Ending violence against women: from rhetoric to action


The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, followed by the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, is a time to reflect on, renew, strengthen and develop strategies to deliver on commitments to end violence against women by 2030. Ending violence against women is possible, but only if we act together now, says the United Nations.
  • Opinion by Jacqui Stevenson (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
  • Inter Press Service

This has catastrophic consequences for the individual women affected, whose rights are violated, physical integrity and psychological well-being are undermined and health is damaged. It also impacts society as a whole, including the cost of providing services to respond to violence and the financial impact of violence itself.

While these costs are borne by various sectors, including healthcare, policing, social services and education, efforts to reduce or prevent violence against women often suffer from limited budgets and hidden funding streams. The invisible costs borne by women and their children, families and communities are also missing from many responses.

While nearly three out of four countries have policy infrastructure to support multi-sectoral measures to combat violence against women and girls, only 44 percent of countries report having a national budget line for the provision of health services to address violence against women. Recent analysis shows that foreign donors play a crucial role in funding GBV interventions, but that funding is limited, uncertain and inconsistent with human rights principles.

Bridging the gap between policy and implementation is critical if efforts to reduce violence against women are to have the urgency and scale required.

Ending violence against women is an urgent legal, moral and ethical imperative. Effective interventions to reduce, prevent and respond to gender-based violence in all its forms should be a priority for all governments. In addition to ending the violation of women’s human rights and perpetuating gender inequality that violence against women represents, interventions to end gender-based violence contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and, more generally, , to promoting the development of societies.

Effective coordinated investment is an important part of achieving this necessary goal, but it is important to underline that ending violence is not dependent on return on investment.

Recognizing the challenges posed by siled budgets, UNDP and UNU-IIGH collaborated on a project, with the support of the Republic of Korea, to produce new tools and evidence on “participatory planning and payment models”. These models involve diverse community stakeholders in defining their own solutions and building sustainable funding for local GBV action plans.

The approach prioritizes the need to work with diverse policymakers and stakeholders at the local level to find effective solutions to address violence against women that are both contextually relevant and locally led. The pilots were carried out in Indonesia, Peru and the Republic of Moldova.

Findings from these pilot projects have been published on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Importantly, the models center on women’s participation and leadership and women’s civil society, embedding women’s rights activists in local structures that develop the plans and budgets to address gender-based violence.

The core idea underlying the participatory planning and payment approach is simple: the benefits of reducing violence are shared by all, so the costs can also be shared. Different sectors can benefit from the financial benefits of reducing violence against women, but they are unlikely to adequately fund a comprehensive prevention and response program if they act in isolation.

Instead, by bringing these sectors together with local communities and other stakeholders, the project facilitated the development of Local Action Plans (LAPs) to address GBV, using participatory methods. Each LAP addressed locally defined priorities to prevent and respond to violence with targeted benefits across a range of health, economic and social sectors and issues.

The LAPs are budgeted, and just as the plan itself is participatory, so is the payment for its implementation, with ‘payers’ identified across all sectors and budgets pooled to maximize impact. Instead of siled budgets funding a mix of interventions and services with no coherent structure, funding streams are pooled to support a coordinated plan. Through collaboration, shared expertise and decision-making, and responsibility of the local community, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Implementing this innovative model is an inherent challenge. Particularly in resource-constrained environments, such as the settings for these pilots, there are competing demands for limited budgets and multiple priorities vying for attention and funding.

Breaking down silos to achieve shared funding is a politically contentious process, and centering the voices, priorities and rights of women, especially the most marginalized, is a challenge. An important lesson from the pilots is the need to ensure that senior decision-makers with budgetary responsibilities in key sectors and government departments are involved early in the process of developing LAPs to gain their support.

Despite the challenges, the benefits of shared budgeting and resource mobilization are clear. In Peru, UNDP conducted a groundbreaking study to estimate the costs of not preventing gender-based violence. The “Cost of No Prevention” study estimated the annual cost of GBV in the Villa El Salvador community (where the project pilot was implemented) to be nearly $72.9 million USD (in 2018 figures), including direct costs such as health care and indirect costs such as absence from work and loss of income, borne by the affected women, their children and families, networks and wider communities.

Cost estimates for the participatory planning process to prevent and respond to GBV were estimated at $256,000 USD over 2.8 years (including the costs of project initiation and tool and product development, so those will decrease in subsequent years). This is a clear demonstration of the value for money of participatory approaches to planning and payment models to address gender-based violence.

Failure to adequately prevent and respond to violence places the costs entirely on women. The “Cost of No Prevention” study estimated that 45% of the cost of GBV is borne by affected women themselves, including the cost of increased physical and mental health problems, out-of-pocket expenses and reduced income.

Another 11% is subsidized by households and 44% by the community, including missed school days for children who are victims of domestic violence, and the provision of emotional support, shelter and personal loans by others in the community. Inadequate funding, siled budgets and limited resources only increase costs for women, communities and societies.

Participatory planning and payment models provide a blueprint to fund and deliver the services and interventions that women need, want and are entitled to. In the end, someone has to pay the price for violence against women.

Dr Jacqui Stevenson is a research consultant leading work to generate new evidence on the intersections of gender and health, including GBV and COVID-19, at the UN University International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH).

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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