From November 25 to December 10, Women's Learning Partnership (WLP) is again participating in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign to build awareness of and end violence against women and girls (VAWG). UN Women has named violence against women and girls during COVID-19 “the shadow pandemic.” This shadow pandemic is an enduring issue facing women and girls. Gender-based violence (GBV) is pervasive across all social, ethnic, and economic groups, exists in all countries, and can exacerbate other issues of inequality, including racial injustice, economic inequality, and elder discrimination.
This year WLP’s Partnership-wide digital campaign for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence amplifies the voices of survivors of GBV from across our partner communities and the voices of activists working to end GBV.
Visit this blog post every day to read new stories about the women and men working to end this shadow pandemic during COVID-19 – now and forever. You will also find strategies used by our partners around the world who lead efforts to end GBV at the national, regional, and international levels.
Together we can end the shadow pandemic of our present and for our future.
Content Warning: Survivors stories maybe include elements of physical and psychological abuse
Day 16 | Together We Can End GBV
In the WLP film From Fear to Freedom: Ending Violence against Women, Thoraya Obaid, Chair of the Women 20 (W20) and former Board Chair of WLP, said, “People make culture and people can change culture. But it does take contesting the values that are wrong, dialogue, and bringing the community to sit together and look at these issues and say, how do we move together to bring about this change?” The 16 Days against GBV campaign is just such a global call for change, to ensure that our cultures respect the right of women and girls to live free from violence.
For 20 years the WLP Partnership has worked toward our shared vision of societies that are governed by gender-equitable norms, legislation, and policies that translate into equal rights and equal levels of participation and decision making for women and men in the family, community, and politics. This includes ending GBV in all of its forms, so that women can participate safely and fully at every level of society.
From June 2019 - July 2020 the Partnership held more than 80 advocacy events and workshops on women’s leadership and ending violence against women. WLP’s learning center holds more than 100 resources on ending violence against women for activists, like the WLP partners, who are working on ending GBV in their communities. The resiliency and creativity of women and girls know no bounds and no borders. Together, with a shared vision for change, we can end the shadow pandemic of GBV during COVID-19 and beyond.
Day 15 | WLP Partners Advocate to End GBV
Throughout the 16 Days Campaign WLP’s partners have been active, launching new initiatives to support survivors of GBV in their communities, holding trainings on women’s political participation to end GBV, and using social media to publish demands and strategies that will lead to a world where women and girls are free from violence:
- On November 25, WLP Jordan/SIGI-J launched the Fatima network, a Jordanian civil network that will support and protect women and girls from GBV in emergencies and crises. They also launched the AMAN digital clinic, which is a specialized platform for providing support services such as listening, counseling, protection, and urgent interventions for women and girls experiencing human rights violations, with a specific focus on issues related to addressing different forms of GBV.
- On December 8, WLP Brazil/CEPIA launched a similar virtual platform aiming to combat violence against women in their country. The platform is part of a project with UNFPA Brazil, the Canadian Embassy, and the Netherlands Embassy, which aims to create a multilateral response to GBV during COVID-19 in Brazil.
- WLP Kyrgyzstan/Bir Duino supported the translation and dissemination of a new glossary of terms on sexual and gender-based violence published by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
- In Nigeria, WLP’s partner CEADER held a leadership program for students in Lagos that encouraged students to speak out against all forms of GBV and prepared them to lead during the pandemic and beyond.
- WLP Indonesia/WYDII conducted an online training on overcoming internal and external human rights challenges for the LGBTQ community.
- On November 30, Executive Director of WLP Egypt/FWID, Enas El Shafie, spoke at symposium that discussed violence against women in the media at the International Media College in Egypt.
- WLP Mozambique/Forum Mulher released a video with statistics on women’s political participation and inclusion in national election bodies.
- In Malaysia, WLP’s partner AWAM produced a video on the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Malaysia’s implementation of CEDAW to protect women and girls from violence and discrimination.
