New strategies hold promise for reducing gender-based violence, even as COVID-19 adds to challenges

By Joanne Lu

UN Police (UNPOL) officers lead sensitization classes meant to prevent gender-based violence at a school in Bangui, Central African Republic.

UN Police (UNPOL) officers lead sensitization classes meant to prevent gender-based violence at a school in Bangui, Central African Republic. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed gender-based violence back into the spotlight. The United Nations (UN) and others have reported a “horrifying global surge in domestic violence” against women as a result of lockdowns around the world, with some calling it the “shadow pandemic.”

Within the first two weeks of lockdowns in France, the interior minister at the time said that reports of domestic violence increased by 40 percent, according to the Washington Post. In Lebanon, CARE found that 54 percent of the women it surveyed reported an increase in violence and harassment, while 44 percent said they felt less safe at home. Another survey published in October found that more than 70 percent of displaced and refugee women in Africa have witnessed increased domestic violence in their communities during the pandemic.

This comes amid celebrations of 25 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995 resulted in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an agenda that has been hailed as a landmark in the global fight for gender equality. While there has been progress in some of the 12 issues identified by the agenda as key areas of concern, “no country is even close to fully delivering on the commitments,” wrote UN News on the anniversary of the historic conference. Even before the pandemic, for example, gender-based violence was “alarmingly high,” according to UN Women: Nearly one in five women reported experiencing violence at the hands of an intimate male partner in the past 12 months.

And, it’s an expensive problem. A recent study found that domestic violence has cost Lesotho 5.5 percent of its gross domestic product or nearly $2 billion a year. Some of that is the cost of health, police, and judicial services in response to domestic violence cases, but also lost productivity as a result. In the U.S., the UN Population Fund has estimated that intimate partner violence against women costs more than $8 billion annually. Those estimates do not include damage to the development and future earning potential of children who witness the violence.

For many, the anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action was a wake-up call. At a high-level meeting at the UN General Assembly, world leaders renewed their commitments to take action, including increasing financing. According to UN Women, only 48 countries are treating services that deal with violence against women and girls as an essential part of their national and local COVID-19 response plans, “with very few adequately funding these measures.” And many organizations that offer these services have actually experienced “severe funding cuts” as a result of the pandemic.

But the services these organizations provide are critical to the safety and survival of women. For example, in Lebanon, Mercy Corps hosts dialogue sessions for Syrian refugees to raise awareness of gender-based violence and connects survivors to medical and legal services, psychological support, and safe housing. Friends of Women’s Protection Center Nepal also provides shelter, food, and education to at-risk women and children.

It’s not just direct services that require additional funding. Civil society organizations have reported to UN Women that one of the main drivers of violence against women and girls this year has been the economic impact of the pandemic on families and communities. Not only can economic stress lead to violent conflicts, but lack of financial independence often compels women and girls to stay in abusive situations.

That’s why the work of organizations like Awamaki and Landesa are critical during this time. Awamaki helps women artisans in the mountains of Peru start and run their own businesses, in addition to hosting trainings that build gender-based violence awareness. Landesa’s work in promoting women’s land rights not only empowers women financially, but also helps to transform gender power dynamics. The organization has also been working with USAID and PepsiCo in West Bengal, India, to raise awareness of gender-based violence in agricultural supply chains.

But increasingly, experts and advocates are recognizing that in order to affect widespread change, men must be part of the dialogue and movement to transform gender norms. For example, MenEngage is a network of organizations working to promote gender equality by changing the perceptions of men and boys. It takes a feminist approach to challenge patriarchal gender norms and power imbalances, teaching men how to be allies to women and other social justice movements.

Meanwhile, Sahar Education and Days for Girls – organizations focused on women and girls – have both launched programs to reach men. Sahar’s Men as Partners in Change not only challenges men’s current perceptions about gender and women in Afghanistan, but also creates a space for them to discuss fatherhood and caregiving, mental health and trauma, physical health, and being “male champions” for positive change. Meanwhile, the Men Who Know program by Days for Girls teaches boys and men about menstruation, how it’s natural and how they can support women. It also discusses men’s health and “real strength versus violence.”

Similarly, Kati Collective sees violence against women not as a female problem, but as a human problem that, like all development challenges, requires engaging with men and boys while supporting women and girls.

