News ID: 261012
Published: 0306 GMT November 02, 2019

British government takes global lead on violence against women, girls

British government takes global lead on violence against women, girls

Britain has become the biggest government funder of programs to prevent violence against women and girls globally after launching a seven-year project targeting countries with some of the highest levels of abuse.

The £67.5-million program will scale up projects that have already shown success in reducing violence across Africa and Asia, and will pilot and research new ideas to tackle the global crisis, the Guardian reported.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three women worldwide will experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly from an intimate partner.

But this global figure masks regional and national disparities. A survey conducted in Zambia showed that 64 percent of women said they had been sexually assaulted by their partner and 33 percent had been kicked, dragged, choked or burned. In South Sudan, a country experiencing a protracted humanitarian crisis, as many as 70 percent of women and girls who had been in a relationship said they had experienced some form of violence.

Launched by the Department for International Development (DfID) on Saturday, the program — What Works to Prevent Violence: Impact at Scale — builds on a previous initiative, launched in 2014, that gathered evidence about the scale and impact of violence against women and girls, and ways to stop it.

The £25-million program supported 13 small-scale projects in Africa and Asia — ranging from couples’ counselling in Rwanda, to introducing school play time in Pakistan — as well as research into the drivers, prevalence, and social and economic costs of violence.

Before the scheme, there was little evidence internationally on how to tackle violence in poorer countries.

A number of these pilot programs helped to halve levels of physical and sexual violence in less than two years.

In Tajikistan, visited by the Guardian last year, levels of violence against women in two regions fell from 64 percent to 34 percent following 10 weeks of counseling, skills training and mentoring. The percentage of men who said they were violent fell from 47 percent to five percent.

Suicide rates among women in these regions fell from 20 percent before the project to nine percent after, and for men, rates fell from 10 percent to nil. Women’s earnings increased. Fifteen months after the project ended, the successful gains were still evident.

Meanwhile, a project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that trained faith leaders to challenge abuse in their sermons reduced domestic violence by nearly 60 percent in 15 villages over two years.

“Violence against women and girls affects communities around the world and one in every three women will experience it in their lifetime. It is an issue we must continue to tackle in both developing and developed countries,” said the international development secretary, Alok Sharma.

“However, for women and girls living in extreme poverty the threat is even higher. Failure to address this issue is not an option and doing nothing condemns future generations to repeat this cycle of violence.”

More than £33 million of the new funding will be spent on expanding these successful projects, and adjusting and testing them in new locations. Another £10 million will be used to design and pilot new ideas and programs, particularly to research how violence can be tackled in times of conflict and during humanitarian crises, where levels of domestic violence increase.

DfID also wants to pilot programs that specifically target violence against adolescent girls and among people with disabilities, and address violence against children to stop it being passed down through generations.

DfID will target countries in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East.

The department hopes the success of What Works will spur other donors to fund similar programs that aim to prevent violence.

Charlotte Watts, DfID’s chief scientific adviser, said, “People think it’s going to take generations, but what’s so powerful about What Works is that it is not only showing we are preventing violence, but that these impacts are being achieved over two to three years. Strong evidence gives us the tools to argue the importance of investing in prevention.”

UN member states have committed to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030, a hugely ambitious target of the sustainable development goals.

But Watts maintains, “We are generating evidence that will clearly contribute to how we get there [to SDG target]. We are seeing declines in violence in some contexts. It will be country by country … Wherever we are by then [2030], we will be generating evidence to help us get further.

“We want to get to zero [levels of violence] … this will really help us get there.”





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