The UN is to spend $25m (£19m) from its emergency fund to address what has been called the “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence against women displaced by wars and disasters.
The money will be divided between the UN population fund (UNFPA) and UN Women, and at least 30% of it must be given to women-led local organisations that prevent violence and help survivors access medical and legal help, family planning, mental health services and counselling.
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock announced the funding on Wednesday, calling on other funders to “put their money where their mouth is” to support gender equality and women’s rights.
“The needs of women and girls in humanitarian settings continue to be overlooked and underfunded,” he said. “The Covid-19 pandemic helped reveal the full extent of gender inequality while creating a set of circumstances that threaten to reverse the limited progress that has been made.”
Hayat Mirshad, co-director of feminist collective Fe-Male in Lebanon, said the extra money was a positive step, but local groups “need for this money to be directly delivered”. She called for it to be spent based on the needs of communities not priorities prescribed by UN agencies, international organisations or donors.
Mirshad said Covid-19 and the Beirut port explosion in August had compounded an already precarious economic situation. Grassroots organisations, the first on the scene in any crisis, had been forced to adapt. In recent months, Fe-Male has had to tailor its work to address rising cases in online violence and to support women and girls who are unable to afford sanitary pads.
Funding with fixed priorities was therefore not helpful, she said. “Covid has affected our situation and imposed on us urgent needs and priorities and that’s why it’s important we have urgent funds and for these to be flexible.”
UN Women estimate that in the 12 months before the pandemic, 243 million women and girls aged between 15 and 49 had been sexually or physically abused by a partner.
But in 2018, less than 0.3% of total bilateral aid – $408m – from the world’s 14 biggest donors went to addressing such violence.
The pandemic triggered a rise in cases of domestic violence, prompting warnings of at least 15m more cases for every three months lockdowns were imposed.
A report published last month by the International Rescue Committee called gender-based violence the “shadow pandemic” and said the global response to Covid-19 had largely failed women and girls.
It added that local women’s groups and female leaders had been critical to maintaining protection and support services.
The UN announcement came at the start of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, an annual global campaign , running from 25 November until 10 December.
Source: The Guardian