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Tackling Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence affects millions around the world and prevents many people, the vast majority of whom are women, from reaching their full potential. It is one of the most pervasive but least recognised abuses of human rights. Ending gender-based violence is a central part of our work.  

Women in colourful clothes gather in Sierra Leone

Gender-based violence (GBV) occurs in every country, in homes, streets and workplaces, and is particularly prevalent during times of conflicts and crises. The term is used to describe acts of sexual violence, physical violence and harmful traditional practices (such as female genital mutilation) that result in physical and psychological harm. ‌

Women are primarily, but not exclusively, affected with an estimated one in every three women being beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. GBV is rooted in gender inequality, both reflecting and reinforcing inequities between women and men.

The prevalence of GBV is particularly high at times of humanitarian emergencies, especially in armed conflict, when normal systems of protection are undermined. It is often used as a strategy to displace populations, instil fear, and control people.

The social, human, and economic costs of gender-based violence are a huge obstacle to reducing poverty today.

  • It can affect the health and well-being of survivors with long-lasting physical and psychological effects.  
  • It often prevents girls from attending school as dangers are faced on the journey to school, with school itself often not a safe place.
  • It is a key driver of the HIV pandemic.
  • Fear of GBV inhibits women’s participation.

What we do   

Tackling gender-based violence is a priority for Irish Aid. We work with a range of government and civil society partners at community, national and international level to tackle both the causes and the effects of GBV and to ensure that policies are in place and are implemented. Our work aims to build awareness of the rights of women and expand women’s roles in the economic, social and political spheres.  It also seeks to engage men and boys on these issues.

Prevention though legislation

In our partner countries, we support a range of initiatives aimed at ending GBV, including efforts to enact legislation making GBV punishable by law. Legislation against GBV is now in place in the majority of our partner countries. For example, in 2010, gender-based violence was recognised as a crime by law in Timor Leste. The next challenge will be making sure that polices are put into practice. Civil society organisations (CSOs) are key partners in monitoring and strengthening accountability for commitments made.

We know that changing attitudes towards women is a proven way of breaking the cycle of poverty and violence but it is a long-term process.

Implementation in practice

We have provided funding for a programme in Uganda aimed at building the capacity of police, health workers and local government officials in how they work to prevent and respond to GBV. This programme is jointly implemented by government, aid agencies and a media production company.

During humanitarian crises

We recognise, in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, that women and men can be affected differently by conflict. In order to support our response to this resolution, Ireland has put in place a National Action Plan, part of which seeks to raise awareness of GBV in Ireland and in our work abroad.

The resolution is particularly relevant to our humanitarian work, which responds to the needs of those affected by emergencies, including conflict situations. One important piece of work in recent years has been the effort by humanitarian actors to challenge the myth that gender-based violence is an unavoidable part of conflict, thereby ensuring that efforts to tackle it are put in place.

We also support organisations that help survivors of gender-based violence. For example, we provided funding to the International Rescue Committee to support GBV survivors in the Dadaab refugee camps of Northern Kenya in 2011. We support Christian Aid Ireland which provides emergency assistance and support for vulnerable households in South Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through this support, victims of sexual violence have been provided with medical and psycho-social care as well as financial support. 

Building alliances for action

Irish Aid is a member of the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence. The aim of the Consortium is to support members to build their capacity to design, implement, monitor and evaluate programmes to target GBV and to share learning and best practice