UN Women has a universal mandate to provide, through its normative support functions, operational activities and coordination role, guidance and technical support on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights, across all levels of development and in all regions. Under this mandate UN Women leads the work on elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) within the United Nations system.
VAWG continues to be the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today, and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, and construed stigma and shame surrounding it. Despite a growing momentum by States to eliminate and prevent all forms of VAWG, challenges persist in achieving transformative change in this area –mainly due to the tenacity of discriminatory social norms that tolerate and condone violence and inequality between men and women; the lack of coherent approaches in preventing VAWG in the first place; and the lack of access to long-term, quality, multi-sectoral services that are coordinated for survivors.
Violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights and it impedes equality, development and peace across the world. The promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including to leave no one behind, cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to VAWG. UN Women employs a comprehensive approach to addressing violence against women and girls, in private and public space, including investments in:
* Improving research and statistical data;
* Strengthening international norms and standards and national legislative and policy frameworks;
* Expanding coordinated, quality multi-sectoral services;
* Facilitating understanding and supporting evidence-based prevention approaches; and
* Supporting women’s rights and civil society groups.
UN Women’s work is guided by its 4-year Strategic Plan (2018-2021) which includes ending violence against women as one of its outcomes. UN Women’s work is embedded within the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, especially its General Recommendations 19 and 35; the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women; the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome documents of its reviews, as well as other human rights treaties, General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council Resolutions; and the agreed conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women; and critical regional instruments, such as Belem do Para, the Maputo Protocol and the Istanbul Convention.
RESEARCH AND STATISTICAL DATA
UN Women at global, regional and country level works with governments, civil society and academia to conduct quantitative and qualitative research to improve the understanding of the magnitude, nature, risk and protective factors and consequences of different forms of VAWG, and to generate evidence of what works and what does not work to address it. At the global level, UN Women in collaboration with WHO is responding to the need of strengthening the collection and use of VAW data through the Global Programme on Strengthening Methodologies and Measurement and Building National Capacities for VAW Data. The goal of this 5-year Joint Programme (2018-2022) is to ensure that quality data on different forms of VAW are available and collected over time to address national data gaps and meet policy and reporting commitments under the SDGs, CEDAW, and the Beijing Platform for Action. The programme aims to contribute to the strengthening and dissemination of measurement and methodologies for VAW data collection and use (including for national, regional and global monitoring and reporting requirements for SDG target 5.2 indicators); the increase of capacities of national institutions to collect VAW data according to globally agreed methodological and ethical standards; and the collection and accessibility of national VAW data for advocacy, policy and programming to end violence against women and girls.
NORMS, LAWS AND POLICIES
UN Women leads the drafting of Secretary General’s Reports, including: Intensification of Efforts to Eliminate All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls, Intensifying Global Efforts for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilations and Report of the Secretary General on Trafficking in Persons, which provide an analysis of trends, good practices, gaps and challenges, as well as recommendations to Member States and other stakeholders. UN Women further supports negotiations of Member States based on these reports to inform GA Resolutions on the same. UN Women also convenes the Commission on the Status of Women, providing similar support to Member States in their negotiations of Agreed Conclusions related to violence against women. At the 25 year anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), UN Women together with the Regional Commissions facilitated comprehensive national level reviews on progress made and challenges encountered in the implementation of the BPfA, and the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, including in the critical area of eliminating violence against women. At country-level, UN Women’s support has led to strengthened national legislation to prevent and respond to VAW, and to the adoption of national action plans for the elimination of VAW. A more detailed synopsis on UN Women’s work in this area can be obtained through the Annual Report(s).
To improve the quality of and access to comprehensive essential multi-sectoral services that respond to the immediate and long-term needs and well-being of women and girls who have experienced violence, such as intimate partner violence or sexual violence, UN Women in partnership with UNFPA initiated the ‘Essential Services Programme’ in 2013. This initiative is now a full-fledged United Nations Global Joint Programme: Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence, with WHO, UNODC and UNDP as participating UN agencies. through this joint programme, UN Women, in collaboration with all participating agencies, developed the ‘Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence: Core Elements and Quality Guidelines’ for the Health, Justice and Policing and Social Services Sectors, along with Implementation Guides to assist the rollout and implementation of the Essential Services Package at country level. The Programme began with 10 pilot countries and has expanded with self-starters to over 50 in 2019.
