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Global crisis of violence against women and girls: tackling it with new, better data use

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Woman bondage in angle of abandoned building , stop violence against Women, international women's day
Image: © Tinnakorn jorruang / Shutterstock

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 3 women were subjected to intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-partner over the course of their lifetime; the figures were even higher for a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. 

Now, almost two years into the pandemic, there have been alarming increases of intimate partner violence and other forms of violence against women and girls, as numerous studies show. This uptick makes increasing investments in prevention and response to violence against women and girls even more urgent. We need to invest better, leveraging accessible data on gender-based violence (GBV) and monitoring the impact of our actions.

The volume of data on violence against women and girls has increased over the last decade and data on sexual violence and intimate partner violence is now available for 162 countries. The World Bank’s gender data portal has 90 disaggregated indicators on violence against women. However, these data are often underutilized and can mask experiences of the most vulnerable women, like those who have been forcibly displaced. For example, a series of World Bank studies analyzed existing data from multiple countries to show that women in conflict areas, and those who had been forcibly displaced, experience higher rates of intimate partner violence. Data coming from these new studies confirm that intimate partner violence is more prevalent than sexual violence committed by armed actors. These studies demonstrate how data can correct and shape accurate narratives to inform policy and programmatic investments

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many existing services, deepening pre-existing inequalities and intensifying negative impacts on women and girls.

More governments now consider investments in GBV prevention a priority, and more projects around the world are incorporating work on addressing GBV into their development operations.  For example, a project in Niger prompted the establishment of Child Protection Committees to promote the abandonment of child marriage. This project ensured that married adolescent girls can access family planning assistance and that adolescent girls can remain in school in the event of pregnancy or marriage. An operation in Uzbekistan supports the implementation of legislation, which establishes a legal basis for police complaints against GBV, leading to the systemic protection of survivors, and a referral pathway compliant with WHO standards.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many existing services, deepening pre-existing inequalities and intensifying negative impacts on women and girls. Since health care settings are often the first point of contact for GBV survivors, it is even more fundamental to ensure that healthcare staff are trained to identify GBV cases and provide survivors with adequate information and care. 

Through its health operations, the World Bank supports governments to provide consistent quality services for GBV survivors who seek help. Using data from different sources (e.g., official surveys, UN agencies and NGOs), Bank teams worked with governments in Kosovo and Kenya to incorporate GBV support as part of their Emergency COVID-19 projects. Both operations support training healthcare workers to identify GBV cases, appropriately handle confidentiality and refer survivors by employing additional mental health workers. These measures help combat the spike of GBV following the outbreak of COVID-19. For example, in Kenya the number of reported GBV cases in March and April 2020 increased by 300% when compared to the same period in the previous year. 



The 2021 World Development Report: Data for Better Lives argues that having available, accessible and reliable data on violence against women and girls is crucial to informing policies in interconnected areas such as health, social protection, governance, and education to create effective solutions to address gender-based violence. 

For countries and communities to build back better after the pandemic, it is imperative to invest in preventing and responding to GBV and to ensure that women and girls are at the center of evidence-based and cross-sectoral policymaking.  Relying more on already available and carefully curated data can help policymakers design the best approaches to address violence against women and girls.


Hana Brixi

Global Director, Gender

Haishan Fu

Chief Statistician of the World Bank and Director of the Development Data Group

Juan Pablo Uribe

Global Director, Health, Nutrition & Population and the Global Financing Facility, World Bank

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