But some have pointed out that after 25 years, the Beijing Platform for Action – though still groundbreaking – is showing its age, so to speak. For example, it doesn’t specifically address climate or the rights of people who are LGBTIQ, even though gender-based violence is the most common form of violence they face – again because of perceptions about norms. OutRight Action International has been providing support and assistance to LGBTIQ people facing violence, especially during the pandemic. But they’ve also been fighting on the policy stage for years to include violence against LGBTIQ people in the global conversation about gender-based violence.

Clearly, there is still much work to be done in regards to gender equality, especially as the pandemic threatens progress – even reversals – on fronts like eliminating gender-based violence. But perhaps the 25th anniversary of the monumental Beijing Platform for Action has served as a call-to-action. Maybe this time, governments, civil society and the private sector will stand behind their commitments and accelerate action to create a safe and equal world for women and girls everywhere.


The following Global Washington members and partners are working to address gender-based violence globally:

Awamaki partners with women’s artisan cooperatives to teach them to start and run their own businesses. Awamaki invests in women’s skills, connects them to markets and supports their empowerment. Through Awamaki’s programs, artisan women from marginalized and remote villages learn business and leadership skills so they can earn an income and gain a voice in their households and their communities. The organization’s trainings include gender-based violence awareness and women’s rights topics, and its income-generating programs allow women to build successful futures and create a better life for themselves and their children.

Women and girls are born into a context steeped in discrimination and gender-based violence, with about 1 in 3 women worldwide having experienced violence at some point in their lives. India is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a girl or woman, with early marriage a serious concern, doubling the likelihood of violence. Against this backdrop, Breakthrough works to make gender-based violence and discrimination unacceptable by transforming the cultural norms that perpetuate these practices. Breakthrough is a global human rights organization based in the U.S. and India. The organization uses culture to change culture, reaching people where they are to inspire action, replacing harmful norms with human rights values through the power of pop culture, media, arts, and tech, combined with on-the-ground engagement. Breakthrough’s powerful campaigns reach and inspire millions, and equip people to take action. Breakthrough focuses on youth, as the organization believes they hold the most potential to ultimately create a new generation that will reject violence and discriminatory gender norms to create new narratives. Breakthrough’s proven community engagement model of change in India is working to transform attitudes and behaviors with the aim to reach over a million young people by 2023.

Ending poverty requires addressing the power inequalities between women and men, girls and boys that underpin gender-based violence. CARE is committed to supporting the empowerment of poor women and girls in their challenges to enjoy happy and healthy lives and to change the contexts in which they live, learn, work and raise families. This includes the organization’s dedication to working with women and men in all settings to confront gender-based violence, which affects at least one in three women worldwide. CARE’s holistic approach to gender-based violence combines prevention with comprehensive service delivery, and addresses root causes driving various forms of gender-based violence and gender discrimination. In more than 40 countries around the world, CARE works with issues of GBV, including providing critical medical, legal, psychosocial and protection services to people experiencing violence (primarily women and girls), and provides local activists with assistance and support to link with others to provide case management to survivors, advocate for improved policies and laws, raise awareness and change local norms that perpetuate violent behavior.

Days for Girls
Days for Girls (DfG) International’s mission is to turn periods into pathways. Around the world, women and girls miss days of education and opportunity because they lack access to menstrual health products and education. This can put them in vulnerable positions where they are taken advantage of, exploited, and experience violence and abuse. Giving women and girls the resources they need to manage their periods contributes to a world that is safe, equitable, and healthy for all womankind. DfG works in three key areas: 1) Focus on educating both boys and girls with health education, which includes human-trafficking avoidance, self-defense, and other empowering tools to utilize and implement. 2) Support sustainable social enterprises that are locally-led and generate jobs within a community. Enterprises are small businesses led by women who are trained to sew and sell washable DfG Kits (reusable pads) while also providing our valuable health education. 3) Connect with policymakers, governments, and coalitions to include and invest in menstrual health resources within education and governmental sectors. This three-pronged approach has enabled DfG to reach more than 1.7 million women and girls in 144 countries.

Every Woman Treaty
Every Woman Treaty is a coalition of more than 1,700 women’s rights activists, including 840 organizations, in 128 nations working to advance a global binding norm on the elimination of violence against women and girls. The organization’s working group studied recommendations from the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and scholarly research on how to solve the problem of violence against women and girls, including trafficking and modern slavery, and found that a global treaty is the most powerful step the international community can take to address an issue of this magnitude.