Despite restrictions on movement during the pandemic in some countries, WLP partners around the world have found creative ways to safely and effectively raise awareness about GBV and to lead movements to end GBV in their communities. For a full list of all of our partners' work during the 16 Days against GBV click here.
Day 14 | Economic Violence and Equal Inheritance
According to a World Bank report, 75 countries still limit women’s rights to manage their assets, including land and/or properties. Women’s economic empowerment is closely linked to the elimination of GBV. Having equal access to inheritance of property and assets would support women’s economic independence and their ability to lead a life free from violence.
WLP’s partner in Morocco, ADFM, works across national and regional networks to ensure women’s equal access to inheritance and land. For more than a decade, ADFM has worked for the recognition of Soulaliyate women’s right to their collective lands (Soulaliyates is the name given to tribal women who have lived for generations on collective lands in Morocco). As the lands have been seized by the government and/or privatized, much of the compensation and other benefits have gone to men. Single, divorced, or widowed women are frequently left with no land, no income, and no prospects:
ADFM’s training [on inheritance rights] allowed me to understand the issue of inheritance in Morocco. The facilitators of the training encouraged all the participants to intervene and discuss, without feeling embarrassed. I really have learned how to share my knowledge. Now, I will be able to organize my own training, intervene in situations, and help improve others’ skills [on this topic]. - Participant of WLP Morocco/ADFM Inheritance Rights Training
ADFM’s advocacy campaigns and trainings for women’s access to inheritance and land rights continue. Their work with Soulaliyates has had numerous significant successes, including the issuance of three ministerial circulars providing for equality between women and men in terms of access to land; the government’s launch of a national dialogue on reforming the legal status of collective lands; and Soulaliyate women's election to and participation in land management bodies and decision-making positions. In July 2018, for the first time in Morocco, Soulaliyate women from Kenitra Province were awarded land allocation and compensation equal to men. And to crown this advocacy process, parliament passed law 62.17 on collective land, which was published in the official bulletin in August 2019; this important law takes into consideration the rights of women and has created a lot of hope among Soulaliyate women.
Currently, ADFM is working to identify the mechanisms to be implemented within the Soulaliyate women's movement to ensure law enforcement monitoring, in order to guarantee effective equal access of women and men to the land and its representative bodies. Read more about ADFM’s partnership with the Soulaliyate women here.
Day 13 | Slavery and GBV
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, 71% of the victims of modern-day slavery are women and 1 in 4 victims of modern-day slavery is a child. These types of slavery include sex-trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, domestic servitude, and forced and early marriage.
WLP Mauritania/AFCF and other activists in Mauritania are advocating to end descent-based slavery in the country. In 2015 Mauritania passed anti-slavery legislation, but activists have warned that the law was enacted only to appease foreign countries and that there is a reluctance to enforce the law or investigate allegations of slavery. In an interview with the international news agency Le journal Afrique Aminetou Mint Moctar, Executive Director of WLP Mauritania/AFCF, shares about her anti-slavery activism:
When I was young, about ten or eleven years old, I was drawn to the national leftist movements in my country. This is what triggered my attack on slavery - I think slavery is a crime against humanity, thus it must be denounced by all. As a woman and a marginalized person, just like many other women, the traditions and the false interpretation of religion work to keep people enslaved. No country can develop, especially Mauritania, when more than 50 percent of people are enslaved by descent. - Aminetou Mint El Moctar, Executive Director, WLP Mauritania/AFCF
AFCF continues to monitor the implementation of Mauritania’s anti-slavery legislation and to advocate for those affected by slavery in the country, especially women and girls. You can read more from the interview with Aminetou Mint El-Moctar on ending slavery in Mauritania here.
WLP partners in Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mozambique work closely with their communities to end modern-day slavery practices that affect women, such as forced marriage and domestic servitude.
Day 12 | Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
According to a 2018 report from the World Bank, in 59 countries there are no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace. The official 16 Days against Gender-Based Violence campaign reported that GBV in the workplace can negatively impact job satisfaction and commitment, increase sickness absenteeism and turnover rates, and even impact women’s reproductive health.