Prevention is the only way to stop violence before it occurs. The evidence-base on what works to prevent violence has evolved considerably over the past decade, including through initiatives supported by UN Women, such as the Partners for Prevention Programme in Asia Pacific. UN Women has played a key role in developing evidence-based policy and programming guidance in this area. In 2015, UN Women led the development of the first inter-agency framework on prevention, in partnership with ILO, OHCHR, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA and WHO. A Framework to Underpin Action to Prevent Violence Against Women (2015), promotes a common understanding of preventing violence against women for the UN System, policymakers and other stakeholders and provides a theory of change to support action. To further operationalize this framework, UN Women, partnered with various UN agencies, to develop handbooks guiding implementation of specific entry points. Those include: Global Guidance on Addressing School-related Gender Based Violence (with UNESCO); Addressing Violence and Harassment Against Women in the World of Work (with ILO); The Big Conversation: Handbook to Address Violence against Women in and through the Media (with UNESCO); A Handbook to Address Violence against Women in and through Sports (with UNESCO); Preventing violence against women in elections: A programming guide (with UNDP) and a Guidance Note on Campus Violence Prevention and Response. In 2019, with WHO, UN Women launched the RESPECT Women; Preventing Violence against Women Framework to update the 2015 Prevention Framework. A package of implementation materials for the RESPECT Framework are in process of development and will be available in 2021. In addition to policy guidance, UN Women undertakes programming in various countries across regions with various stakeholders in public spaces, in schools, in communities, workplaces, sports organizations and other institutions to address structural and systemic inequalities and change attitudes, beliefs and social norms.
Knowledge Hub on Violence against Women:
UN Women hosts one of the most extensive repositories of resources on preventing and eliminating VAWG at the Global Knowledge Platform to End Violence against Women. This hub, contains three unique portals, including: 1) The Global Database on Violence against Women, a filterable database containing information on the measures undertaken by Member States; 2) Inventory of United Nations Activities, a filterable database on the work of UN entities; and 3) The Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls, a one-stop site providing programming guidance promising practice case studies and tools in English, French and Spanish.
UN Women also maintains a dedicated Training Site with numerous learning opportunities (online courses, face-to-face sessions, manuals and self-paced lessons) on violence against women, including introductory material on the topic, as well as dedicated materials on men and masculinities, FGM and Essential Services, among others.
Harmful cultural practices are discriminatory practices towards women and girls that are ritualized because they are performed/exercised persistently and as a result have been culturally normalized. UN Women recognizes that harmful practices take many forms and impinge upon the dignity and integrity of the individual, constituting a grave human rights violation. UN Women’s strategy on Harmful Practices focuses primarily on addressing two of the most prevalent forms, Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). The work on harmful practices includes support to strengthen legislation, public policies and mechanisms to address impunity; capacity building of service providers and law enforcement; increasing women’s and girls’ knowledge about their rights; advocacy and awareness campaigns; work with women’s organizations and CSOs; and transforming norms. UN Women works closely with renowned activist Jaha Dukureh, CEO and Founder of the NGO “Safe Hands for Girls”, who serves as Goodwill Ambassador for the issue worldwide.
SAFE CITIES AND SAFE PUBLIC SPACES
UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative commits to creating safe and empowering public spaces for women and girls free from sexual harassment (SH) and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls (SVAWG). Through a comprehensive human rights and evidence-based approach, cities develop practical solutions in four main action areas, including: ensuring that locally relevant and owned solutions are identified through detailed scoping studies; strengthening laws and policies on sexual harassment in public space; investing in the safety and economic viability of public spaces; and fostering transformative social norms that promote women and girls’ rights to use public spaces free from SH and other forms of sexual violence (SV). Under the Flagship Initiative, each city adapts a Global Framework and accompanying package of tools to their local context. The Safe Cities Initiative was originally launched in 5 pilot cities (Cairo, Kigali, New Delhi, Port Moresby and Quito). It has since expanded to over 50 cities, including those in the Global North.
