Across the world, communities are facing increasing instability and upheaval due to climate change, violent conflict, and public health crises. The impact is nearly universal, affecting men and women, rich and poor, across every continent. However, in times of crisis, women and girls face disproportionate harm that results from the catastrophes, including higher rates of violence, exploitation, and discrimination.
From November 25-December 10, as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, Women’s Learning Partnership will share how different crises exacerbate GBV and stories about how women are working to end GBV around the world.
The Climate Crisis and Gender-Based Violence
On November 30, government representatives and climate activists will convene in Dubai for COP28, the latest in a series of international climate change conferences that have been held since 1995. Women’s rights activists are bringing the facts and figures of GBV to COP28, and demanding that resources be alloted and solutions promulgated that recognize gender disparities in the harms caused by climate change. Among the most striking impacts of climate change has been how it leads to an uptick in GBV. When communities become stressed due to economic instability, food insecurity, and mental anxiety that are a result of climate change and natural disasters, various forms of GBV increase.
Meet the women-led organizations addressing gbv and the climate crisis
Women and girls’ safety, livelihood, health, and education have been disrupted across Pakistan following two disastrous years of flooding. Aurat Foundation/ WLP Pakistan is working to ensure disaster relief efforts include gender-sensitive approaches that ensure the safety and well-being of women and girls.
Pakistan experienced catastrophic floods in 2022, costing billions and causing a humanitarian crisis. The country was still reeling a year later as the monsoon season began again, and further flooding caused additional deaths and destruction.
Displacement and overcrowded living conditions that result from flooding disasters put women and girls at greater risk of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment and assault. Lack of lighting and privacy in relief camps compound safety concerns.
Addressing these challenges required a gender-sensitive approach to disaster response and recovery efforts. To ensure that the specific needs of women and girls were not overlooked in relief efforts, Aurat Foundation organized the "Motherland Flood Relief Campaign." Aurat mobilized its network of hundreds of volunteers to provide women and girls with clean water, food, medicine, women's hygiene products, and other essentials.
Aurat’s network of local humanitarian organizations, international NGOs, and donors enabled Aurat to ensure that relief resources reached women and to advocate for women’s participation in decision-making processes throughout the crisis and recovery phases. Aurat continues to work to prevent human rights abuses and the exploitation of women and girls impacted by the flood.
In Senegal, increasingly unpredictable rainy seasons and the desertification of once fertile soil are making socio-economic challenges worse for women farmers. As access to resources decrease due to climate change, women face increased threats of gender-based violence.
WLP’s partner in Senegal has taken a multi-faceted approach to climate action that trains women farmers to be advocates for their rights, lead cultural change to end GBV, and enhance the technical skills to combat environmental degradation in their communities.
As the planet faces severe climate challenges, violence is often employed to deprive the most vulnerable of life-sustaining resources. Male-run community organizations in Senegal control agricultural decisions even for women landowners, separating them from productive resources and creating tense situations where control over increasingly scarce and degraded land can lead to violence.
For over a decade, GIPS-WAR / WLP Senegal has implemented programs that have led to greater access to land rights for women. By having more control over the land they farm, women have greater economic and food security, both of which are protective and preventative factors against Gender-Based Violence. GIPS-WAR’s network of women farmers’ groups across Senegal works tirelessly to address both the causes and the impacts of gender-based violence experienced by women farmers in climate change-affected areas.
Studies have shown that greater economic and food security, help protect against and prevent gender-based violence. Research has also found that rural communities with secure land rights are often better environmental stewards. For decades WLP’s partner in Morocco, ADFM, have been working with the Soulaliyate women of Morocco to secure their right to communal land, which has helped advance both gender justice and climate justice in their communities.
Since 2007, ADFM has held dozens of leadership workshops reaching hundreds of Soulaliyate women, advocacy events, and meetings with policymakers and community leaders. This work has led to many victories for the rights of the Soulaliyate women including financial compensation for previously transferred lands, appointments to land governing bodies, and land allotments.
This year, ADFM and the Soulaliyate women of Morocco are celebrating the formation of an independent Soulaliyate-led CSO. This organization will continue to advocate for the rights and security of rural women after decades of training, mentoring, capacity building, and legal reform successes, alongside ADFM.
In the north-east of Kyrgyzstan environmental degradation caused by negligent mining practices has had a devastating impact on women’s sexual and reproductive health. WLP’s partner, Bir Duino is working with impacted women to seek justice and secure the future of their communities.
The Kumtor Gold Mine is the largest open-pit mine in Central Asia. In 1998, a mining truck overturned and discharged two tons of sodium cyanide into the Barskoon River, the only source of drinkable water for the surrounding villages. The spill caused several deaths and over 17,000 people sought medical attention after the spill.
Twenty women experienced miscarriages after the incident, while others were forced by authorities to terminate pregnancies in order to conceal possible birth defects. Since the catastrophe, women’s health in the area has worsened due to the government’s failure to provide health services to those affected.
In recent years, Bir Duino has brought the communities around the Kumtor gold mine together, to conduct a full investigation into the lasting environmental damages and health issues of residents. The community members, with the support of Bir Duino, have published a report with a list of demands for government officials, mining executives, and UN leaders to address the damage caused by the mines and to protect the rights of impacted residents.
Conflict and Gender-Based Violence
When living in conflict zones women face increased threats of gender-based violence, facing heightened risks of sexual assault, abduction, and forced displacement. The pervasive nature of GBV not only inflicts immediate physical and psychological harm but also perpetuates cycles of trauma, hindering women's ability to participate fully in post-conflict reconstruction and development. Around the world WLP is working with our partners to support women impacted by conflict to access psycho-social resources, engage in peace-building processes, and to advocated for the rights of women in their communities.
Meet the women-led organizations advancing women, peace, and security
A group of civil society organizations in Nigeria is working together to provide internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and refugees in Nigeria with protection from gender-based violence. The UNHCR estimates that there are about 2.1 million IDPs in Nigeria, primarily due to the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeastern region of the country.
Since 2018, WLP Nigeria/CEADER’s women, peace, and security initiative has brought over 800 activists and IDP women together to build alliances and influence the reform of policies and practices concerning IDPs, refugees, and peacebuilding.
Partners of the women, peace, and security initiative in Nigeria are making sure that internally displaced women and girls understand the protection offered by the 2015 Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP). VAPP prohibits acts of gender-based violence including rape, female genital mutilation, denial of inheritance, and forced marriage and aims to provide “maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders.” For the law to have its greatest impact it must be adopted by all Nigerian states; currently 28 out of 36 states in Nigeria have adopted the VAPP.
In 2020 partners of the women, peace, and security initiative established a sexual gender-based violence case management committee in Bauchi state, in northeastern Nigeria. The committee is composed of state ministries, hospitals, and civil society organizations that support IDP survivors of gender-based violence and ensure they are given the resources needed to seek justice and security.
To date CEADER and its women, peace, and security partners have trained and supported dozens of women in northeastern Nigeria as they continue to advocate for IDP rights and safer communities.
In the wake of regional conflicts and political instability across Central Asia, WLP partners in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are working to promote women's involvement in setting peace and security policies and initiatives. Women, peace, and security (WPS) advocates face challenges due to a lack of awareness of women's human rights mechanisms, gender disparity in political institutions, and high rates of sexual violence with little documentation.
In Central Asia, SWRC and Bir Duino are working with gender experts and women’s rights activists, bringing WLP’s curricula on women’s human rights, like the WLP manual Beyond Equality, to their partners and networks in order to promote the WPS agenda.
SWRC has held multiple national workshops on ending gender-based violence in conflict and ways to ensure that the experiences and recommendations of women are included in peace-building processes and security policies across Central Asia. After attending these trainings women have mobilized to open a new women’s information center in Kazakhstan, and activists in Uzbekistan are opening a new department dedicated to UNSCR 1325 and promoting WPS in the country.
WLP strongly support our partner in Kyrgyzstan - Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino - in condemning the recently drafted law on “non-commercial non-governmental organizations” in Kyrgyzstan.
This International Youth Day WLP is celebrating the spirit of young leaders across our Partnership and the transformative power of their poetry. Please consider donating to WLP’s work with youth. WLP provides mentoring and training to young women and men, empowering them to become advocates for equality.
Across borders and languages, poetry has been a powerful tool for driving social change.