How funding women’s organizations prevents violence against women

four facts on why funding women´s organizations prevents violence against women hero
Photo: UN Women/Johis Alarcón.

Women's rights organizations are essential in tackling gender-based violence and driving progress toward a more equitable and violence-free world for women and girls.

Despite the critical role of feminist activism to end violence against women, there has been a surge in anti-rights movements and backlash against women human rights defenders globally.

Here are four reasons why funding women’s organizations is essential for ending violence against women and girls.

How funding women’s organizations prevents violence against women

Providing life-saving services to survivors  

Women’s organizations play a vital role in providing services to survivors and victims of gender-based violence, which continues to be the most pervasive human rights violation worldwide, affecting at least one in three women.

Critical support services for survivors of gender-based violence include shelters, counseling, legal assistance, and hotlines. These services offer a lifeline for survivors and help them rebuild their lives.

According to a UN study, only 40 per cent of women seek help after experiencing violence, making the outreach work of women’s rights organizations even more critical. Women's rights organizations empower women and girls to assert their rights and seek help when they experience violence. Through education, training, and community initiatives, women’s organizations build resilience and self-confidence among women, which can be key in breaking the cycle of violence.

Driving policy change

Research shows that the presence of a strong and autonomous feminist movement is the most critical factor to drive change in ending violence against women and girls both in domestic and global policy making.

Countries with the strongest feminist movements tend to have more comprehensive policies on violence against women than those with weaker movements thanks to the tireless advocacy of women’s rights organizations, which are often very poorly funded.

Whereas countries that have a lower presence of women's movements have stronger biases against gender equality and women's empowerment, signalling the important work that women’s rights organizations do in transforming social norms and power relations.

Women's organizations often conduct research and collect data on violence against women and girls, shedding light on the prevalence and specific forms of violence in different contexts.

This research is essential for policymakers and service providers to develop effective strategies and allocate resources to tackling gender-based violence.

Reducing gender-based violence

There is growing evidence on how the work of women’s rights organizations reduces gender-based violence. Despite this, they remain chronically underfunded and a sharp increase in funding of women’s rights organizations is much needed.

Local women’s rights organizations understand their communities better than anyone and hold a track-record of evidence-based approaches that have reduced violence and transformed the lives of women all over the world, particularly marginalized and racialized women who are at greater risk.

For example, in Nicaragua, research shows that a 63 per cent decrease of intimate partner violence was possible due to efforts of Nicaraguan women’s movements to reform laws, provide services for survivors, transform gender norms, and increase women’s knowledge of their human rights, coupled with coordinated multisectoral actions with governments.

The IMAGE project in South Africa reduced intimate partner violence by 50 per cent over two years through a micro-financing initiative and gender and community mobilization training.

Another initiative by the World Food Programme in Ecuador achieved up to a 30 per cent reduction in domestic violence over six months through the economic empowerment of families living in poor urban areas which reduced couple-related stress linked to poverty issues.

According to the UK’s What Works Network, well-designed and implemented projects can reduce intimate partner violence by over 50 per cent.

Critical role during health and humanitarian emergencies 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical role of women’s rights organizations in driving government responses to tackling gender-based violence.

A UN Development Programme-UN Women report showed that countries with strong feminist movements took three more measures on average to tackle violence against women during the pandemic than those without such movements.

The number of women and girls in conflict-affected contexts has risen by 50 per cent, making millions of women and girls around the world more vulnerable to gender-based violence.

Research shows that positive steps toward gender equality can be achieved when women actively participate in the response efforts during conflict and emergencies, and when humanitarian actions focus on women's rights organizations and self-led groups.

More funds for women’s organizations urgently needed

The urgent need to fund women's organizations fighting violence against women and girls cannot be overstated.

Women’s rights organizations serve as the frontline champions in the drive for a more equitable and violence-free world.

Many women’s rights organizations working on the ground, including those working with survivors, are also chronically underfunded with just 5 per cent of Official Development Assistance allocated to ending violence against women reaching them.

In a world where the need for gender equality and violence prevention remains urgent, governments and institutions must acknowledge, empower, and invest in the unwavering efforts of women's organizations.

Women’s rights organizations are committed to creating a safer, more equitable, and just society for women and girls everywhere, and a brighter and more promising future for all.