This news was originally produced by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women
At a side event on 24 March, during the 65th Commission on the Status of Women, UN Women and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), together with the Governments of Sweden and Canada, met virtually to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work to prevent and end violence against women and girls.
[We] have to ensure grass-roots and feminist organizations are fully funded.”
— Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Arrow, Malaysia
A year after the first such virtual meeting on the topic, participants discussed the critical role of civil society and women’s rights organizations on the front line.
Asa Regner, UN Women Deputy Executive Director, kicked off the event by saying that women’s rights organizations “were the first to alert us [to] how measures to curb the spread [of COVID-19] were increasing violence against women,” and confirmed UN Women’s and the UN Trust Fund’s ongoing support for this vital work.
Women’s organizations on the front line of crisis response
Representatives of several UN Trust Fund grantees described the pandemic’s impact and how their organizations have responded and adapted.
We promptly adjusted our shelter services to ensure COVID protocols [were met].”
— Rashmi Singh, Programme Director of the International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care in India
Rashmi Singh, Programme Director of the International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care in India said that its helpline received almost 60 times more calls than normal at the height of the pandemic, as domestic violence services were excluded from the list of essential services. “We promptly adjusted our shelter services to ensure COVID protocols [were met],” she said.
Meliha Sendic President of the Center of Women’s Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina discussed how women survivors of violence often struggled to access justice.
Government representatives and participants also discussed and celebrated the leadership from women’s rights organizations.
Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, Global Affairs Canada, who moderated part of the event, said that “Canada’s COVID-19 response has prioritized addressing sexual and gender-based violence, promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights and supporting women’s rights organizations.”
The importance of flexible and long-term funding
A key message that emerged in the event from the experience of women’s organizations was the need for core, flexible and long-term funding. Participants highlighted the response of the UN Trust Fund, such as the implementation of its flexibility through its five-point action plan, and other funders during the pandemic.
Gaudence Mushimiyimana co-founder and Executive Director of the Rwandan Organization of Women with Disability said that additional core funding from the UN Trust fund in response to the challenges of the pandemic enabled the organization to pay for health insurance for staff, buy and distribute materials to reconnect with communities, and provide food and hygiene products to girls and women with disabilities.
A vaccine won’t eradicate violence against women.”
— Aldijana Sisic, Chief of the UN Trust Fund
Moving forward, Aldijana Sisic, Chief of the UN Trust Fund, said that once again civil society and women’s rights organizations had been the first responders to a health crisis. “A vaccine won’t eradicate violence against women,” she said; the work of these organizations will continue to be vital.
To this end, the UN Trust Fund will soon announce the award of USD 15 million to projects dedicated to ending violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19.
Note: The key recommendations from the meeting contribute to the International Women’s Day theme of “women in leadership”, the 65th Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Secretary-General’s call for investment in women’s rights organizations as part of the political engagement strategy in the pandemic.
Read the full news coverage here.