Good policy starts with good data, which is why the work of Together for Girls (TfG) begins with nationally representative Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS), led by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the TfG partnership. The VACS generate data on prevalence and incidence of physical, sexual, and emotional violence as well as risk and protective factors, consequences of violence, and access to services. VACS have generated data for almost 10% of the world’s youth population (aged 13–24). VACS data catalyzes and informs national action to prevent and respond to violence. With strong data to guide the way, national governments lead the development and implementation of a comprehensive multi-sector policy and programmatic response to violence against children (VAC).
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
The global #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign started on November 25 with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ended on International Human Rights Day, which was celebrated on December 10.
Throughout those #16Days, the World Bank’s message was clear: Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a global pandemic that has or will affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. Violence is not only a personal struggle for the victims, but also has severe consequences on social and economic outcomes.
"We want solutions that work and we want them now," said a community leader from La Ceiba during a meeting with national and international experts on the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Honduras. La Ceiba is one of the cities most affected by violence in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world at 90.4 deaths/100,000 people. More specifically, rates of violence targeted towards women and girls are also alarmingly high:
- A total of 27% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; some regions have rates up to 40%.
- Similarly to other countries around the world, the vast majority of the perpetrators are intimate partners or ex-partners.
As part of the World Bank's involvement in the #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, we'll be holding a discussion this Monday, December 7 at 9:30 a.m. EST (14:30 GMT) to look at how we can end violence against women and girls. Moderated by journalist Joanne Levine, it'll include gynecologist and Sakharov Prize winner Denis Mukwege, M.D.; pediatrician Nadia Hashimi; Imam Yahya Hendi from Georgetown University; the president of the Representation Project, Kristen Joiner; and World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region, Makhtar Diop.
Follow the live stream here and participate through the live blog hosted by experts in gender issues here at the Bank.
In Jordan, the violence against girls and women embodies the problem. The Jordanian government’s Population and Family Health Survey captures only a portion of the scale of violence against women. Social norms are at play; roughly 70% of Jordanian women think there are circumstances that justify a husband beating his wife. Over one-third (34%) of Jordanian women report that they have experienced some form of physical violence since the age of 15. One in three Jordanian women experienced some form of emotional, physical, and/or sexual violence from their spouse, and almost 1 in 10 experience sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.
One of the major concerns resulting from the survey is that almost half (47%) the women reporting violence did not seek any type of help, with less than 5% taking steps to address sexual violence. Very few women seek help from medical providers, police, lawyers or social service organizations.
Over the past four years the World Bank Group has been collaborating with the Justice Center for Legal Aid (JCLA) -- a Jordanian civil society organization -- to pilot legal aid services for poor Jordanians as well as Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. As is often the case, poverty status is a strong indicator of the likelihood of violence in Jordan. Poorer women were more likely to report all types of violence, and higher frequency of such violence. They are also more likely to believe such violence is justified.
The legal aid program provides awareness/information, counseling and legal representation by a lawyer to aid the poor in addressing legal problems. The majority of JCLA beneficiaries – just over 70% - are women. And one of the ‘justice gaps’ identified by JCLA is in providing effective legal services to female victims of violence.
Jordan adopted legislation to protect victims of domestic violence in 2008, giving victims, for the first time, access to protection orders – one of the most effective tools in addressing violence. Victims can also receive direct compensation. It also provided confidential proceedings and procedures to detain alleged abusers. A specialized institution – the Family Protection Department of the Ministry of Interior – was established to implement the reform, providing access to multiple services, including complaints/investigation, medical care and social counseling.
Yet the law left a number of gaps in place. It applies only to perpetrators living with the victims, so ex-husbands, boyfriends and brothers may not be covered, and the survey shows they are often the ones committing the abuse. It also leaves in place a heavy focus on reconciliation, to the possible detriment of protecting the victims. Lack of shelters for victims, along with the inability to link requests for child custody and child support with protection orders, may prevent many women from seeking help.
To date, JCLA’s assistance has been focused primarily around awareness and information for victims. This focus is now about to grow. With the assistance of the World Bank Group, JCLA is launching an initiative to provide more comprehensive services to women victims of violence. The plans include establishing a referral system in the Family Protection Department and placing a legal aid lawyer at each of the Department’s in-take centers.
What do we hope to achieve? There are several opportunities. The overarching goal is to ensure poor women can access services and achieve some level of justice to address the violence they suffer. More specifically, the referral system should aid in providing victims the legal services they need to initiate and navigate criminal proceedings, including obtaining and enforcing protection orders. Victims will also have assistance addressing legal problems commonly linked to domestic violence, such as divorce, child custody, child support and alimony.
As a lawyer, I volunteer my time representing poor persons, including women seeking protection orders, at the Superior Court here in Washington, D.C. I understand the importance of providing legal assistance to female victims of domestic violence, and am encouraged to see such an initiative launched in Jordan.
While the context of conflict and the climate of impunity that prevails create an enabling space for violations, perpetration of gender-based violence is ultimately tied to pervasive norms and dynamics that exist prior to conflict that sanction and reinforce men’s dominance over women and girls (or in some instances, marginalized or socially weaker men).
Numerous studies demonstrate that even after conflict ends, violence often continues in the home, as men who have experienced high levels of trauma and displacement during conflict are often likely to use violence against women and children. Dislocated from normative roles as providers and protectors, men’s experiences of conflict, trauma and deprivation contribute to feelings of disempowerment and loss of respect and authority.
