United Nations Population Fund
605 Third Avenue. New York, New York 10158 USA
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled.
UNFPA is working to further gender equality and women’s empowerment and to address the causes and consequences of violence against women and girls, especially the effects on women’s sexual and reproductive health.
UNFPA is guided by and promotes the principles of the groundbreaking Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (1994), which includes the commitment that advancing gender equality and equity and the empowerment of women, and the elimination of all kinds of violence against women, and ensuring women’s ability to control their own fertility are cornerstones of population and development-related programmes.
Areas of Focus
It remains a strategic priority for UNFPA to prevent and respond to VAW in both development and humanitarian settings, as well as eliminating harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. UNFPA works to address VAW in 135 countries, 43 of these countries are affected by conflict and/or natural disaster, and invested in 2015 alone more than $ 93 million in its work to eliminate GBV and harmful practices in development and humanitarian settings in its six programme regions.
UNFPA’s work on GBV:
Advocacy/Policy: UNFPA works with national and international stakeholders on a concerted basis to address the inadequacies of national legislation and law enforcement on GBV and harmful practices and develop culturally sensitive and rights-based policies and plans on GBV prevention and response, with a strong focus on the health sector.
Capacity Development: In its work to prevent GBV and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, UNFPA partners with a number of key stakeholder groups to address gender discriminatory social norms in society and seek to transform gender roles and promote more equitable relationships between men and women. UNFPA also develops the capacity of governments and civil society actors in GBV response, including service providers. UNFPA has a particularly important role to play in developing the capacity of health care providers in GBV response, with a main emphasis on sexual and reproductive health services.
Knowledge Management: UNFPA partners with national statistics offices and relevant government ministries to bolster national efforts to collect and manage GBV data. UNFPA also supports academic research and evidence gathering on GBV in its programme countries. In humanitarian contexts, the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS) has been created to harmonize data collection on GBV. GBVIMS is an inter-agency partnership between UNFPA, the International Rescue Committee, UNHCR,UNICEF and WHO, under the auspices of the UNFPA co-lead GBV Area of Responsibility. Implemented in 25 humanitarian contexts, the GBVIMS is a first attempt to systematize management of GBV-related data across the humanitarian community.
Service Delivery: UNFPA is uniquely positioned to promote an integrated approach to the provision of sexual and reproductive health services and GBV prevention, protection and response in both development and humanitarian settings. UNFPA also works with partners to strengthen survivors’ access to quality police and justice services and social services, as well as reinforcing the coordination and governance of VAW services – including through the United Nations Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence, a partnership between UNFPA, UN Women, WHO, UNDP and UNODC.
The Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence, UNFPA, UN Women, WHO, UNDP and UNODC, 2015
Minimum Standards for Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, UNFPA, 2015
Demographic Perspectives on Female Genital Mutilation, UNFPA, 2015
Girlhood, not Motherhood. Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy, UNFPA, 2015
UNFPA provides support, in terms of funding, knowledge management and capacity development to 98 countries, as they implement the Essential Services Package for women and girls subject to violence. In 2021, UNFPA in partnership with other UN agencies published a seventh module of ESP which provides guidance on estimating resource requirements for a minimum package of services.
UNFPA works to make gender-based violence prevention and response services available to marginalized groups, such as refugees, people with disabilities, displaced populations, and indigenous people across 97 countries. As an example of UNFPA's intersectional approach to GBV, the We Decide Programme addresses GBV against women and young persons with disabilities, through strengthened prevention and response including accessible GBV services. The programme also supports women and young persons with disabilities to access SRH services, exercise their reproductive rights, and be empowered to make their own decisions free from discrimination and violence.
Due to its wide network of Offices, UNFPA is present before, during and after disasters. 1.2 million people reached with services related to gender-based violence (prevention, risk mitigation and response) in 46 countries.
UNFPA Regional and Country Offices in 113 settings work to integrate GBV and SRHR services. For example, UNFPA provided integrated, quality services for gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health to 18,460 survivors in eight African countries.
In 2020, 76, 651 girls and women survivors or at risk of FGM received services in health care, social welfare, and access to justice.
Ending violence against women is at the core of UNFPA’s mandate, as reflected in the three transformative results to be achieved by 2030: ending the unmet need for family planning, ending preventable maternal deaths, and ending gender-based violence and all harmful practices against women and girls.
UNFPA is focused on accelerating and maximizing the positive impact of life-saving, gender-transformative GBV programming for women and girls in all their diversity, including escalating social norm change programme interventions to address the root causes of violence.
UNFPA contributed to the Generation Equality Forum from its outset, from advocating for the creation of a coalition on sexual and reproductive health and rights and becoming a co-lead in the Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, contributing to the GBV Action Coalition and providing technical contributions to the development of the Action Coalition Blueprint.