Friends of WPC Nepal
Friends of WPC Nepal funds a safe home in Hetauda, Nepal, for 28 children who are at-risk or have survived trafficking. The organization sends them to private school. In addition, Friends of WPC Nepal also provide scholarships for 58 children in the Hetauda community as education combats the risk of trafficking and provides a better future. In addition, the organization conducts a Trafficking Awareness and Child Rights program that reaches rural villages in Nepal where trafficking is prevalent. This program educates children and families on how to recognize deceptive promises from traffickers and to report it to community leaders and authorities. This program even led to the takedown of a well-established trafficking network.

Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (HRW) fights to end violence against women and girls, advance women’s right to health care, and promote women’s economic and social rights. HRW’s method is straightforward. The organization investigates violations of women’s rights, talking to the women and girls directly affected on the ground in countries around the world. HRW documents its findings in hard-hitting reports with detailed recommendations. Then HRW uses these reports—and targeted media outreach—to generate pressure for reform by the entities that perpetrate abuses against women. All HRW’s work is intersectional and is done in partnership with local organizations and activists. HRW researchers fight sexual harassment in the workplace and abuses in garment manufacturing to combatting human trafficking; work to end child marriage, and defending women’s access to land and the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health. HRW’s latest work is uncovering the new intersections between technology and gender-based violence, including digital stalking and on-line harassment, as it continues to document abuses and foster coalitions that protect, defend, and fight for women’s rights around the world.

International Rescue Committee
Today, women and girls live in a world that is more insecure than ever in recorded history. More than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution – nearly 34,000 people per day. During humanitarian crises, the exclusion and structural biases that women and girls face are compounded by insecurity and displacement. The IRC is a global leader in transforming the lives of women and girls, and its Gender Equality Unit is dedicated to ensuring that IRC program outcomes are achieved equally by all members of the community. All IRC programs are designed and implemented with gender equality technical expertise. The IRC has close to two decades of program and global leadership in addressing gender-based violence and discrimination of women and girls.

Kati Collective
Kati Collective improves systems across global development by providing experienced, strategic, and pragmatic action focused on three of the most important drivers of change: women, digital, and partnerships. In all of its engagements, Kati Collective applies a gender lens, thinking strategically about how to engage men and boys, while concurrently supporting women and girls in LMICs. Kati Collective’s work concentrates on culturally relevant technology for social impact, focusing on girls’ and women’s empowerment applications for effectively educating communities and maximizing outcomes for the underserved across the globe. Gender-based violence, which is faced by women globally, is not a female problem – it is a human problem, rooted in the attitudes, cultural norms, and behaviors of men worldwide. When men and boys are educated about ingrained sexist and systemic biases, they begin to see how they can partner in stopping these behaviors and practices from harming the next generation. Kati Collective approaches partnerships with the goal of aligning agendas regarding GBV and other female-centric issues forward collectively. Local and global perspectives must come together for impactful and lasting systemic change. Kati Collective provides its clients with perspective and experience, as well as the strategies and tools needed to improve outcomes for women on a global scale.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
Children and youth in Central America face widespread gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual abuse, human trafficking, and sexual violence by gangs and organized criminal groups. With nowhere to turn for protection or support, many children are forced to migrate in search of safety. KIND’s Gender and Migration Initiative seeks to prevent and address gender-based violence against children and youth in Central America by shifting harmful social norms that enable these forms of violence and creating stronger support systems for children at the local level. In partnership with local organizations in Guatemala and Honduras, KIND engages children and youth in violence prevention and healthy relationships activities and adolescent girls in leadership and economic empowerment programming; trains teachers to recognize cases of sexual abuse and connect survivors with assistance; provides parents and caretakers with tools to communicate with children about GBV and healthy relationships; and raises awareness of GBV in local communities. This programming reached over 1,800 individuals in Guatemala and Honduras in 2019 alone. KIND conducts research on GBV and child migration, and advocates with U.S. and regional governments to increase protection and support for survivors of violence. KIND’s ultimate goals are to protect children from GBV and prevent them from being forced to migrate to escape GBV.

