Originally published on the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women website
Violence against women and girls surged alarmingly as COVID-19 spread and governments introduced lockdown measures to contain it. This was the initial assessment of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), based on the responses of 144 civil society organizations (CSOs) operating in 69 countries and territories worldwide.
Six months into the crisis, the UN Trust Fund's second assessment shows that the continued economic insecurity and movement restrictions are still driving increased violence against women and girls. It also highlights the urgent need to resource support services for survivors of violence provided by CSOs and women's rights organizations (WROs) that are on the front line of community responses.
Women and girls are reporting increased levels of sexual violence as the most prevalent form of violence during the protracted crisis.
Online harassment and harmful traditional practices are on the rise in some communities.
Economic losses are exposing women and girls to extreme forms of violence, such as survival sex, child marriages and female genital mutilation.
Women and girls in marginalized communities, such as those living with disabilities, rural women and migrant women, are among those most affected because of an increased lack of access to information and support services during the crisis.
"The pandemic has highlighted the invisibility of women and girls with disabilities" - Association for Legislative and Democratic Development (Asociación para el Desarrollo Legislativo y la Democracia) in Guatemala.
Lack of support services
There is an alarming lack of access to sustainable, structural and societal support services for women and girl survivors or at risk of violence.
"In several contexts, CSOs have not yet been recognized as essential specialist service providers in preventing and ending violence against women and girls, despite the fact that they have often been the first responders during the pandemic. Their participation, leadership and adequate funding will be crucial in realizing national COVID-19 response plans." - Shruti Majumdar, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, UN Trust Fund.
Civil society organizations and women's rights organizations providing vital support
Front line CSOs and WROs are rapidly adapting their work to meet the urgent needs of women and girls, and to implement measures to mitigate the risks of violence.
These organizations are also amplifying the voices and visibility of survivors, including the most marginalized and at risk.
Grantees in action
In Mexico, the Institute for Women in Migration (Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, AC) is providing access to food and health support to at-risk women and girls among asylum-seekers and populations in transit.
In Albania, the Shelter for Abused Women and Girls in partnership with Streha, a shelter for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women survivors of domestic violence, is providing safe accommodation, food, hygiene materials and psychological support.
In Somalia, the International Solidarity Foundation is raising awareness on female genital mutilation.
The global response to the rise in violence against women and girls during the pandemic must, among other things:
Recognize CSOs and WROs as first responders and essential service providers, and give them the support they need.
Recognize the role of women's economic empowerment in global recovery and prevention of violence against women and girls.
Include CSOs and WROs in national COVID-19 response plans, and support women's movements.
Read the new brief, six months after the global pandemic was declared here.
Read the UN Trust Fund's response to the crisis here.
The global response to the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 needs to be immediate, appropriate, effective and ethical to ensure that women's and civil society organizations can sustain their vital role on the front line.