Preventing Violence against Women

Photo: UN Women / Nguyen Duc Hieu

Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender-based discrimination, social norms and gender stereotypes. Given the devastating effects of violence women, efforts have concentrated mainly on response and providing services for survivors. However, the best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes.

Prevention should start early in life, by educating and working with young boys and girls promoting respectful relationships and gender equality. Working with youth is a “best bet” for faster, sustained progress on preventing and eradicating gender-based violenceOften overlooked by public policies and interventions this stage of life is a critical time when values and norms around gender equality are forged. A key setting to prevent  VAWG early, as recognized in the UN Framework to underpin action to prevent violence against women and the RESPECT Women Framework, is with children and communities through schools.  

RESPECT Women is a policy framework launched by twelve UN, bilateral, and multilateral agencies, which outlines steps for a public health and human rights–based approach to scaling up prevention programming on violence against women. It builds on the learnings compiled in the UN Prevention of Violence against Women Framework (2015), and in additional systematic reviews, to provide evidence-based strategies on preventing violence against women.” 

Social norm change and community mobilization, including through media and social media, is another important component of an effective prevention strategy.

Our solutions

UN Women works in partnership with educational institutions, men and boys, sports organizations and religious leaders.

Stepping Up Solutions to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls in Asia And the Pacific (2017-2020) focuses on VAWG prevention in different settings. The project allows for data and evidence collection and increased investment in coordinated and quality essential services for  survivors of VAWG. Supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Stepping Up is implementing community and school-based activities in Viet Nam and Timor-Leste. It is supporting evidence-building on VAWG prevention, workplace responses to VAW, the cost of VAW for workplaces, the linkages between VAW and violence against children (VAC), and on technology-facilitated violence. It builds on UN Women’s significant results from the project “Leveraging Technical Tools, Evidence and Community Engagement to Advance the Implementation of Laws and Provision of Services to Women Experiencing Violence in South-East Asia”, and on promising community mobilization to prevent violence against women and girls in Da Nang, Viet Nam, funded by the Australian Government, under the Partners for Prevention Programme.

Through Stepping Up, UN Women is also supporting school-based prevention of VAWG in Viet Nam and Timor-Leste. In partnership with the Ministries of Education of Timor-Leste and Viet Nam, and in collaboration with UNESCO and Plan International, UN Women is implementing the Connect with Respect curriculum, which engages male and female students, teachers, parents and the wider community to teach younger generations about gender equality and respectful relationships.

Under Stepping Up in Viet Nam, deep community-wide dialogues have resulted in shifts towards more gender-equitable and non-violent families thanks to approaches that involve trainings, local activism, youth engagement, communication, advocacy and work with media and schools. The two models of SASA! and Male Advocate Clubs, localized to the country context, are being jointly used to engage all actors in the community to foster critical reflection on gender and power and spur local-level activism, with promising results. SASA! is a ground-breaking community mobilization approach that addresses the power imbalance between women and men. It uses a structured phased approach to inspire and enable effective community mobilization to prevent violence against women. Using a participatory methodology of learning, the Male Advocate Clubs successfully increased awareness and understanding of positive masculinities, gender equality and prevention of VAWG among participants, as well as willingness to share their learnings with the community of Da Nang. In Da Nang, 500 men are actively participating in 14 Male Advocate Clubs. Concrete results and evidence have already emerged on the power of community mobilization to change social norms and transform attitudes and beliefs about violence.

Photo: UN Women/Nguyen Duc Hieu

Through Stepping Up, UN Women is working with Prevention Collaborative to provide technical assistance to the regional office and six country offices - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam - on the prevention of violence against women and girls. UN Women’s regional office is cooperating with these six country offices to enable a deeper partnership with global prevention experts. The regional office, in collaboration with Prevention Collaborative, hosted three webinars that reached a wide audience across the region. Webinars have been recorded and shared across the region with country offices and partners.

View all webinars.