UNFPA works in partnerships with governments to develop legislation that is responsive to the needs of survivors and that is aligned with international laws and human rights standards. UNFPA provides technical, human and financial resources to support the development of national laws and largely engages with governments. By the end of 2020, as much as 96% of UNFPA Country Offices were involved in strengthening national legislation and policy. For example, in Kyrgyzstan, UNFPA contributed to the review of gaps in legislation resulting in expanded and improved services for survivors, increased awareness on gender-based violence and the utilization of new technologies during the pandemic. In the Gambia, UNFPA contributed to the approval of a law criminalizing FGM. And, in Nigeria the Violence Against Persons’ Prohibition Act has been adopted in 20 States in 2020 (bringing the total to 25 States).
UNFPA works largely in implementing prevention programmes that transform gender and social norms, as the root causes of gender-based violence. UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, led the development of the social norms manual. UNFPA works on comprehensive sexuality education as a GBV prevention strategy in more than 95 countries. In December 2020, under the Spotlight Programme in the Pacific - comprising 11 island states - UNFPA launched the 2020 International Technical and Programmatic Guidance on Out-of-School Comprehensive Sexuality Education, which has created a momentum across the region at the highest possible levels of political and faith-based leadership. In June 2021, UNFPA and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities organized a webinar with almost 300 attendees, on GBV prevention through CSE and the importance of engaging religious leaders and faith-based organizations.
UNFPA prevention efforts take an inclusive approach by engaging with men and boys and promoting positive masculinities that challenge gender inequality in 107 countries. Similarly, UNFPA implements gender-transformative programmes in 114 regional and country offices across all regions.
UNFPA GBV prevention efforts are guided by the RESPECT framework, co-produced with WHO and UN Women in 2019.
UNFPA, in partnership with other UN agencies and organisations, supports more than 20 countries to implement programmes aimed at eliminating and ending harmful practices.
The Ending Female Genital Mutilation Programme applies a gender-transformative approach to eliminate FGM, through which since 2008 30,182 communities, representing 42.4 million people, have publicly declared the abandonment of the practice, while 35.9 million people have participated in education, sensitization, and social mobilization sessions; and 69.6 million listeners have been reached through radio and TV programmes that promote the elimination of FGM.
The Global Programme to End Child Marriage since 2016 has empowered 7.2 million adolescent girls; provided education support to 500,000 adolescent girls; reached 4.2 million individuals through community dialogue and 31 million through media campaigns; assisted 24,000 facilities to implement adolescent girl-friendly health and protection services; and, enabled 22,000 schools to strengthen adolescent girl-friendly education.
UNFPA is also widely engaged in advocacy efforts and awareness-raising through online and offline activities. UNFPA is partnering with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership to advance the 16 Days Campaign, with a renewed focus on shifting from 16 days of activism to 365 days of accountability. And in advancing the GBV Disruptor initiative and the social media campaign - #IAmAGBVDisruptor.
Following the Generation Equality Forum in 2021, where UNFPA led the Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, a number of commitments were made to advance bodily autonomy, eliminate harmful practices and end GBV, including to empower women and girls in all of their diversity to make autonomous decisions about their bodies, sexuality and reproduction; and to end child marriage and female genital mutilation by scaling up what works. UNFPA also participates in the Gender-based violence action coalition and it’s committed to strengthen availability of and capacity to use data for ending GBV; to strengthen multi-stakeholder services to support victims and survivors of gender-based violence; and to strengthen prevention of gender-based violence.
GBV is increasingly a characteristic of conflict and is often perpetrated against women and girls; and, in some instances, has been used as a tactic of war, UNFPA collaborates with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and is a member of the Steering Committee as well as the Expert Advisory Group. UNFPA contributions are to ensure the particular needs of adolescent girls and women as a result of sexual violence are factored in efforts of the Special Representative to address reintegration. UNFPA contributed to the development of high-level papers and to the SG Reports.
UNFPA supports the global geospatial knowledge platform to assist in knowledge sharing related to the prevalence of intimate partner violence for 119 countries and their subregions. A geospatial dashboard on IPV was launched in December 2020, and an accompanying report on IPV data was published in May 2021.
