Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Studies Show How Violence Against Women Can Be Stopped

A new United Nations Population Fund report released today in New York does more than simply chronicle the extent of worldwide violence against women. It offers 10 case studies that show how carefully targeted and planned interventions can successfully reduce gender-based violence. Check out the cool online exhibition.

"We tried to form pressure groups within the community to discourage violence. Not only that, we also created opportunities for the community to plan their own programmes, and in that way the community began to own the project."
- National Programme Officer, UNFPA-Bangladesh

The UNFP Handbook Ending Violence Against Women, which is based on the report, summarizes specific "good practices" from the case studies. It includes points like:

  • Understand the local context, and recognize that culture is dynamic and people are willing to change. Identify and build upon positive cultural values.
  • Gather evidence and solicit expert opinion. Evidence is the most powerful tool to convince people that a change is needed.
  • Adopt a rights-based approach, empowering women to claim their rights. Also target men (especially men who have influence in the community), whose participation is key.
  • Allow space for community involvement, especially when tackling culturally sensitive issues. Involve people at a personal level. Tap the strength of community organizations. Engage local power structures, including faith based organizations.
  • Separate the values underlying a harmful practice from the practice itself. This is important because it means respecting the function of traditions that may be harmful and remembering traditions can evolve. Encourage change from within.
  • Work on legislative action, but follow up with advocacy to ensure enforcement. Use the health sector as one entry point. Build institutional capacity and forge alliances across sectors - for example, linking health services with legal services.
  • Expand women's options overall - for example economic self-sufficiency is important
  • Reach young people through education, in order to prevent the violence among the next generation
  • Caring for women and girls in need means considering the whole person, preserving confidentiality and establishing trust, and also protecting service providers
  • Be creative in raising awareness. They suggest using popular culture, like local celebrities as spokespeople, and trying to educate the media.

All of these points are supported with examples from the case studies. Via

What is conspicuously absent is a recommendation for forcing women (against their will) to change their style of dress. Or bombing a country to liberate its women.

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