UN Women supported Partners for Prevention (P4P), a regional UN joint programme of UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UNV for Asia and the Pacific that provides new knowledge and technical support to prevent gender-based violence in the region. P4P aims at primary prevention - stopping violence before it starts – especially among boys and men. It facilitates cross-border exchanges and learning across the region and prioritize change at the institutional and policy levels. Policymakers, UN staff and civil society practitioners, all committed to gender equality and the elimination of violence against women, have come together to implement the programme. More: www.partners4prevention.org and http://partners4prevention.org/about-prevention/research/men-and-violence-study

The focus on involving boys and men in prevention is rooted in the unequal power relations among women, men, girls and boys that contributes to gender-based violence. Men are overwhelmingly involved in all types of violence. They are the primary perpetrators of violence and often experience violence themselves. As gender-based violence is often linked to dominant notions of masculinity and the key to prevention lies in involving boys and men in ways that are sensitive to these notions and their experiences.

At the national level, UN Women supported a range of prevention activities, such as to collecting data and carrying out research on the attitudes, perceptions and behaviour of men, boys and youth related to various forms of violence, as well as advocacy, awareness-raising, community mobilization, educational programmes, and legal and policy reforms.

UN Women has worked with four universities in Bangladesh to adopt standard operating procedures (SOPs) for new and expanded measures to prevent violence on campus and to support survivors. Sexual harassment prevention committees now manage dedicated telephone hotlines so students can easily get help. They refer the students to counselling services and to university authorities and the police. In campaigns supported by UN Women, students and faculty members used theatre, music, art and sports activities to reach out to 20,000 people to inform them about how to prevent violence.

 In Papua New Guinea, 10 years of civil war in parts of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville have left conflict-related trauma and high rates of gender-based violence. In an innovative violence prevention and response project supported by UN Women, over 1,530 young women and men engaged in a series of community conversations held at village assemblies. They learned about peacebuilding, non-sexist attitudes and behaviours, and ways to prevent gender-based violence. One result has been a decline in reports of physical violence by an intimate partner. While the rates are still far too high, the percentage of women in the project who reported having experienced violence at the hands of their partners fell from 75 per cent in 2015 to 58 per cent in 2016. This project shows that big changes are possible even in a short time, and that violence is preventable.

In Timor-Leste, UN Women worked with President Faustino Cardoso Gomes of the Civil Service Commission to address issues of sexual harassment in civil services and the need for increased guidelines on sexual harassment. In 2017, zero tolerance policy guidelines were developed, binding the country’s 34,000 civil servants to a formal agreement of non-sexual harassment in the civil service.

In Cambodia, UN Women, in cooperation with Cambodia’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs, partnered with UNFPA, UNODC, and WHO to create the Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence. As part of the Cambodia project, UN Women supported the training of service providers at both the national and subnational levels on preventing and responding to violence against women and girls. This training included a victim/survivor-centred approach focused on the rights, needs, and desires of women.

UN Women provides knowledge-based policy and programming guidance to a diverse array of stakeholders at international, regional and country levels often partnering with other UN agencies and stakeholders. UN Women’s work is broadly focused on a comprehensive approach to ending violence against women and girls that addresses legislation and policies, prevention, services for survivors, research and data.

Package of essentials for addressing violence against women

The briefs included in this package aim to summarize in a concise and friendly way, for advocates, programmers and policy makers, the essential strategies for addressing violence against women. In addition to the general strategies, individual briefs have been developed with specific focus areas, including: prevention, services, the world of work, sports and media.

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Prevention: Violence against women and girls and COVID-19

This brief provides background information on the root causes and risk factors that explain why violence against women occurs in the first place. It highlights how the context of COVID-19 is exacerbating those factors and the impact it is having on rates of violence against women and the ability to undertake evidence-based prevention work in the current context. It provides indicative interventions that can be undertaken during social distancing.

Package of Prevention Guidance Materials