This week, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock released $25 million from the UN’s emergency funds to help support women-led organizations that respond to gender-based violence, a Wednesday news release reveals.
The funding will go toward UNFPA and UN Women, which will channel at least 30% of those funds to other organizations that prevent violence against women and children and help provide survivors medical care, family planning, legal advice and mental health services and counseling.
“The COVID-19 pandemic helped reveal the full extent of gender inequality while creating a set of circumstances that threaten to reverse the limited progress that has been made,” Lowcock said in the news release.
UNFPA will receive $17 million, while UN Women will receive $8 million.
“It’s time to say ‘enough’ to gender-based violence and to prioritize the rights and needs of women and girls in humanitarian crises,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said in the release.
The announcement to fund such organizations came at the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, an international campaign that aims to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs from November 25, the date of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, which is Human Rights Day.
“The high levels of gender-based violence that women and girls experience, especially in countries that are in crisis and in need of humanitarian assistance, remains one of the greatest injustices in our world,” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in the release.
“Putting these resources into the hands of women-led organizations that respond to gender-based violence in humanitarian settings is essential to address the needs of survivors and to strengthen systems to prevent and promote accountability, so that we finally end this scourge,” she added.
The funding comes from the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), a humanitarian fund established by the United Nations General Assembly to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by underfunded crises.
UN Women has referred to increased physical or sexual violence against women during the COVID-19 crisis as a “shadow pandemic.” According to the organization's data from before the pandemic began, 1 in 3 women globally experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. However, evidence shows that calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries have increased since the pandemic broke out, as women have been forced to remain with their abusers in lockdown. In some countries, resources have also been diverted from initiatives that support women facing violence to COVID-19 relief.
In July, the nongovernmental organization Human Rights Watch urged governments to do more to prevent violence against women during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“Authorities everywhere should be worried about reports of rising gender-based violence in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns,” Amanda Klasing, acting co-director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, said in a news release. “Reports of increases in gender-based violence mask a larger risk that women in the shadows or margins of society will suffer violence without remedy or reprieve if governments don’t act quickly.”