The struggle to fight gender-based violence in crisis states

An important roundtable discussion looking at gender-based violence (GBV) programmes in (post-) crisis settings was held at UN House in Brussels last week. This issue is of crucial importance for women’s rights organisations operating in parts of the developing world. It is also one the EU has been working tirelessly to address.

In the last decade, GVB has received recognition as a systematic and life-threatening problem in states torn apart by conflict or destroyed by natural disasters. The international community has been mobilising for more attention to be brought to this problem. It has also begun providing increasing amounts of funding to address women’s and girls’ needs in these contexts. Thanks to these efforts, the number of organisations carrying out GBV programmes has grown. So too has the body of standards, guidelines and research that have laid the foundations for action.

Despite this enormous progress, however, GBV remains a relatively new field. There is still confusion among many within the humanitarian community about what a comprehensive GBV programme should look like. Very often the various pieces of programming – be it health responses, economic initiatives, efforts to improve justice or community-based programming – are presented as separate and/or competing activities.

Last week’s roundtable, organised by the Brussels Ad Hoc Working Group on Violence Against Women in Crisis, brought clarity to this issue by presenting the big picture of GBV programming. Amongst the panellists were Maha Muna, a Gender and GBV initiatives specialist from UNFPA; Luisa Cremonese, Senior Coordinator (Gender Equality) from UNHCR; Elisabeth Roesch, Women’s Protection and Empowerment Advoacy Officer at the IRC; and Rose Amulen, GBV Advisor for the Northern Ugandan Women Empowerment Programme.

They outlined the essential elements of a comprehensive response to GBV. They also discussed how humanitarian actors can work together to ensure holistic programming.

One of the big problems it seems to me is that many good policy declarations are not followed up by strong enforcement mechanisms. What’s more, in some states where coordinated efforts to tackle GBV are desperately needed, there has been a lack of international attention. The Côte d’Ivoire is a primary example. I will be using my position as a member of the Women’s Rights Committee to highlight these issues. I will also work with my Labour colleague on the Development Committee, Michael Cashman, to campaign for greater awareness.

1 Comment

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One response to “The struggle to fight gender-based violence in crisis states

  1. Daniel Oxley

    Mary gets right to the heart of the matter when she says that so many policy decisions are not followed up by strong enforcement mechanisms. To see how true this is, one only has to consider the great mountains of regulation the EU produces and how they are so widely ignored, except of course in the UK.