Women must not be forced to decide between their health, personal goals, and employment. A woman in Brazil shared with WLP Brazil/CEPIA how she was forced to choose between starting a family and staying employed:
My former boss told me he wanted to offer me a better position at work, but in order to do so I needed to promise him that I was not going to get pregnant in the following year. At the moment I was silent and did not respond. But then, I went home and I started to cry and to feel very bad as a professional, as a woman, and as a person who needed to postpone the dream to be a mother. I then decided not to accept my boss' conditions and did not accept the promotion. I quit the job and became pregnant a month later.
Women’s right to a safe and healthy workplace can be protected by ratifying key international treaties like ILO C190, providing safe avenues for women to report sexual harassment in the workplace, and supporting the implementation of national policies to criminalize discrimination.
In Malaysia, WLP’s partner AWAM is advocating for the passage of a bill that would extend the definition of sexual harassment to encompass public spaces, provide more accessibility, protection, and privacy for survivors, as well as looking at sexual harassment cases from the perspective of victims to better handle their cases. AWAM has been meeting with parliamentarians to educate them on this legislation and has launched a petition that now has over 15,000 signatures, which allows the public to show their support for the bill.
Day 11 | GBV in Schools
According to a study done by the Center for Global Development, which surveyed girls from 10 countries in a 12-month period, more than 400,000 girls reported being sexually abused at school. The same report noted that teachers are often the perpetrators of sexual abuse. Unhealthy power structures and victim stigmatization can make it extremely difficult for survivors of this type of abuse to report their experience or find justice.
In Brazil, a young woman shared with WLP Brazil/CEPIA how sexual harassment by a teacher affected her:
When I was 16 years old I received a proposal from a teacher: I would get high marks at my exams in exchange for intimate photos. He already had this past story with other students, but unfortunately, there was no action taken by the school. Today, at 18, I still can't look at him without feeling uncomfortable and intimidated.
WLP partners are training women to disrupt hierarchical structures and institutions that perpetuate GBV. In Nigeria, an investigative journalist named Kiki Mordi attended a training hosted by WLP Nigeria/CEADER on preventing GBV. In a follow-up evaluation, Mordi said that her participation in CEADER’s programs contributed to her resolve to report on gender issues. As part of her work, Mordi collaborated with the BBC to produce a documentary that exposed university professors who demanded sex from students for grades and admission into higher institutions in Nigeria and Ghana. It has increased public condemnation of sexual violence against women and girls, and has resulted in the reintroduction and passage of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill in the National Assembly.
Day 10 | Economic Violence
Economic violence is a lesser-recognized form of GBV in which women and girls’ livelihood opportunities and decision-making abilities are limited or controlled. When women do not have access to financial security they may feel trapped or forced to stay in abusive environments. In a 2019, report by the World Health Organization on preventing GBV, poverty reduction is listed as one of the 7 implementing strategies to prevent GBV. The report lists three ways to reduce poverty for women which include: economic transfers, including conditional/ unconditional cash transfers; labor force interventions, including employment policies, livelihood, and employment training; and microfinance or savings interventions.
In Jordan, WLP’s partner SIGI-J intervened on behalf of a woman facing economic violence at the hands of her husband:
Mrs. S. got married at the age of 45 to a widowed man of 55. Her husband used to ask her to help him with the expenses. If she was not able to find the required amount, he would insult and curse her, and occasionally he kicked her out of the house.
The cost of the rent piled up. Mrs. S’s husband asked her to take out a loan, promising her he would pay the loan’s instalments. He took the cash and used it to pay off his dues. After a while, the loan company started asking her to pay and she did not know what to do since she did not work and did not know where to get the money. So she told her husband he had to pay and he told her she would not have to be worried about it because he was ready to pay the loan back. When she went for treatment to a government hospital, she found out she was wanted. She was arrested by the hospital police [for not repaying the loan]. When she entered prison, her husband divorced her, being afraid of shame and embarrassment in case people would have known that his wife had been imprisoned.
SIGI-J intervened and provided Mrs. S with counseling services and put her in contact with one of the associations that help women in debt, which finally helped her pay off the debt.