ADDRESSING SEXUAL HARASSMENT
As a champion of women’s rights and gender equality, preventing and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and sexual harassment (SH) within UN Women and the UN system as forms of violence against women and girls is a critical area of UN Women’s work. The organization is committed to a zero-tolerance approach for SEA, SH and all other forms of VAWG.
UN Women recognizes that addressing SEA and SH requires a culture of change that looks at the intersectionality of their root causes, including those due to race, age, disability, sexual orientation and of course, gender. Within UN-Women, the organization is thus dedicated to fostering an environment that respects the inherent dignity of all persons, which affords its personnel the opportunity to reach their fullest potential and therefore empowers them to deliver the best possible results for the women and girls it serves.
Furthermore, UN Women has ben actively engaged in the system-wide efforts led by the secretary General in pursuit of a common system-wide approach to combating SEA and SH and is collaborating with various stakeholders within the UN and beyond, using its experience and expertise on eliminating VAWG. A victim-centered approach forms the basis of all its efforts which aimed at bringing about an organizational and cultural change that end SEA and SH, which UN Women will continue to fight for until it is achieved for all.
TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN AND GIRLS
Trafficking disproportionately affects women and girls, who account for 71% of identified trafficking victims globally. UN Women works to ensure that anti-trafficking policies and initiatives comprehensively address the continuum of violence against women, and girls and the related gender dimensions of human trafficking. The work is undertaken across four key pillars: ensuring that legislative and policy frameworks are in line with international human rights standards; supporting institutions to collect relevant data, exchange information and develop comprehensive, multisectoral and gender-sensitive approaches; promoting gender equitable social norms, attitudes and behaviors; as well as increasing knowledge about the rights of women and reducing their vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation. UN Women works at country, regional and global level in different dimensions to combat trafficking in women and girls, and also provides support and inputs to other UN agencies, to ensure their programmes and interventions include a gendered and survivor-centered approach. UN Women is a member of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group Against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT) and has served as co-chair in 2019 and 2020.
UN Women is the technical lead of the Spotlight Initiative–the global, multi-year partnership between European Union and United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030—at the country, regional and global level. The work encompasses responding to all forms of violence against women and girls, with a focus on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, femicide, trafficking in human beings and sexual and economic (labour) exploitation. The initiative is being rolled-out in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific.
Background paper: A synthesis of evidence on the collection and use of administrative data on violence against women (2020)
Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls Global Flagship Initiative: Second International Compendium of Practices (2020)
Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls Global Flagship Initiative: International Compendium of Practices (2019)
RESPECT women: Preventing violence against women (2019)
Training Manual on Gender and Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (2017)
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and Violence against Women and Girls: Strengthening the Policy Linkages between Different Forms of Violence (2017)
Supplement to the Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women: “Harmful Practices” Against Women (2011)
Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence Against Women (2011)
*See also the resource links to numerous tools referred to in the narrative above and under specific measures.
61 countries and the European Union joined UN Women’s COMMIT to End Violence against Women initiative, a call for action for Governments to make new and concrete national commitments to end violence against women and girls. The commitments ranged from passing or improving laws, ratifying international conventions, to launching public awareness campaigns, providing safe houses or free hotline services and free legal aid to survivors, supporting education programmes that address gender stereotypes and violence, and increasing women in law enforcement, peacekeeping forces and frontline services.Hide
Former UNIFEM now part of UN Women launched the Global Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls Programme in Cairo, Kigali, New Delhi, Quito and Port Moresby. Potential measures may include stronger laws and policies against violence in public spaces; training for urban planners, grass-roots women's groups and police; special audits to identify unsafe areas; mass media campaigns on "zero tolerance" for violence against women; activities to engage local communities, men and adolescents of both sexes; and reviews of public sector budgets so that adequate resources are spent on making public areas safe for women and girls. Collecting reliable data will be an important aspect of the Safe Cities programme in order to highlight the problem and identify solutions. Other work to make cities safer for women and girls included support to establish the Social Watch Observatory on Violence against Women in El Salvador; and engagement with transportation unions to address violence against women and harassment in public transportation in Haiti. Community-level awareness raising initiatives were supported in Morocco