Landesa champions and works to secure land rights for millions of those living in poverty worldwide, primarily rural women and men, to promote social justice and provide opportunity. Evidence shows that women’s land rights can transform power dynamics within households and communities, improving women’s status and their own perceptions of their power. This empowerment forms the bedrock for greater economic opportunity for women, and can also contribute to better health outcomes, including potential reductions in gender-based violence, rates of HIV infection, and other threats to women’s safety. In West Bengal, India, Landesa is working with USAID and PepsiCo to raise awareness of issues related to GBV in agricultural supply chains. This work includes developing guidance documents for a project that is helping women farmers learn skills to participate in PepsiCo’s potato supply chain. Guidance has been tailored both for field staff who work directly with farmers and for management staff, including training materials developed in collaboration with a local CSO to help field staff address GBV. Across more than 50 countries, Landesa has helped strengthen land rights for more than 180 million families.

MenEngage works with boys and men to promote gender equality around the world. It is a global alliance, made up of dozens of country networks spread across many regions of the world, hundreds of non-governmental organizations, as well as UN partners. MenEngage members work collectively and individually toward advancing gender justice, human rights and social justice to achieve a world in which all can enjoy healthy, fulfilling and equitable relationships and their full potential. Through its country-level and regional networks, MenEngage seeks to provide a collective voice on the need to engage men and boys in gender equality, to build and improve the field of practice around engaging men in achieving gender justice, and advocating before policymakers at the local, national, regional and international levels.

Mercy Corps
Mercy Corps is a global team of nearly 6,000 humanitarians working in more than 40 countries around the world. From Colombia to the Central African Republic, Mercy Corps partners with local communities to build strong, equitable, and protective societies in which women and girls can thrive. In order to combat Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Mercy Corps works to address the root causes of GBV and connect survivors with the vital resources and services they need. In Lebanon, Mercy Corps hosts a series of dialogue sessions for Syrian refugees in order to bring awareness to GBV and provides case management, connecting survivors to medical and legal services, psychological support and safe housing.

Mona Foundation
Since its founding in 1999, Mona Foundation has had a simple but compelling goal — to support grassroots educational initiatives that build stronger and sustainable communities by raising the status of women and girls. Mona achieves this by partnering with local organizations that work to reduce the barriers to education, improve quality of learning, and cultivate agency among girls and boys. A long-term partnership enables sustained social and economic development activities, which often leads to an increase in reach, greater efficacy of programs, and an expanded ability to address complex problems. The pandemic has brought to light the universal truth that what impacts one, impacts all, and that education is the key driver to eradicating poverty, prejudice, violence and other social ills that afflict our communities, including this disease. But for education to be transformative, it needs to be transformed – teaching lessons of equality, ethics and service alongside math, sciences, and humanities. The field experience of the Mona Foundation’s 19 partner projects in 12 countries has confirmed yet again that this view of education is the key lever in creating and sustaining positive change and building healthy, prosperous and just communities for all.

OutRight Action International
Lesbians, bisexual women and transgender (LBT) people around the world often face violence and exclusion in many spheres of their lives, fueled by laws that criminalize same-sex relations and gender non-conformity and encouraged by governments who tolerate, endorse, or directly sponsor the violent clamp-down on those who do not follow prevailing societal norms. Often LBT people are excluded or driven away from needed services and social support, and violence often goes unreported. They are also often denied access to justice based on archaic laws that limit the definition of rape while also delegitimizing same-sex and queer intimacy. OutRight Action International works with grassroots partners in Asia and the Caribbean to ensure that the experiences of LBT people are included in anti-gender-based violence work. For example, in 2019, OutRight and its Caribbean partners launched the Frontline Alliance: Caribbean Partnerships Against Gender Based Violence project to engage first responders, local government officials and others with a focus on domestic violence, family violence and intimate partner violence and to advocate for improvement in policies and protocols through engagement in research, trainings and strategic campaigning. OutRight has also documented the violence and exclusion LBT women face in Asia, worked with grassroots partners to improve domestic violence protections for LGBT people in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Myanmar and China, and is currently launching a regional platform of experts on SOGIE and GBV in Asia.