Feelings of frustration, loss in self-esteem, depression, and disaffection can all manifest in negative coping behaviors, including aggression and partner conflict—whether physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence—as men attempt to reassert themselves and their authority in the home.
In order to address the drivers of gender-based violence, therefore, prevention and mitigation initiatives must tackle these entrenched dynamics and in particular should engage men and boys as critical partners in facilitating pathways for positive social change. This emphasis recognizes the multiple roles men play not just as perpetrators, but also as husbands and family members, as witnesses, as service providers, as community leaders and decision makers, and in some cases, as survivors themselves.
Importantly, attention to men’s experiences in conflict should not obviate the need to address the enormous challenges confronting female survivors of violence, nor is it meant to distract attention or resources away from gender-based violence response and empowerment programming targeting women and girls. But in order to better protect women and girls in these fragile spaces, we need to improve our understanding on how to work more effectively with men and boys to transform harmful dynamics that perpetuate, rationalize and justify violence.
Responding to this need, the World Bank supported several innovative initiatives working with men to address conflict-related gender-based violence in the Africa region. Through the LOGiCA trust fund, we partnered with Promundo—a leading organization working globally with men and boys to advance more equitable gender norms and positive models of masculinity—to test operational approaches on effective engagement of men and boys in gender-based violence programming in Goma and Luvungi in DRC, and in Burundi.
In partnership with Care Burundi, Women-for-Women International, Heal Africa and the Institute for Higher Education in Mental Health, Promundo developed and piloted group therapeutic and psycho-educational tools drawing from global best practices. Group therapy meetings were held weekly for 10-15 weeks with training modules intended to improve social bonds, promote shared decision-making and respect, promote positive, non-violent models of conflict resolution and coping mechanisms, and heal individual trauma. While the program predominantly targeted male participants, group sessions sometimes included female partners as well.
Findings from associated evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating improvements across a range of behaviors including reductions in stress and violence in the home, reductions in alcohol abuse and drinking, improved ability to manage frustration and aggression, increased sharing of income between men and women, and improved couple relations. Creating a safe space for men to engage also enabled formation of social relationships between participants, and many groups elected to continue the weekly meetings even after formal conclusion of the program.
Given the success of the pilot interventions, Promundo has since xpanded this work into a new initiative, entitled Living Peace: Men Beyond War, which currently is being implemented in DRC. Evidence emerging from this work also has important implications for post-conflict recovery programming in other fields, including demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, migration and forced displacement and interventions targeting youth at risk of engaging in violence.
While questions remain about sustainability of behavior change in the longer run, as well as effectiveness when brought to scale, this work presents an important contribution to our understanding of how to effectively engage men in preventing and mitigating against violence in communities and critically, within the home.
Why is the World Bank sponsoring a fashion show in India and an art show in Bangladesh? The answer is simple, we’re trying to find new approaches – creative approaches – to prevent gender-based violence (GBV).
Gender-based violence is a pervasive issue. On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner. Worldwide, 720 million women and 156 million men married before the age of 18, with child marriage most common in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. A 20-country study—where over 4,000 women and men were asked their views on gender differences — revealed that norms, beliefs and attitudes play a critical role in dictating behavior for both women and men, and the consequences for not keeping to these norms is often violence.
The sun sets this year on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include the elimination of gender disparities in education at all levels. Even though the number of countries that have achieved gender parity in both primary and secondary education between 2000 and 2015 has increased from 36 to 62, girls continue to face the greatest challenges, especially in access to secondary education.
The negative consequences of lack of education are visible throughout a woman’s life. An uneducated girl is less capable of making her own family planning decisions. A child bride is more likely to face health issues and psychological distress, and her children are more exposed to malnutrition and illiteracy. Education, thus, is fundamental to the development of both aspirations and skills: an educated girl is more capable of managing property and her finances, and has higher chances to have access to credit.
Women’s leadership and access to decision-making positions are also strictly dependent on educational attainment. In the long term, the lack of education affects a girl’s future capacity to seek and get employment and to have an income. Economic independence is reflected not only in a woman’s capacity to spend, save, acquire property and invest, but also in the freedom to get out of abusive domestic relationships, particularly economic violence.
To end violence against women, we must ask the fundamental question of what is going on with men – the main perpetrators of this violence – and why societies worldwide are producing so many violent men?
As we know from the seminal 2013 WHO report, gender violence has reached epidemic proportions: fully one third of women worldwide – nearly one billion women – will experience physical violence from a male partner in their lifetimes. The problem has persisted or even increased in rich and poor countries alike – across age groups, classes, cultures and races.
The time has come to shift our thinking and approach to the perpetrators of this violence. We need to turn our attention to the behavior and motivations of the men and ask a different set of questions. What is going on with the men who are committing these violent acts? Why do so many men use violence against women and girls – particularly their own family members? Why is men’s use of violence against women so commonplace across countries in the world today? And how do institutions perpetuate the practice of men abusing and violating women?
Before creating the comic book “Priya’s Shakti” we spoke with several rape survivors and their accounts were critical in developing our story. What they told us had a profound impact on everyone involved. We knew we had to create a compelling and inspiring character – Priya, who is a survivor of rape and the hero of our comic book.
While finishing the comic book, we realized that the process of drawing Priya made us more sensitive and aware of the struggles of the real-life women we interviewed and who influenced our character.
We observed that the internet and watching TV is a very passive endeavor and once it is over, the viewer is disconnected from what they experienced. But, drawing and especially telling the stories of survivors of gender-based violence was a very active process and had a lasting effect on the people who were involved. .