WLP partners, like SIGI-J, are providing women in vulnerable economic situations with resources and support. In Pakistan, the Aurat Foundation is increasing the economic empowerment of poor people and dependent family members, including women and youth, through the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). BISP initiatives have reduced poverty and promoted a more equitable distribution of wealth in Pakistan through Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCTs), Conditional Cash Transfers, vocational training, interest-free microfinance loans, and healthcare for vulnerable persons.
Many of our partners have reported an increase in women’s economic vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic. WLP Indonesia/WYDII responded to the economic vulnerability of mothers in the informal sector who lost income due to COVID-19 by providing them with food provisions. WYDII organized a “Dollars for Mothers” campaign to raise funds for families in the East Java province. These efforts helped to relieve some of the stress women face during the pandemic. Building women’s capacity to be financially secure and independent will play an important role in ending GBV during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Day 9 | GBV an Inequality in the Family
GBV is very closely tied to inequality in the family. For centuries, discriminatory traditions, customs, and laws have justified women’s subordinate position within the family. GBV has been a tool to reinforce this hierarchy, as is the case with domestic abuse or female genital mutilation (FGM). It has also been an outcome of inequality in the family, since women and girls lacking power or resources are less equipped to protect themselves against GBV. The discriminatory and restrictive practices and gender roles can be passed down and enforced by any family member, including other female family members.
One woman shared with WLP Brazil/CEPIA the verbal and psychological abuse she experienced by a member of her family:
GBV contaminates almost all relationships. In my case, in particular, it is within my family that this contamination becomes very evident and difficult to digest. One day I was making lunch at my grandmother's house when my husband entered the kitchen asking where the child's backpack was because he had to change our baby’s diaper. Immediately my grandmother turned around saying that I should go and change the diaper. On another day, I was still eating at the table and my husband started to take the dishes off, helping my mother. My grandmother looks at me and says that it was unacceptable that a man cleaned the table, that I shouldn't let him [and do it myself].
In 2017, WLP launched the global campaign, Equality Starts in the Family, which advocates for gender equality within and outside the home so that women and girls are afforded equal rights and opportunities in all walks of life. The campaign focuses on reforming discriminatory family laws and the culturally determined structures, roles, and beliefs that perpetuate gender discrimination. Read more about WLP’s Equality in the Family campaign here.
Day 8 | Safe Streets
According to a 2020 study by UNOPS, infrastructure can positively influence the achievement of 92 per cent of targets across all 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including SDG 5 on gender equality. Better street lighting and safe and accessible public transportation are just a few examples of how infrastructure can be improved to protect and empower women.
In Nigeria, a young woman shared her story of being attacked on a dark street and how she is using her experience to advocate for the safety and equality of other women and girls:
I was returning from church one fateful evening, when a man sprang out of the darkness. He raised a cutlass and I froze in my steps. "If you run, I will chase and strike you," he said, and I began to shake. I started begging him to not hurt me. I felt I could not outrun him, so I bargained with my phone- it was the only thing I had with me other than my Bible. As he relaxed his hands and dropped the cutlass to snatch the phone from me, I ran and kept running till I got to the other side of the valley.
For weeks, I couldn't walk that same road to church to avoid reliving the scenario and it made me afraid... of men, generally because I knew it could have gone south; a girl was reportedly raped a few days before that same incident. I tried talking to people about it but the unfortunate response I got was, "Why are you walking alone at night?" And so, I stopped talking about it.
This incident made me outspoken against harassment of women and an advocate for gender equality. I also launched a blog, Forbidden Topics, to amplify stories like mine and help others gain the courage to speak out.
WLP’s partner in Nigeria, CEADER, hosts training workshops for women to enhance their leadership skills. Training participants develop advocacy programs to implement in their own communities on topics such as ending GBV, providing survivors of GBV with resources and counseling, or creating safe spaces for women and girls in their communities.
From June 2019 - July 2020, WLP partners across the Global South conducted 48 advocacy events on ending GBV and held 38 workshops on women’s leadership or ending violence against women.