and Yemen; and traditional, local and religious leaders were mobilized in Cameroon and Sudan to become advocates and champions in the fight against gender-based violence. In New Dehli (India) a project implemented in partnership between UN-HABITAT and former UNIFEM (part of UN Women) has supported the development of a strategic framework for Delhi on safety, entry point being women’s safety. A non-governmental organization, Jagori, has been developing a stakeholder interview template as part of the work on developing a strategic framework for the Delhi government on the seven pillars/institutions which are responsible for enhancing women’s safety in public spaces (urban planning and design of public spaces; provision and maintenance of public infrastructure and services; public transport; policing; legislation, justice and support to victims; education; civic awareness). Jagori and UN Habitat consultant have been holding a series of consultations with key stakeholders.Hide
In Asia-Pacific, the work of the inter-agency initiative “Partners for Prevention” (P4P) was ongoing. Engagingmen.net (www.engagingmen.net) is a website where practitioners can share resources and learn about training opportunities. “Partners for Prevention” (P4P) organized several training sessions to support national social media campaigns in China, India, and Indonesia. Demand Media, a leading online media company and expert in developing social media platforms, provides pro bono support for the national campaigns. In December 2010, P4P organized a meeting with various stakeholders from Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Fiji, the Philippines and Vietnam, who work to engage boys and men for ending violence against women. The participants agreed to work together to develop regional curricula and a collective approach for knowledge creation and sharing across the region. In December 2010, the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) “Standing Committee of Male Parliamentarians for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children” met in Port Macquarie, Australia, where male parliamentarians from 13 countries signed a pledge to take action in their own countries and to stand together as a collective group to advocate for more actions for violence prevention among their peers. “Partners for Prevention” is supporting the Standing Committee of Male Parliamentarians as a collaborative partner with AFPPD and UNFPA. “Partners for Prevention” and AFPPD are conducting research on the challenges that parliamentarians face in moving prevention policy forward, and on ways to support them in their role in preventing violence.Hide
The former Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI, now part of UN Women) raised the question of violence against women and girls, including the crime of sexual violence in conflict situations, on various occasions; brought violations of women’s human rights to the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations; and the Special Adviser in her advocacy efforts urged various stakeholders to join the UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and to end impunity for perpetrators.Hide
Issue # 9 of Words to Action, former DAW’s (now part of UN Women) now UN Women quarterly newsletter on violence against women, was issued, with a feature article on addressing violence against women and HIV/AIDS effectively.Hide
Issue # 2 of Words to Action, DAW’s (now part of UN Women) quarterly newsletter on violence against women, was produced with a feature article on legislation.Hide
UNIFEM, now part of UN Women, established funds for community-based organizations working to prevent and respond to violence against women in Afghanistan, the Pacific and Haiti. UNIFEM, now part of UN Women, established formal partnerships in preventing violence against women, including MenEngage and Religions for Peace and continued to provide technical and other support in the context of joint United Nations efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, engaging men and boys to prevent violence against women. ESCWA is part of the steering committee of the OXFAM-UNIFEM joint project on “Strategies and approaches of working with men and boys to promote gender equality”.Hide
During the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in 2008, OSAGI, now part of UN Women, and UNFPA organized a panel discussion with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, which reviewed 15 years (1994-2009) of work of the mandate. OSAGI coordinated the performance of a play, “MIKA”, which highlighted the far-reaching impact of violence against women and which was also performed at United Nations Headquarters in December.Hide
From its Say NO to Violence against Women Campaign, UNIFEM, now part of UN Women, delivered over 5 million signatures, including from Heads of State and Ministers from 60 governments and more than 600 Parliamentarians from over 70 countries to the UN Secretary-General, on 25 November 2008, in support of his Campaign UNiTE to End Violence Against Women.Hide
UNIFEM, now part of UN Women, supported or co-organized a number of meetings, workshops and conferences in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, including: on Security Council resolution 1820 and Peacekeeping (September 2008); on Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820 with respect to the EU’s Security and Defense Policy missions (October 2008); on cross-border female genital mutilation, with West African First Ladies (October 2008); on trafficking in South Asia for media, lawyers and police; and provided technical support for an Economic Community of West African States summit on trafficking and other trans-border issues (December 2008). UNIFEM supported awareness-raising efforts, including: radio education on violence against indigenous women in the Andean Region; gender-based violence community sensitization in Rwanda, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam; and the 16 Days of activism against gender violence campaign in many countries.Hide