What Works backs ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ – a world where men and women have equal rights

How DFID’s What Works To Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls programme is advancing gender equality through economic empowerment, addressing social norms, and reducing violence at its core, from violence during times of conflict, to the everyday…

For many it might seem odd that we continue to need an International Women’s Day; after all, its 2016 and surely we’ve moved on. But we haven’t, and International Women’s Day isn’t just a token, it is a reminder that women are still not treated equally to men, right across the world. Across the globe women are subjected to shocking abuse, violence and sexual assault every minute of every hour of every day, and it is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality.

Unless we do more to understand the issue, and to understand what can be done to support women and girls, violence will continue to stop women and girls achieving their potential. Today violence against women affects one in every three in their lifetime – this is a human rights, security, and global health violation of endemic proportions.

In addition, violence against women and girls doesn’t only impact the individual. Little is known about the economic and social impacts of violence against women and girls and how these affect households, businesses, and communities. We need to recognize and understand the complex connections between violence and women’s empowerment – violence affects women’s work leading to lower productivity, lower earnings, and instability in employment potentially increasing risk of poverty. Equally those women who manage to find work in rigid patriarchal societies can often find themselves the victims of violence. Given these complex interactions there needs to be greater integration of attention to violence in economic and social policies that aim to reduce poverty, expand capabilities and enhance well-being.

And these violations are exacerbated further during humanitarian emergencies. Over the last few years we have seen commitments from the UK and US governments, from the UK Government’s Call to Action on Protecting Girls and Women in Emergencies, to the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, and the US Government’s Safe from the Start Initiative, which each highlight the will of humanitarian actors to improve policy and programming around prevention and response activities, but high-quality, rigorous research on violence against women and girls needed to understand the very specific forms it takes in conflict and humanitarian settings, how to address violence in diverse contexts, and the broader impact of violence on society and economy, is scarce.

Finally, the work on understanding what works to prevent violence against women and girls across 17 projects in 14 countries around the world will provide evidence to inform policy and programming. These projects, some of which are exploring new innovations, and other established interventions to prevent violence, will be rigorously evaluated to determine their efficacy in preventing violence and provide the evidence for scale-up. This includes 12 randomised control trials, and several of these include qualitative research. The interventions span economic empowerment, peace-building, social norms change, and includes interventions working with children, sex workers, men and people living in informal settlements.

DFID’s What Works programme, three inter-linked research programmes focusing on preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, is contributing towards bridging these gaps in evidence, conducting 28 research studies in total to produce rigorous research and evidence on the prevalence, forms, trends, and drivers of violence against women and girls; on effective prevention of and response to violence against women and girls, including in conflict and humanitarian settings; and on the economic and social costs of the same. Through this we hope to build a solid evidence base, which will lead to better approaches to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in development and humanitarian settings.

In simple terms we will be broadening our understanding of what violence against women and girls is, why it happens, and what works and what doesn’t work to prevent and respond to it. But most importantly our underlying principle is to shine a light on the experiences of women and girls that we speak to and use their voices to tell the humanitarian community how we can best support them, their families, and communities.

The different research streams within What Works will fill the gaps in our current understanding of how to successfully address violence, and in doing so contribute to opportunities for women and girls to fulfill their destinies in a meaningful, balanced and healthy way.

We are all committed to generating evidence, but also to translating our findings into well-documented and well-disseminated information for use across the world – including for all those incredible women and girls who have taken part in our research. We hope, together with our partners across the whole of the What Works programme, to effect concrete change in the lives of women and girls who have survived, or who are at risk of violence.

So we welcome International Women’s Day 2016, and the three inter-linked components which together comprise DFID’s What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls programme, back ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’, and hopefully even a little before…

www.whatworks.co.za for more information

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