Day 7 | Administrative Detention & Family Violence
In 2018 the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes released a report that estimated that 50,000 women and girls are killed every year by an intimate partner or family member. In some cases, these murders are committed in the name of preserving a family members honor.
In Jordan, the Prevention of Crimes Act No. 7 gives governors the power to detain persons administratively. The act was initially meant to detain persons who represent a threat to the community and to prevent them from committing a crime. However, WLP Jordan/SIGI-J found that many women are administratively detained due to having family issues or being in danger of becoming victims of so-called honor crimes. According to a 2019 report from Amnesty International, 149 women were detained under administrative detention and over 1,000 women had been released from administrative detention the first six months of 2019. SIGI-J shared the experience of one woman in Jordan as she tried to gain financial independence to escape an abusive home, but was administratively detained. For her safety she is referred to as “Y.” here:
After Y. reported to the Family Protection Department in Jordan that her brother physically abused her, her brother signed a pledge not to harm her. However, it didn’t take long before he ignored this pledge and began abusing her again. She ran away from home and started working far away from her house to support herself. Her brother found her and accused her of having damaged the family honor. She was arrested at her workplace and placed under administrative detention, because of the threat against her life by her brother. SIGI-J’s Effat Center intervened and Y. was provided with psychological and moral counseling. Her brother was also contacted to resolve the problem, but he was not at all cooperative. He did not want to bail her, but rather he wanted her to remain imprisoned so she would not go out and “bring the family shame” as a divorced woman. Y. was helped by the administrative governor, in cooperation with one of the clan elders, and was able to bail herself out. After leaving prison she returned to work again away from her family.
SIGI-J works closely with women under administrative detention by providing them with legal, psychological, and family counseling. They also advocate for more safe houses that offer security, counseling, and resources for at-risk women instead of administrative detention.
In 2017 WLP launched a global campaign, led by WLP's partners, to reform discriminatory laws and end practices, such as “honor” crimes, that begin at the level of the family. Read more about the campaign and our partners work for equality in the family here.
Day 6 | Labor Rights and Workplace Discrimination
Only two countries, Fiji and Uruguay, have ratified the International Labour Organization Violence and Harassment Convention 190. Argentina is on its way to becoming the third country to ratify ILO C190, which recognizes everyone’s right to a world of work that is free from violence and harassment, including GBV.
Our partner in Brazil, CEPIA, shared the story of a new mother’s experience with discrimination and harassment in the workplace when she insisted on exercising her labor rights. Her story demonstrates why international treaties like ILO C190, along with national and local legislation to protect women, is so important in the workplace:
I am a medical doctor, I work at a psychiatric hospital and when I was in the last month of my pregnancy, I asked to be transferred to another department. I used to work in the crisis department and was exposed to a very violent environment with patients in psychiatric crises, so I claimed my right to be transferred. At the time the Director, also a woman, told me that I would need to pay someone to do my work since and even suggested a male doctor. I did not agree. I said that what I was requesting was a right, not a favor.
When I came back to work after maternity leave, I learned that due to breast-feeding I had the labor right to be placed in a less risky department. The same hospital director compared me to another doctor who just became a father. She said that he was performing very well at his job despite the fact that he just became a father and I should be able to do the same.
After I argued they recognized and respected my request and I was transferred to another department. But it felt very bad to hear that other women and colleagues at work were questioning my skills to continue to work after motherhood and also to be compared to a male father. I think this is a small case of GBV compared to many others, but it impacted me very much: the lack of compassion and the lack of respect, and I definitely want to make a difference for other women in similar situations.
WLP partners around the globe monitor gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace. For example, in Kyrgyzstan, WLP partner Bir Duino advocates for law reform to enforce repercussions of GBV in Kyrgyzstan and the ratification of ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the workplace. Read more about Bir Duino’s efforts to combat workplace violence in their press release here.
Day 5 | Sexual Assault
In many cases, victims of sexual assault know their attacker.