Oxfam America
Oxfam America’s work to advance gender justice is multifaceted and tailored to the people Oxfam serves. In some countries, Oxfam is the largest and most prominent organization to take a stand for women and gender-diverse people, and alongside them, often supporting the infrastructures of burgeoning movements. In other countries, like Sri Lanka, Oxfam helps rethink entrenched systems and remap biases to shift attitudes and overcome barriers. In all places, Oxfam strives for sustainable change. Oxfam does so first by acknowledging women, girls, and feminist actors as effective social change agents who must have a hand in ensuring their own rights and in the development they most want to see – development that will transform their families, communities and countries. Oxfam’s gender-based violence (GBV) work is focused on working with women’s rights organizations and feminist movement actors in 30 countries to challenge and transform harmful social norms. Oxfam’s focus on ending GBV is on addressing changes in social norms that perpetrate violence against women in creative ways and engaging feminist activists a youth at the local level. Oxfam’s global, regional, and national GBV work includes: 1) innovative global and national campaigning activities, like the Enough campaign. Working with digital influencers to counter anti-rights actors; 2) engaging and supporting the agendas of women’s rights organizations and feminist movement actors; 3) collaboration with feminist funds to provide small, flexible grants to young feminist organizers running campaigns; and 4) supporting the mobilization of young people at regional level. 

PATH is a global non-profit working to accelerate health equity so all people and communities can thrive. PATH advises and partners with public institutions, businesses, grassroots groups, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges. Finding solutions to a challenge as complex as gender-based violence can seem daunting, but PATH is improving GBV prevention and response, both at health facilities and in communities, and is evaluating programmatic approaches to GBV prevention. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, PATH integrates care for survivors of sexual violence into prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV. This includes introduction of an HIV screening tool, training to help health care workers respond to the needs of clients who have experienced violence or may be at risk of violence, and the provision of equipment and supplies to facilitate medical care if needed. In Kenya, PATH developed a family-based approach to address GBV during adolescence, adapting a successful “peer families” approach, which focuses on improving family relationships and communication skills to address social norms linked to GBV. These two very different approaches—one based in the health system, the other based in family and community structures—are both important.

Promundo is a global leader in advancing gender equality and preventing violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women, girls, and individuals of all gender identities. Promundo believes that working with men and boys to transform harmful gender norms and unequal power dynamics is a critical part of the solution to achieving gender equality. For transformative, sustainable change, men and boys must see themselves as partners in the process. Men and boys also benefit when harmful norms are challenged. Promundo’s research, programs, and advocacy efforts show that exploring positive models of “what it means to be a man” and promoting healthy, respectful masculinity leads to improvements in the lives of women and girls, as well as in men’s own lives, and the lives of individuals of all gender identities.

Resonance is a global consulting firm that delivers market-based solutions to address the world’s toughest challenges. Resonance understands the critical role that women and girls play around the world and how restricting their rights hinders economic and social progress within all sectors, industries, and communities. When initiating new projects and building partnerships, Resonance asks: 1) How will governing gender norms, roles, and responsibilities impact the programming? And 2) How will this work reduce existent gaps and barriers for women and girls, as well as provide equitable access to and benefit from the development assistance? In communities that experience severe environmental stress and degradation, incidents of gender-based violence increase dramatically. For example, the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that after two tropical cyclones in Vanuatu, there was a 300% increase in new cases of domestic violence. This trend is prevalent across cultures and continents, and in response to a variety of issues such as climate change, resource scarcity, and environmental degradation. In response, Resonance looks for innovative ways to strengthen women’s participation and improve gender equality around the world. For example, in August 2019 Resonance and USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment launched the Resilient, Inclusive, & Sustainable Environments (RISE) Challenge to leverage $1.2 million in grant funding to fuel meaningful partnerships between environmental and gender organizations around the world.

Rise Beyond the Reef
Gender-based violence is a serious problem in Fiji, where women and girls face approximately twice the violent incidents in their lifetime compared to women and girls around the world. This violence affects the women themselves as well as their children and, more broadly, society. Rise Beyond the Reef, founded in 2013, addresses the unique development needs of rural and remote communities in Fiji, improving women’s and children’s lives through ecologically sustainable income-generating projects, using traditional skills and materials, addressing gender inequalities, building women leaders, and empowering women and girl survivors of domestic violence. Read more about their work in a new report: Promising Practices in Preventing and Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls in Fiji.

