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Sickening lack of funding for female safety

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The continued lack of funding “reflects the deeply entrenched inequalities of power”.

It is estimated that on average less than USD2 is allocated to each woman or girl at risk of gender-based violence – or male on female violence – in crisis and conflict settings by gender-based violence (GBV) services, according to new research by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Voice.

This although violence against women and girls is a global problem of epidemic proportions, with evidence showing that over one-third of women and girls globally will experience some form of violence in their lifetime.

This although regardless of where she lives, her religion or her culture, or what stage of life she is in, each woman and girl is a target of violence specifically because of her gender and the sex discrimination that persists globally.

The research, published recently in a report with the title Where’s the Money? How the Humanitarian System is Failing to Fund an End of Violence Against Women and Girls, found that funding to deal with violence against women and girls accounts for just 0.12 per cent of all international humanitarian funding.

It also found that in Nigeria, the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for 2018 requested USD40 million for 1.5 million women and girls, but the actual allocation was USD3.8 million.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), where in 2016 almost 28,000 reports of sexual violence were officially recorded, USD28.5 million was requested for GBV programming. According to the Financial Tracking Service, which tracks humanitarian funding flows, no funding was recorded at all.

Gender-based violence is exacerbated in emergencies, where vulnerability and risks are higher and most often, family and community protections have broken down.

Rohingya women arriving in Cox’s Bazar have reported rape at the hands of the Myanmar military, while in the refugee settlements, women and girls are often not allowed to leave their tents, isolating them from services and increasing their risks of violence from partners and family.

And in South Sudan, as many as 65 per cent of the women and girls there have experienced physical or sexual violence.

And sexual exploitation of women and girls in emergencies – including by aid workers and peacekeepers – is also increasingly being recognised as a problem that the humanitarian sector must address.

The report lays out five key recommendations: tripling funding levels, expanding gender-based violence specialists, promoting partnerships with local women-led civil society organisations, improving the reporting and tracking of investments and increasing transparency around donor investments.

The findings were shared by David Miliband, the IRC’s President and CEO, during a speech at Georgetown University, where he argued that the violence and injustice faced by women and girls in humanitarian settings should be tackled at the source by addressing inequalities of power, which, he said, was the essential lesson of feminist thinking.

He said: “The statistics show clearly that women and girls are doubly disadvantaged in humanitarian settings.

“Our approach should be to try and create a double dividend: tackle the symptoms of disadvantage but also address the power structures that generate them.

“We need to engage more systematically with the questions of power that are raised by feminist thinking.

“The evidence before our eyes, from our staff and clients in the places where we work, is that we will not be successful in delivering for our female beneficiaries until we address the inequalities of power they face, and to do that we need to address inequalities of power within our own organisation.

“Put another way, we cannot be a truly successful humanitarian organisation, defined by the outcomes achieved by and for our beneficiaries, until we are a feminist organisation, with equality between our staff, opportunities and barriers never defined by their gender, and understanding of inequalities of power and what needs to be done to overcome them driving our programs externally.”

Miliband also highlighted some of the ongoing efforts by the IRC to adopt a feminist approach, including developing a Gender Equality Scorecard to measure progress towards recruiting and retaining female staff, establishing a culture of respect and support for female staff and beneficiaries, and enacting minimum standards for gender equality in the organisation’s program quality assessment.

He called on the humanitarian sector to:

Set clear targets for delivery of support to women and girls caught in crisis within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);

Establish minimum guarantees in the humanitarian response to every crisis, including locks on latrines, adequate lighting in refugee camps, and comprehensive gender-based violence response programming;

Prioritise the voices of women beneficiaries and community leaders in humanitarian program design and assessment; and

Establish a Gender Equality Scorecard across the entire humanitarian sector with common targets, metrics, and data.

“Women in crisis will continue to be left behind as long as their most basic safety from sexual violence remains unaddressed,” Miliband said.

“The continued lack of funding for gender-based violence services reflects the deeply entrenched inequalities of power not just in the communities where we serve but in the humanitarian sector as well.”

To read the full report, click here.

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