In Malaysia a young survivor of sexual assault shared her harrowing experience with WLP Malaysia/AWAM:
After three haunting years, I finally got the courage to open up and file a police report about my assault. I was only 15 when it happened; I had been watching a movie with an older friend who I trusted. He continued to make advances despite my telling him no and my numerous attempts to push him away.
He overpowered me with his strength and rejected my discomfort. In the end, I felt helpless. Before leaving, he insisted I wash myself [to remove evidence]. Unfortunately, with lack of evidence, I am still unsure if I will ever get justice. – Anonymous, Malaysia
In Malaysia, WLP’s partner AWAM offers free counseling services for those who have experienced gender-based violence. AWAM has partnered with Twitter under its #ThereIsHelp tool to connect those in abusive situations with help and services. When Twitter users in Malaysia type key words associated with GBV into the search bar, Twitter sends them a notification and directs them to AWAM’s hotline and other local services for victims of violence.
WLP’s partners in Jordan (SIGI-J) and Mauritania (AFCF) also provide legal, psychological, and physical support services to survivors of gender-based violence. You can read more about AFCF’s, AWAM’s, and SIGI-J’s response to GBV here.
Day 4 | GBV Legislation
According to UN Women, at least 155 countries have passed laws on domestic violence. As countries across the world report an increase in domestic violence and other forms of GBV , these laws help survivors seek justice.
In Mauritania, WLP’s partner AFCF has been advocating for the passage of new legislation that would protect survivors of GBV. AFCF shared information about their efforts to pass this new legislation and the names of four women and girls who have suffered or died as a result of GBV:
AFCF says, "The time is no longer for denunciation alone, we must legislate and very heavily punish the perpetrators of these crimes. AFCF calls for the mobilization of all segments of Mauritanian society, in particular, civil society actors, local elected officials, religious leaders, journalists, and public authorities, so that, through a civic approach, we bring the bill on violence against women and girls to fruition." Mauritania
After AFCF conducted extensive training sessions with women and policymakers, the legislation to end GBV made it to the floor of Mauritania’s parliament for a vote in May 2020. The vote has been delayed due to push-back from conservative groups, but activists remain determined in their efforts and continue to advocate for the bill.
Other WLP partners are also working to pass legislation that will protect women and girls from GBV. In 2019 and 2020, WLP partners in Senegal and Mozambique celebrated important legislative reform on issues of rape and early marriage. Read more about WLP’s advocacy and training programs to end GBV around the world.
Day 3 | Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
Globally, 1 in 3 women have experienced some form of intimate partner violence (IPV). During COVID-19, civil society organizations across the world have reported an increase in partner violence, as isolation, financial worries, and constant anxiety have contributed to violence in the home.
In Brazil, one woman shared her story of leaving an abusive partner with WLP Brazil/CEPIA:
I always believed that my marriage would be forever, even with the growing disagreements over the years. I left and returned home, believing in the promises that “this time it would work.” I sacrificed a lot professionally, but I thought someone needed to sacrifice for the sake of the family – right? My partner's verbal aggressions increased when I demanded respect. He responded by saying, "Who was I?” "I was nothing."
One day, when he tried to suffocate me, I realized that I couldn't take this relationship anymore. I went to a police station and reported him. I stopped it! – Anonymous, Brazil
In Brazil, CEPIA is leading a digital campaign called Start to Listen, which uses short videos to encourage community members and neighbors to listen for and denounce domestic violence. At the legislative level, CEPIA is part of the Maria da Penha Social Watch, a national consortium that monitors the implementation of legislation pertaining to domestic violence.
All across the Global South, WLP partners are leading advocacy efforts to end violence against women in their communities.
Day 2 | Workplace Gender Discrimination
According to the International Labour Organization, globally in 2019 only 41% of women with newborns received maternity benefits that provided them with income security. This year the 16 Days against Gender-based Violence organization has chosen to focus on the protection of women in the workforce – especially those in the informal workforce. Ending pregnancy discrimination in the workplace will help end one form of economic GBV .
