value of their testimony, also providing psychosocial support.

Additional resources:

SG’s campaign: UNiTE to End Violence Against Women
Take Action: Say NO - UNiTE to End Violence Against Women (UNIFEM)
UNDP and Crisis Prevention & Recovery
UNDP and Women’s Empowerment

Video: Bangladesh: End Violence Against Women Day

UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador and Say NO UNiTE Spokesperson Nicole Kidman joins others to say no is no in any language when putting an end to violence against women