Sahar Education
Sahar creates opportunities in Afghanistan that empower and inspire children and their families to build peaceful, thriving communities. It achieves this by building schools and designing educational programs that address key barriers that keep girls from accessing and completing their education. In Northern Afghanistan, for example, an estimated 57% of girls are married before the legal age of 16. While early education is encouraged, girls are often forced into early marriage around age 12 or 13, and drop out of school. Sahar’s Early Marriage Prevention Program inspires girls to continue their education and empowers them to become leaders in their community. It also equips them to advocate for themselves by increasing their knowledge of potential educational opportunities and an understanding of their legal rights. Each year, Sahar reaches 500 girls directly, and more than 2,000 community members.

Seattle International Foundation
Seattle International Foundation (SIF) champions good governance and equity in Central America through support for rule of law and the strengthening of civil society. When security and rule of law deteriorate in the Northern Triangle of Central America, women face not only systemic violence from powerful gangs, impunity and government repression, but pervasive domestic and sexual violence as well. This has exacerbated the tendency to migrate, despite a high likelihood of facing additional violence en route and a slim likelihood of obtaining asylum in the United States. SIF has committed to addressing and mitigating this reality through its multi-prong approach and through its key initiatives: the Central America Donors ForumCentral America in Washington, D.C., Central America and Mexico Youth (CAMY) Fund, Centroamérica Adelante and the Independent Journalism Fund.

Seattle University
Global engagement is a strategic priority for Seattle University, underlying its mission to create leaders for a just and humane world. The Central America Initiative, which derived from the university’s strong partnership with Universidad Centroamericana in Nicaragua, has expanded to include outreach, programs and research with universities and organizations throughout the region. For example, Kristi Lee, PhD (clinical mental health counseling) has led groups of master’s level student researchers to Guatemala to assist with a study on how female victims of gender-based violence survive, heal, and go on to thrive in collaboration with faculty and students at Universidad Rafael Landivar, Guatemala’s Jesuit university.

Splash is a social justice organization committed to the poor, an international development agency disciplined around urban economies, a social enterprise dedicated to putting itself out of business, and a safe water company focused on children. The organization has a partnership in Nepal with Days for Girls, another Global Washington member. Together the two organizations raise awareness of menstrual hygiene management in schools through education, while creating sustainable access to environmentally friendly and cost-effective female hygiene products.

Tostan — which means ‘breakthrough’ in the Wolof language — was founded in 1991. Tostan empowers communities throughout Senegal, Mali, The Gambia, Guinea and GuineaBissau through human rights-based, non-formal education. More than half of Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program participants are women and at least nine members of the 17-member Community Management Committees must be women. Through the Community Empowerment Program sessions on human rights, participants learn about their right to health and their right to be free from all forms of violence. They also discuss the responsibilities they share to protect these rights in their community. In sessions on health, they learn about the potential, immediate, and long-term harmful consequences of female genital cutting (FGC) and discuss ways to prevent these health problems in the future. Community members are encouraged to draw their own conclusions about FGC and lead their own movements for change. Through this process, many communities decide to end FGC together, some without having directly participated in Tostan’s classes.

750 million girls and women today were married before their 18th birthday. This practice is a fundamental violation of human rights and causes girls to lose valuable economic, educational, and social opportunities. If current trends continue, the number of girls and women married as children will reach nearly one billion before 2030. UNICEF works with governments to sustainably address the root causes of child marriage by strengthening systems and working to end harmful behavioral practices. In 2015, the global community made a strong commitment to ending this problem by endorsing UN SDG 5.3, which aims to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriages and female genital mutilation.” This target has the power to influence a number of other goals on the agenda, including those around clean water, poverty, nutrition, health, education, economic grown and the reduction of inequality.

The United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking
The United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund (UNVTF) for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children was established in 2010 within the UN Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, in line with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. As the first global legally binding instrument to protect and assist the victims of trafficking with full respect for their human rights, the Protocol frames the specific efforts to prevent and combat human trafficking, as well as to reinforce the implementation of existing instruments and promote cooperation among States Parties. UNVTF is supporting its partners to identify and plan mitigation against risks related to COVID-19 in line with UN processes. As part of its risk assessment and Contingency Plan, the Trust Fund is working closely with NGOs grantees to collect country-specific information to minimize the risks and impact of COVID-19 on project implementation. Over 3,000 individuals are directly supported every year through the Trust Fund’s NGO partners.