In Nigeria, one woman shared her story of pregnancy discrimination with WLP Nigeria/CEADER:
My husband left me when I got pregnant with our third child. I was working in a school at that time as a teacher, and according to the school policy, once you are pregnant, you will be asked to go home without salary because they believe it will affect your work negatively. I was asked to leave immediately after they found out I was pregnant, not that I showed any sign of laziness or tiredness at work.
My brother saw my predicament and helped me to start a small school business. Today, I am proud to own a school, thanks to the support I got from my brother. Pregnancy should not be a justification for gender-based discrimination at work. A woman's state of pregnancy doesn't make her a handicap, but should rather be seen as a strength. – Anonymous, Nigeria
To support women’s economic security in Nigeria, CEADER provides business skills-building trainings for women that increase their ability to start up businesses and seek employment. Additionally, CEADER monitors the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women, which states that governments will eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure women’s ability to enjoy and exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality between men and women.
Day 1 | COVID-19 and Increasing GBV
Around the world, women’s organizations are raising the alarm about increased cases of domestic violence due to movement restriction orders imposed because of COVID-19. Even as many local, national, and international bodies revealed this disturbing trend, governments have failed to adequately allocate resources to curbing and addressing this increase in domestic violence.
WLP partner’s in Morocco, ADFM, shared the story of a 43-year-old mother and engineer who was forced to confront violence during restrictive lockdown measures:
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, my husband and I often argued, but I used to take a lot on myself. But this was no longer livable. That day, we had already spent five weeks in lockdown.
On that day, he was trying to take a nap, but the cries of the children playing kept him awake. I managed to grab my cell phone, trying to call my parents, but barely could dial the number when he snatched my phone from me, threw me on the ground, and started kicking me – punches, kicks, and an attempted strangulation. I managed to open the door and ordered my sons to run out and stay with our next-door neighbor. I have no recollection of how I myself managed to grab the keys of my car and run out of the house. I can't remember how I started the car either, but I knew I was heading to the police station. I had no “permit paper”, which allowed me to leave home during the COVID-19 lockdown, but I was convinced that my condition justified “all the permits of the world.”
It was then that I came across a police roadblock where two officers told me: "Ma'am, where are you going like that? please show us your permit!" I told them my story, I was crying when one of them interrupted me, "Ma'am, I am very sorry for your situation, but the reasons you are giving me are not among the motives stated by authorities to leave your home.” The police told me to go back home and fix the problem, they explained to me that I could not stay in the street...I indeed returned home. I spent the (sleepless) night at my neighbor's house with my children. The rest of the story is painful, but I am currently going through a divorce. I will never forget the words of this policeman. I will never understand them. – Anonymous, Morocco
Civil society organizations in Morocco have set up remote counseling centers and published the phone numbers of lawyers and counselors for women to contact. However, this does not help the many women who do not have access to the internet or telephones, so some women have begun going door-to-door to alert women about resources and their rights.
WLP partners in Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Mauritania have set up similar response services for women affected by domestic violence during COVID-19. Read about how these partners are supporting women who have experienced gender-based violence during the COVID-19 crisis.
WLP’s newest documentary, It’s Up to Us, features perspectives from leaders about the interconnected threats to human security, including conflict, climate change, economic inequality, discriminatory family laws, and gender inequality.
Below are some of the memorable quotes from the film that inspire and remind us that the world we seek is up to us to build.
Around the world, the spread of COVID-19 is changing how civil society organizations (CSOs) are able to conduct their work and the global women’s movement in particular is facing extraordinary challenges. Organizations that amplify women’s voices and choices on issues ranging from personal status laws to reproductive health are now confronting unparalleled hurdles but are also finding innovative approaches to continue their work. Women’s Learning Partnership’s has mobilized to ensure that the needs of women are not overlooked in emergency responses to the pandemic. Our partners are adapting their programs and campaigns to address the evolving challenges by moving their events online, using messaging apps and social media to disseminate information, sensitizing journalists about the pandemic’s particular threats to women in the home and outside, raising funds for populations most at-risk, and even broadcasting messages by megaphone in communities where there is limited technology infrastructure and access to the web.