Essential services for women
Although progress is being made globally, many women and girls who experience physical and sexual violence still lack access to quality multi-sectoral services. These services are essential as they provide much-needed support to survivors of violence, by keeping them safe, providing health care for their injuries, responding to their sexual and reproductive health needs, including provision of post-rape care and counselling, and facilitating their access to the police and justice system. Particularly vulnerable groups—such as migrants, women living with disabilities, indigenous women or women living in remote areas—have even more limited options and often lack access to basic services.
To improve the quality of, and access to, comprehensive essential multi-sectorial services, UN Women and UNFPA initiated the ‘Essential Services Programme’ in 2013 with support and funding provided by the Governments of Australia and Spain. This initiative seeks to align international agreements on violence against women with activities at the country level. It provides technical guidance on how to develop quality services and responses. This initiative has now become a fully-fledged United Nations Global Joint Programme: Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence, also involving WHO, UNODC and UNDP as participating UN organizations.
Phase I of the Joint Programme (2013–2017) focused on reaching consensus on the essential services and the relevant quality standards and tools for their provision in different settings. The Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence: Core Elements and Quality Guidelines were launched at the end of 2015. They were developed with support from expert consultants through a series of global technical consultations with key representatives from Government, civil society, survivors, academia, and practitioners. The health component is based on the WHO guidelines for responding to violence against women.
Phase II of the Programme (2017 –2019) included piloting the global guidance and tools on essential services in 10 countries (Cambodia, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Pakistan, Viet Nam, Tunisia, Mozambique, Egypt, Guatemala and Peru) with a view to supporting and advocating for their global roll-out. The Joint Programme also provides technical assistance to several ‘self-starter’ countries interested in funding the implementation of the guidance with their own national budgets.