Ending violence against women in the context of COVID-19

Date: Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Julienne Lusenge, Executive Director of the Fund for Congolese Women (FFC), a UN Trust Fund grantee, leading a workshop before the pandemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: Jonathan Torgovnik
Julienne Lusenge, Executive Director of the Fund for Congolese Women (FFC), a UN Trust Fund grantee, leading a workshop before the pandemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: Jonathan Torgovnik 

As the current COVID-19 global pandemic spreads through the world, the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), and its grantees, recognize the gender dimensions of the impact from the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes an increased burden of care for women, risk of increased levels of domestic violence and a decrease in the ability of service providers to respond to cases of violence. In this challenging time, the need to respond to the immediate and long-term consequences of the current crisis for women and girls is critical. The UN Trust Fund remains committed to its partners in the field who are essential in serving those who are too often left behind, and recognizes the critical role of women’s networks and women’s organizations.

Through mapping the impacts of COVID-19 on grantees of the UN Trust Fund, civil society organizations from India to the Democratic Republic of the Congo explained how they are actively adapting to the changing context and challenges presented during the outbreak.

“We are committed to ensuring our crisis services continue uninterrupted. Our 24-hour hotline, and our crisis and rehabilitative services for burn survivors are accessible to those who require support. As an organization that works in providing crisis services to the most vulnerable, we are working round the clock to ensure that no woman is left behind even as we prioritize the health and safety of everyone”, said Rashmi Singh, Programme Director of UN Trust Fund grantee PCVC.

In India, the UN Trust Fund supports the expansion of PCVC’s holistic support to women burn survivors including physical and psycho-social services to survivors in 10 districts. PCVC recognizes the needed continuity of such essential services to survivors, while also prioritizing the safety of their staff through the introduction of such measures such as phone follow up sessions and video calls. Singh went on to say, “There is worry that many burn survivors may slip through the cracks and not get the physical or psycho-social services they need. Given the gaps in the service eco-system, an outbreak like this has only reinforced the need for more coordinated working and capacity-building of all stakeholders.” 

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Julienne Lusenge, Executive Director of the Fund for Congolese Women (FFC), a UN Trust Fund grantee, explained that, “this pandemic will increase the precariousness of women’s and girls’ situations and heightens their vulnerability, emphasizing gender inequalities”. The FFC’s project aims to prevent and reduce sexual violence against schoolgirls through education, training and collective advocacy. Due to the pandemic, schools are closed, and therefore activities are impacted.

“This will expose them to domestic violence, sexual violence, and all kinds of violence. […] We will continue to amplify the messages of the experts so that each person can better understand the seriousness of the situation at hand”, said Lusenge. “We are trying to adapt to this situation but there are looming unknowns. We don't know how the situation will develop in the DRC. […] We will continue to insist that it's not up to the woman to fight on her own. It's the man and the woman together, it's the whole family that has to fight this pandemic.”