The way to stop violence against women and girls
20 Nov 2014 by James Lang, Regional Advisor for Gender-based Violence, Bangkok
An average of 1 in 3 women across the world suffer from violence at the hands of a partner, in their lifetime. Gender-based violence (GBV) disproportionately affects lower and middle income countries, poorer regions within these countries, and in particular vulnerable groups that include migrants, sex workers, and people living with HIV or disabilities.
Earlier this year, I took up the role of UNDP Regional Advisor on GBV in Asia and the Pacific. Since then, I have had numerous conversations that more or less follow the same pattern: “I cannot believe we still have such high rates of violence around the world, but it all seems so complicated and deep rooted in our societies. What can we actually do to reduce this violence?”
Recently, I contributed to the Lancet Series on Violence against Women and Girls. This project gave me the opportunity to discuss challenges in the field and exchange ideas for ways forward with some of the world’s most renowned experts on violence against women. It also gave me time to think about an answer to this question: What can we do to reduce gender-based violence?
The resulting five papers in the series present the evidence of which methods and programmes are successful in stopping violence before it starts, and responding to it after it occurs. The series discusses strategies for transforming social norms and building social movements for gender justice. Taken together the papers present a message of hope: violence is preventable. We know how to reduce gender-based violence and what is needed for keeping it from occurring in the future. To this end, the series concludes with a global call for action with five key recommendations and indicators.
Put simply, the Call for Action recommendations are to “show leadership, create equality, change norms, challenge sectors, and invest in research and programming.” In other words, beyond the laws on the books, we need more leadership, increased human and financial resources, more partnerships and more knowledge. The Lancet Series highlights that everyone has a role to play in ending GBV. But with so many actors involved, we need better coordination and communications. This means across and within government sectors - including justice, health, culture, labour and education – among civil society, government, the development community and the private sector. We need to strengthen communications and capacity among these various actors so we can understand and perform our potential roles and complement each other’s efforts.
These are areas where UNDP can and should play a stronger role. Through UNDP country programmes, we can work more closely with our key partners in governments, such as ministries of finance and justice, to prioritize and allocate sufficient resources for GBV prevention and response.
We can leverage our long-standing relationships with ministries of local government and community development to ensure that coordination mechanisms are functioning at the local level, and that those who experience violence are receiving the justice and services needed. With our long tradition of capacity development, UNDP has the resources and scope to foster the knowledge and skills needed for violence prevention and response.
The Lancet series is free to download. I encourage you to read the articles and take up the global call to action. Let’s commit to ending violence, not only for the 25th of November, but every day.