During emergencies, UNFPA is a lead agency in enabling safe and ethical service data collection and management, including coordinating the GBV Information Management System (GBVIMS) Steering Committee (UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR, IRC and IMC). Online (Primero/GBVIMS+) and offline (GBVIMS) GBV case management and incident monitoring systems facilitate safe and ethical GBV data collection and sharing in order to support a continuous process of evaluation in the improvement and coordination of services to ensure that survivor-centered care is supported, and support quality service provision by providing a set of tools which help service providers to support survivors in an integrated manner. GBVIMS and GBVIMS+ are currently used by 159 non-governmental organisations (139 national and 20 international) and engage 12 UN entities in 25 countries.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNFPA was at the forefront in projecting the impact of women and girls. In April 2020, UNFPA, Avenir Health and Johns Hopkins University published modelled data on the impact of the pandemic on gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage. This model has been highly cited to exemplify the devastating effects of the pandemic on efforts to end VAW. UNFPA estimated that if the lockdown continued for 6 months, 31 million additional gender-based violence cases could be expected, and for every 3 months of continued lockdown, an additional 15 million additional cases of gender-based violence were to be expected. It was also estimated that 2 million cases of FGM and 13 million cases of child marriage that could have been otherwise prevented, would occur as a consequence of the pandemic.
UNFPA is undergoing a costing exercise for GBV programs at country level. By August 2021, the cost of UNFPA’s GBV prevention and response programmes had been estimated for 9 countries.
As of 2021, 15 GBV prevalence surveys and 24 countries have benefited from the kNOwVAW data capacity building initiative. This initiative also supported 9 countries in the Asia Pacific to publish reports with findings of a VAW prevalence survey.
In November 2020, the East Asia and Pacific Regional Offices of UNFPA, UN Women and UNICEF launched a joint study exploring and illustrating the interlinkages between violence against women and violence against children in four countries, namely Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Viet Nam.
In the East and Southern Africa Region, UNFPA and WHO co-developed and co-facilitated a joint training to support integrated SRHR and GBV services. The 6-week training had around 90 participants from 14 countries in East and Southern Africa.
As of August 2021, 128 participants from 35 countries are enrolled in the kNOwVAWdata course, to develop and strengthen their skills on safe and ethical VAW data collection, analysis and reporting.
With the Office of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, UNFPA convened an Expert Group Meeting to gather current and past research and information by leading media organizations, news entities and key women journalists on the status, consequences and causes of threats to women journalists worldwide. The findings and the submissions received following a call for input issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women contributed to the report the Special Rapporteur presented at the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020.The kNOwVAWdata initiative supports safe and ethical prevalence and administrative data collection, analysis and reporting through technical assistance as well as capacity development programmes. From 2018 to 2019, 65 UNFPA staff participated in the kNOwVAWdata curriculum course from 19 countries. In December 2020 the course was adjusted to an online format which enabled an additional 50 participants, from all regions, to undertake the course. Currently 32 UNFPA staff and close to 100 external participants are enrolled in the course curriculum from over 36 countries. Under the UNFPA flagship programme for disability inclusion, The We Decide Global Initiative, one key focus area is ending violence against women with disabilities and building UNFPA internal capacities accordingly. The UNFPA We Decide Disability Inclusion Guidelines have been implemented in 74 Country Offices. Within the scope of the Joint Programme for UN Partnership for Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) “Building Back Better for All”, UNFPA produced resources that strengthen disability inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery in connection to GBV and SRHR. UNFPA staff was trained on how to use these tools and resources.
Under the UNFPA flagship programme for disability inclusion, The We Decide Global Initiative, one key focus area is ending violence against women with disabilities and building UNFPA internal capacities accordingly. The UNFPA We Decide Disability Inclusion Guidelines have been implemented in 74 Country Offices. Within the scope of the Joint Programme for UN Partnership for Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) “Building Back Better for All”, UNFPA produced resources that strengthen disability inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery in connection to GBV and SRHR. UNFPA staff was trained on how to use these tools and resources.
UNFPA engages in advocacy and policy dialogue at national, regional and global levels, to accelerate action towards ending gender-based violence and harmful practices. By the end of 2020, as many as 114 UNFPA Regional and Country Offices were involved in strengthening national legislation and policy.
For example, Gender-biased Sex Selection and Son Preference programmes are spearheading a movement to end GBSS through the development of national costed action plans, policy and legal reforms as well as through a broad sweeping social movement aimed at changing harmful gender norms that drive male preference.
UNFPA has demonstrated capacity to adapt to the new circumstances derived from the COVID- 19 pandemic. Almost all UNFPA offices, that is 99% of offices in 108 countries, have adapted their GBV interventions to this new context.
Prevention and response services had to be moved to the online space and an increase in GBV, as well as additional threats and forms of violence have been reported across the world. UNFPA has effectively responded to these new challenges and the lessons learned will be applied to future regional and global challenges. For example, in Latin America, UNFPA created a regional Community of Practice for Essential Services to respond to violence in the context of COVID-19. In 2021, reports on the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality and GBV were published in Asia Pacific (“COVID-19 and Violence against Women: The evidence behind the talk”) and East and Southern Africa (“Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in East and Southern Africa”). These publications gather data on GBV during the pandemic which show an increase in reporting of VAW, including technology-facilitated violence.