Gender-based violence (GBV) poses significant risks to women and girls worldwide and has direct and long-term effects on all aspects of sexual, physical, and psychological health. This includes sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, pregnancy complications, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, stigmatization, and community marginalization. For more information, check out UNwomen’s infographic.
WAHA recognizes that risk of GBV among women and girls is exacerbated in humanitarian crises, particularly in conflict and post-conflict settings, and seeks to meet the growing need for care. The Syrian refugee crisis for example, led to a lack of community protection, displacement, diminished access to essential resources, and a breakdown of community structures that increased insecurity for women and girls in Syria and throughout the region. Women who are separated from their families or lack access to safe housing and education are particularly vulnerable to GBV and lack essential services.
WAHA has adopted the definition of gender-based violence from the 1993 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women:
“Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”
Activities to prevent and respond to GBV are integrated within WAHA’s programs. In addition, we have been conducting research to identify GBV risks and create evidence-based strategies and improve the quality of care for women and girls in order to strengthen our programs.
WAHA continues to support refugees and communities vulnerable to violence by increasing the provision of GBV prevention and response activities for at-risk populations. This includes the strengthening of services by incorporating GBV interventions into existing programming with a particular focus on the Middle East, Europe and Africa. WAHA provides psychosocial support, referral to other support services including legal and judicial services, life skills and language training as well as safe spaces for women and girls. WAHA ensures that health centers are prepared to address GBV by providing medical supplies including post-rape kits, dignity kits, the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP), emergency contraceptives and post-exposure prophylaxis. Through these activities, WAHA will ensure the promotion of women’s access to healthcare and psychosocial support services that are essential in reducing GBV risks and caring for survivors.
The purpose of our research efforts on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is to increase the evidence base on gender related discrimination and violence, as there is currently a lack of support in this area. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea of evidence-informed actions and policies. Our current projects investigate the sexual and reproductive needs of refugees and the risk of GBV. We also study the feasibility of integrating GBV prevention interventions with local cultural practices, specifically understanding the attitudes and perceptions of intimate-partner violence. Innovative research includes the development of SMS-based tools intended to raise awareness on GBV and extend the reach of information regarding GBV services for women and girls.
WAHA is partnered with the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies. The goal of the Call to Action is to drive change and foster accountability within the humanitarian sphere so that every humanitarian effort includes policies, systems, and mechanisms necessary to mitigate GBV risks, especially violence against women and girls, from the earliest phases of a crisis, and to provide safe and comprehensive services for those affected by GBV. As partners with the multi-stakeholder initiative, we are committed to ensuring the implementation of the Road Map and transforming humanitarian practice on GBV as a collective.