Vista Hermosa
Vista Hermosa is a family foundation located in Pasco, WA, established by Ralph and Cheryl Broetje in 1990 to invest in the growth of flourishing communities. Informed by teachings of servant leadership, healing centered engagement and empowered worldview, Vista Hermosa takes a holistic approach to understanding and reconciling people’s connections to self, others, God, and place (shalom). Vista Hermosa accompanies very marginalized groups of people to discover who they are, find their voice, and be the solutions to their own wellbeing and development. The foundation currently funds partners in Mexico, Haiti, India, and East Africa, as well as the U.S. One of its strategies to address gender-based violence is through supporting the adaptation of SASA! (originally developed in Uganda),  a community-led awareness, education and action methodology. Vista Hermosa funded the adaptation for the Haitian context and most recently for Mexico/Central America. The foundation is currently assembling a group of funders to support a cohort of regional NGOs to implement this evidence-based curriculum that addresses power imbalances between women and men in communities. Vista Hermosa also supports a range of organizations working on child and sex trafficking, FGM, and new masculinities. 

Vital Voices
Vital Voices is a global movement that invests in women leaders solving the world’s greatest challenges. Vital Voices understands that, in order for the world to embrace women’s full potential across industries and issues, gender-based violence (GBV) must be eliminated. Vital Voices works with women leaders and male allies to ensure that victims and survivors of GBV gain better access to services, protection and the justice they deserve. Vital Voices oversees key programs implemented in partnership with local leaders to deliver on this work. The Voices Against Violence Initiative champions innovative solutions to end GBV. Within Voices Against Violence, Vital Voices provides and administers Urgent Assistance Funds to survivors of extreme cases of GBV who do not have alternative means of support for immediate, short-term needs such as medical expenses, psychosocial counseling, emergency shelter and more. Also through Voices Against Violence, Vital Voices hosts Justice Institutes – interactive training programs that promote holistic response to violence and exploitation by convening judges, prosecutors, law enforcement and service providers and other stakeholders across the justice system to focus on victim safety and offender accountability. Vital Voices also oversees the Global Freedom Exchange, which provides a dynamic educational and mentoring experience for emerging and established women leaders who are on the forefront of global efforts to prevent and respond to the destructive crime of human trafficking. These programs support Vital Voices’ work protecting human rights so that everyone can enjoy the safety and security they deserve.

WaterAid started in 1981 to make clean water, reliable toilets, and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The effects of a lack of clean water and decent toilets are felt most acutely by women and girls. Many girls spend hours each day collecting water, which can leave them with reduced time to go to school. Those that do go, may miss school, or drop out entirely, when they start to menstruate because there isn’t anywhere to keep clean. Without a private place to go to the toilet, many women only go at night, when the risk of assault, sexual harassment or animal attacks is increased. This is the daily reality of life for many women in developing countries. WaterAid ensures that women are consulted about their preferences for project design, especially where taps and toilets should be placed, and what features they need to have in order to best meet the needs of their communities. WaterAid also engages men to shift their attitudes and change harmful gender norms and power dynamics. Involving women in change outside the community is important, too. Whether working with district governments in an area where we implement projects, or speaking before the United Nations, WaterAid ensures women’s voices are present, to help policy makers better understand what makes a tap, toilet, or hygiene campaign work for them.

World Concern
World Concern is a Christian global relief and development organization that partners with isolated and impoverished communities beyond the end of the road to give them access to clean water, sustainable food options, healthcare, education, and other necessities of life. By first listening to leaders within a community, World Concern helps it determine primary needs and goals, empowering families to own the work, which brings transformation that lasts. One of the vital aspects of World Concern’s work is the effort to change cultural norms regarding child marriage. By providing scholarships for girls to attend school and building awareness of the dangers of child marriage in communities, World Concern is helping young women gain a brighter future. This breaks the cycle of poverty within a family and benefits the entire community. World Concern operates transformational community development programs in Haiti, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Uganda, DRC, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Yemen, and Syria.

World Justice Project
The World Justice Project is an independent, multidisciplinary organization working to advance the rule of law around the world. Effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small. It is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace—underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights.

World Vision
Research shows that societies with greater gender equality experience faster economic growth, better outcomes for children, and more representative government institutions. And yet, up to one in three women report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. Gender-based violence and discrimination costs everyone. World Vision addresses gender inequality by working with entire communities — women, girls, men, and boys — to transform discriminatory practices together. World Vision also works with faith leaders around the world to acknowledge and act upon gender injustices in their communities.