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Violence Against Women

Violence against women (VAW) has been a long standing priority for local advocacy, programmes and services across the YWCA movement. As one of the largest global women’s movements, the World YWCA has the capacity to play a crucial role in monitoring implementation of international commitments at country and local level. In almost 70 countries YWCA’s provide support for survivors of violence and those at risk of violence, as well as emergency accommodation, legal services and community education. Through YWCA work on violence against women, the movement seeks to ensure that the rights of women, young women and girls are promoted and protected through advocacy, programmes and services.  The World YWCA recognises that violence affects women’s lives both in private and public spaces and needs to be tackled at multiple levels.

Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. Based on country data available, up to 70 per cent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime (WHO, 2008). Violence against women continues to be a global concern, despite policy and political progress.  A rigorous study in ten countries involving interviews with 24,000 women around the world revealed that domestic violence is “frighteningly common” and that, far from being a safe haven, home is too often a place of pain, fear, and humiliation for women and girls (WHO, 2005).

The rate of sexual violence in particular ranged from 2 percent to 59 percent. During armed conflict it is now said that it is more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier, due to the strategy of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The Rwandan genocide memorial notes that 500,000 women were raped during 100 days of conflict (IPU,2008).In Africa alone, some 92 million girls over the age of 10 have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), with more than 3 million at risk of the practice in the region each year (WHO, 2008). This widespread human rights violation inflicts extreme physical and emotional pain and puts girls at risk of infection and death.

Violence against women takes a variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages, human trafficking and female circumcision. All are violations of the most fundamental human rights. In response to the prevalence of these human rights violations, the World YWCA’s Strategic Framework 2012-2015 identifies violence against women as one of its main programme priorities. For many women, the YWCA represents a safe space. From shelters and safe houses run by YWCAs in the USA, Canada, Zambia and Lebanon to campaigns to prevent trafficking championed by YWCAs in Finland, Belarus and Albania, national and local YWCAs around the world are committed to seeing an end to violence against women.

A strategic way to prevent violence is to introduce laws that protect women from violence, and enforce those laws—there must be no impunity for acts of violence against women. As one of its first obligations, CEDAW requires UN member states to entrench women’s human rights in their constitutional and legal systems. Educating the public on such laws is crucial in preventing violence against women. Governments must consider initiatives, such as the YWCA Canada ‘Rose’ campaign, that calls for actions to prevent violence before it starts.  Annually, in October the YWCA movement holds a ‘Week without Violence’ campaign around the world to raise awareness on VAW and to mobilise local communities to condemn violence in all its forms and to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325) on women, peace and security calls on UN member states to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly in situations of armed conflict.  In the context of UNSCR1325, the World YWCA manages the FOKUS project which is funded by YGlobal, Norway. The FOKUS project is a joint multi-country capacity building project on UNSCR1325, designed to target the situation of women affected by armed conflict in Sri-Lanka, Southern Sudan and Palestine through the advocacy work of YWCA partners.

The World YWCA VAW key actions:

  • Strengthen analysis on the linkages between women’s rights, violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and HIV for effective interventions, programmes and services.
  • Advocate for the implementation of key global commitments on women, young women and girls' rights through CEDAW mechanisms, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Rights Council and International Conference on the Population and Development, engaging the movement and partners in these processes.
  • Engage with global and regional religious faith networks to advance the rights of women young women and girls and challenge harmful religious and cultural practices and norms.

The World YWCA aims to ensure women, young women and girls are able to claim their rights as empowered leaders, decision makers and change agents in responding to issues affecting their lives and communities, and in this context, responding to violence in public and private spheres.  It aims to mobilise women’s transformative leadership towards this end, to advocate for women’s rights and promote access to rights-based programming and services at community level, that comprehensively address VAW and sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV.

Download our flyer on World YWCA and Violence against Women Priority: