At the opening of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations last Monday, the chair of the Commission spoke in clear and succinct language about this year’s theme—eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls. As the chair put it, “The current situation of violence against women and girls is unacceptable. Together we can find the solutions and bring about change.”
The Women’s Refugee Commission focuses its work on promoting solutions for women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crises. Displaced women and girls face a particular set of risks and challenges to their safety and well-being, including increased vulnerability to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence. Patterns of rape and abuse that have become appallingly familiar in conflict zones are manifest most recently in the crises in Syria and Mali and in the renewed unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We know that it takes sustained action on multiple fronts to prevent violence against women and girls. It’s a question of providing adequate security, ending impunity, ensuring access to education and adequate reproductive health care. It’s also a matter of providing safe and effective livelihood opportunities for women.
As part of a multi-year initiative to improve livelihood programs in humanitarian settings, the Women’s Refugee Commission has examined the links between livelihood programming and gender-based violence prevention. We found in our research that it is not necessarily true that simply increasing women’s income reduces risk. Poorly designed economic programs can have unintended negative consequences for women. For example, livelihood programs that don’t take into account men’s concerns may inadvertently put women at greater risk of domestic violence. Or if programmers don’t consider how a woman will get to a job—on what transport, along what routes—her risks may also increase.
To help humanitarian practitioners develop livelihood programs that also mitigate the risks of gender-based violence, the Women’s Refugee Commission has developed a set of guidance, tools and resources that are available on our website. These are designed largely for economic programmers, but were honed during multiple workshops that brought together economic teams together with colleagues working on protection and gender-based violence issues—who may not normally work together. Key resources include:
*Preventing Gender-based Violence, Building Livelihoods: Guidance and Tools for Improved Programming. This guidance is based on promising practices on how to design safe economic programs and livelihood activities. Our website also provides a checklist for donors and practitioners on integrating protection and gender-based violence mitigation into livelihood programs, such as cash transfers, cash for work, vocational skills training, agriculture and micro-finance. And we have produced a safety mapping video that helps practitioners identify risks and develop appropriate responses.
* Preventing Gender-based Violence, Building Livelihoods E-Learning Tool:
This one-hour e-learning tool will guide practitioners through the issues and provide information on how to set up safe livelihoods programs..
*Peril or Protection: Making Work Safe Webinar. Our one-hour webinar features experts on livelihoods and gender-based violence.
We hope these tools will make an important contribution to the global effort to find solutions and help prevent violence against women and girls. During this year’s Commission on the Status of Women and on this International Women’s Day, we join humanitarians around the world in reaffirming our commitment to the millions of displaced women and girls who still struggle to live safely and exercise their rights to education, good health and decent work.