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news | November 25, 2016 | Cambodia | Development

Implication, protection and empowerment: Tackling violence against women

"Ending violence against women start from us" - ACTED Cambodia, 2016

Despite growing recognition that violence against women is an obstacle to sustainable development, one in three women worldwide experiences physical or sexual violence, mostly by someone known to her, according to UN Women. In 2012, it was estimated that one in two women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family members. In addition, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 35 % of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. At least 700 million women alive today were married before the age of 18, more than a third of which were married before the age of 15. Furthermore, at least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries where representative data is available, the majority of which were cut before the age of 5.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated on November 25 every year, is an initiative to raise more public awareness about the proportions of violence directed at a group that makes up more than half the world’s population. The campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence”, originated in 1991, is going to run from November 25 until December 10, 2016.

Putting an end to violence against women is one of the 17 priorities for development, as part of the Sustainable Development Goal #5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

Nonetheless, the resources allocated to tackling this issue do no match the scale of the challenge. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that violence against women is a “serious obstacle to sustainable development. It imposes large-scale costs on families, communities and economies. The world cannot afford to pay this price." Hence, this year’s theme, “Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls,” intends to amplify and highlight the funding shortfall.

“Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act,” said Ban Ki-moon.

ACTED’s projects to tackle violence against women

From awareness-raising campaigns to vocational trainings on how to tackle sexual and gender-based violence, ACTED is taking action to end violence against women and girls in its countries of intervention.

Imply and protect: Supporting women in emergencies

As an actor working in emergencies, ACTED recognizes the responsibility of humanitarian actors in protecting vulnerable populations and groups at-risk, including women, acknowledging that sexual and gender-based violence is one of the issues often raised in emergencies. When natural disasters or conflicts arise, families forced to flee their homes are often separated, resulting in increased vulnerability and exposure to violence for women and girls. ACTED pays particular attention to issues faced by women and girls and their protection. Implying women in the implementation of its projects are key to achieve a safe and stable situation for women in emergencies and crises.

In South Sudan, ACTED has been actively encouraging local communities to openly discuss sexual and gender-based violence: read the story of Sarah, a survivor of domestic abuse who is now fighting sexual and gender-based violence with ACTED in South Sudan.

Fighting violence through empowerment

Achieving gender equality, giving women the possibility to participate fully in the community life, the economy and in the governance and decision processes are key in tackling violence against women. Empowered, autonomous and self-sufficient women will be less vulnerable to violence and key actors of development.

In Jordan, Lebanon and occupied Palestinian Territory, ACTED supports women in accessing jobs and preventing sexual and gender-based violence through empowerment. In Syrian refugee camps, ACTED gives opportunities to women to join its cash for work programmes in the camps, making sure that adequate solutions are found to ensure a safe working environment for women cash for workers and therefore prevent any form of gender-based violence. In Jordan, one in three women have experienced some form of physical violence at least once since the age of 15, and are often harassed and discriminated when applying for job positions. With its partner, the Arab Women Organisation (AWO), ACTED trains and empowers women to tackle gender-based violence in their own communities. In Lebanon, ACTED organizes vocational training for vulnerable women from deprived neighbourhoods, often victims of physical, psychological or socio-economic violence.

In rural areas of Afghanistan, early marriage is a reality for many girls. Being often stuck at home, girls therefore lose any education or employment opportunities, as well as the opportunity to participate in decision making processes within their community. ACTED supports the access of women and girls to education and vocational training, by creating girls schools and safe spaces where women can access educational activities and vocational training. Some of these spaces provide nursery or childcare for the mothers wishing to participate.

Sexual and gender-based violence at work: ACTED Cambodia takes action

ACTED Cambodia, with the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), has been tackling sexual and gender-based violence against entertainment workers in Phnom Penh for many years now through provision of access to psychological counselling, legal support, and training on how to act when encountering violence at work.

Working with local partners, Social Services of Cambodia (SSC) and Legal Aid of Cambodia (LAC), ACTED aims at supporting female entertainment workers through outreach sessions provided by peer educators, who are usually young, female Cambodians who are either former or current entertainment workers. Furthermore, ACTED is rewarding entertainment businesses in Phnom Penh with certificates for their compliance with labour laws and their good protection of the rights of their employees, with the aim of reducing sexual and gender-based violence in this sector. The certification creates a strong mutual trust between the owners or managers and their employees, through attesting to the employees’ knowledge of their right to attend the outreach sessions on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, who can turn to ACTED teams and their partners for help. “By attending the sessions, I compared what I learnt with what was happening to us. I knew that some of my rights had been abused. I can now recognise when a situation is actually a case of sexual and gender-based violence that violates my human rights. Now, I feel very confident and ready to apply the solutions I have learnt in cases where a client misbehaves towards me”, says Phally, a former entertainment worker who is now a peer educator do address violence against women. Read her story!

Read also: "Amid guns and groping, KTV workers learn the customer is not always right", an article about ACTED's project to tackle sexual and gender-based violence in the entertainment sector in Phnom Penh - The Phnom Penh Post, 21 October 2016.

Today, we celebrate women as development leaders and join the international community in pushing for an end to violence against women and girls.