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 harassment as a form of violence against women and girls through programmes, policy, and advocacy is a critical area of UN Women’s work. The organization has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and all other forms of VAWG. To this end, UN women has a newly created special assignment: The Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Addressing Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Discrimination. This role focuses on placing women’s experiences at the core of the work on sexual harassment and brings survivor-focused approaches to the fore. UN Women’s leadership coordinates efforts towards decisive action on this pressing issue, which at its core tackles the gendered nature of power and the need to ensure justice and dignity for women. UN Women has authored two publications on the issue: “What Will It Take? Promoting Cultural Change to End Sexual Harassment.” and “Towards an End to Sexual Harassment: The Urgency and Nature Of Change In The Era Of #MeToo”. These publications focus on cultural change needed to end sexual harassment, offering guidance to policymakers, employers, activists and universities on how to address this scourge, making sure that the needs of the victim–survivors are at the heart of all efforts. As well share UN Women’s work on this topic and offering new guidance on policy and practice on sexual harassment.
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.
*See also the resource links to numerous tools referred to in the narrative above and under specific measures.
The UN Women Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean, in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), hosted the meeting View More
The UN Women Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean, in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), hosted the meeting “Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women and Girls in Latin-America and the Caribbean: Lessons learned across the globe”, which was held in Panama City from December 5 to 7 of 2016. This event provided a unique space, bringing together several UN agencies, government officials, diplomats, civil society organizations, global researchers and other experts in the field of preventing and responding to violence against women and girls to exchange experiences and explore ways to implement effective and promising practices to address violence against women. This approach sought to drive change in the region, which has been characterized by the lack of evidence-based interventions and rigorous evaluations. A total of 25 countries were represented in this meeting and UN women key guidance documents such as the UN prevention Framework to End Violence against Women and Girls as well as the Essential services guidelines were disseminated.Hide
ESCWA, in partnership with UN Women, ABAAD Resource Centre for Gender Equality and the Lebanese American University, has commemorated the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence campaign (25th November-10th December 2016) and organised a View More
ESCWA, in partnership with UN Women, ABAAD Resource Centre for Gender Equality and the Lebanese American University, has commemorated the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence campaign (25th November-10th December 2016) and organised a series of awareness raising activities. These include a video competition among the youth in the Arab region to send a message on 'how to stop violence against women', a panel discussion with experts and CSOs on estimating the cost of VAW, and a public event to promote civil engagement on the topic.Hide
UN Women collaborated with UNESCO to develop a guidance toolkit on prevention of and response to violence against women and girls in the educational sector: “Global Guidance on School-related Gender-based violence” in December 2016 ( View More
UN Women collaborated with UNESCO to develop a guidance toolkit on prevention of and response to violence against women and girls in the educational sector: “Global Guidance on School-related Gender-based violence” in December 2016 (http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002466/246651E.pdf). UN Women continues its collaboration with UNESCO to develop similar toolkits to engage the media and sporting organizations in prevention of and response to VAW. These technical documents provide key information to governments, policy-makers, practitioners and civil society who wish to take concrete action against violence against women and girls. It introduces approaches, methodologies, tools and resources that have shown positive results.Hide
UN Women established a Community of Practice (CoP) for stakeholders working on the prevention of and response to violence against women and girls. Specific objectives of the Flagship Programming Initiatives (FPI) CoP include: Making existing View More
UN Women established a Community of Practice (CoP) for stakeholders working on the prevention of and response to violence against women and girls. Specific objectives of the Flagship Programming Initiatives (FPI) CoP include: Making existing knowledge, tools and approaches on the practice available and easily accessible to members of the CoP, allowing members to share concrete experience, challenges and good-practices on the implementation of the FPI so that members can “learn from others”, and generating new knowledge and tools. This community of practice, which follows various channels of communication (knowledge online platform, webinars, email helpdesk and a focal points’ meeting) will be strengthened based on its users’ experience and on new developments within UN Women’s programmes.Hide
The UNiTE Group for the Americas and the Caribbean, including 9 agencies -PAHO, UNDP, OHCHR, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNHCR, ECLAC, WFP and UN Women- and the IDB and the OAS, developed 12 Key Messages to Eradicate Violence Against Women and Girls in Latin View More
The UNiTE Group for the Americas and the Caribbean, including 9 agencies -PAHO, UNDP, OHCHR, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNHCR, ECLAC, WFP and UN Women- and the IDB and the OAS, developed 12 Key Messages to Eradicate Violence Against Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean. This unprecedented effort led by UN Women, systematized the lessons learned from all the publications and knowledge produced in the context of the UNiTE Campaign in the last 7 years. These messages were launched in the framework of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which took place in Montevideo in October of 2016. Thereafter, the messages were the basis for the celebrations of November 25th at regional and country level.Hide
UNIFEM, now part of UN Women, facilitates the creation and/or strengthening of strategic partnerships among governmental and civil society stakeholders and provides support to build the capacity of women’s organizations to spearhead innovative responses to violence against women at the country level. UNIFEM supports advocacy and communication strategies to stimulate awareness and commitment to end violence against women, including support to coordinated efforts by a wide range of stakeholders during the annual campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. In a number of countries, UNIFEM has also cooperated with partners in the White Ribbon Campaign.Hide
DAW, now part of UN Women, made available information on violence against women through its website, especially in relation to the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on violence against women and its follow-up, provided briefings on the work of the United Nations in the field of violence against women, and organized panel discussions and other outreach activities. DAW widely disseminated the Secretary-General’s study, including at the national level to national machineries for the advancement of women and to United Nations resident coordinators/ representatives. DAW had organized several panels on violence against women, including a panel to launch the study in October 2006; a panel discussion on “Galvanizing action towards ending violence against women” to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 2006; and an interactive panel on "Elimination of all forms of violence against women: follow up to the Secretary-General’s in-depth study at national and international levels", during the 51st session of the Commission on the Status of Women, March 2007.Hide
The Special Adviser on Gender Issues raises the question of violence against women in various forums, meetings and during missions, and brings serious and massive violations of women’s human rights to the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. OSAGI , now part of UN Women, developed a Leaders’ Advocacy Kit to combat gender-based violence, in collaboration with several entities of the United Nations system.Hide
UNIFEM’s (now part of UN Women) Safe Cities Global Programme, implemented in partnership with UN-HABITAT, among other partners, completed impact evaluation validation missions with International Center for Research on Women in Cairo, Kigali, New Delhi, Quito and Port Moresby, to inform the selection of programme sites. UNIFEM is involved in various global initiatives on primary prevention, including Clinton Global Initiative Commitments, focused on young people as a strategic group, by serving in the Steering Committee of one of the initiatives which addresses sexual abuse of girls; partnering with the Man Up Campaign, including around the 2010 World Cup on its Young Leaders Summit; and as a lead on violence against women within the UN Adolescent Girls Task Force. UNIFEM organized a soccer tournament for the Africa Red Light 2010 campaign against trafficking of women and girls. In Colombia and Nepal, UNIFEM provided support for the establishment of male anti-violence advocacy networks, and their participation at the Men Engage African Symposium.Hide
Issues # 7 and 8 of Words to Action, DAW’s (now part of UN Women) quarterly newsletter on violence against women, were issued, with feature articles on the United Nations Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women, and the 15 year review of the implementation of the Platform for Action.Hide