Gender-based violence: a global epidemic requiring committed and effective action

by 06th Jun 2014
A call to stop domestic violence in Uganda A call to stop domestic violence in Uganda © CARE

Violence against women and girls is one of the worst global epidemics. Studies show that gender-based violence (GBV) accounts for as much death and ill-health in women aged 15-44 years as cancer does. It is a greater cause of ill-health than malaria and traffic accidents combined. One in three women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. The shocking truth is that violence against women and girls takes place in all countries, in homes, workplaces, schools and communities.

Addressing gender-based violence is complex. One of the challenges is that it is often hidden from view. The same deeply entrenched social norms that give rise to GBV make it a private matter, something not to be discussed outside the family (or even within the family). Often, it is also invisible to those experiencing the violence, because it is so deeply woven into how an individual understands who they are as a man or a woman and their place in society.

Since GBV is often hidden from view, perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. Even in countries where violence against women is prohibited under law, such acts can go unreported or unaddressed since society views GBV as acceptable and chooses to stigmatise and blame women survivors.

Ending GBV therefore involves social change work at the deepest levels.

Analysing impact

CARE has worked on addressing this abuse for 20 years. In 2013, CARE implemented programmes in 23 countries to directly tackle GBV to reach nearly 320,000 people. In these countries, CARE also reached 800,000 people through strategies such as advocacy or media campaigns.

Given CARE’s extensive work on addressing this abuse, we felt it was critical to take stock of the impact of our work and use the learning from our programmes in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America to strengthen our response to this global epidemic. Our new report, Challenging Gender-based Violence Worldwide, analyses the impact of this work and how to build momentum to end the cycle of violence.

The report reviewed 50 programme evaluations carried out from July 2011 to June 2013 and includes the results of a survey with our partners, who gave us their opinion about how to strengthen our actions to stop violence against women and girls.

Successes and challenges

The review of CARE’s programmes has helped to identify successes and challenges. One of the most important findings from this review is that it is critical to scale-up innovative approaches to engage men and boys as part of comprehensive strategies to promote gender equality and GBV prevention. This can be achieved in several ways, such as integrating gender and tackling violence against women into the national education curriculum or building a movement of male activists and role models for promoting non-violent male identities.

From our programmes we have also learned that it is central to enhance CARE’s support for establishing national GBV action plans involving participation of civil society (particularly women’s organisations and movements) and affected people.

It is vital to call for global targets to reduce GBV to measure progress and promote accountability.

Our commitment

It is our commitment to use the learning from the review to work more effectively to end GBV through CARE’s future actions. The report also intends to increase CARE’s accountability to governments and civil societies based on its programme evidence. We believe strongly in the importance of transparency regarding our achievements, as well as our limitations. We feel that this openness will enhance our relevance and legitimacy, and ultimately improve the future quality and impact of our work, which is so vital given the scale of gender-based violence worldwide.

Sofia Sprechmann

I joined CARE in 1994 and am passionate about addressing gender inequality, having worked in solidarity alongside some of the most discriminated-against women to support their struggles, such as domestic workers, women working in the garment sector and survivors of gender-based violence. In my current position as CARE’s Programme Director, I am responsible for leading the organisation’s program strategy and its implementation world-wide, with the aim of making a significant contribution to fighting poverty and inequality and attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. Impact measurement and evidence is a critical part of my work, too. I am a sociologist and am from Uruguay.

Email: sprechmann@careinternational.org

Twitter: @SofiaSprechmann