Eliminating gender-based violence helps build economies - Hindustan Times
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Eliminating gender-based violence helps build economies

ByHindustan Times
Mar 23, 2023 04:49 PM IST

The article has been authored by Michelle Milford Morse, Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy at the UN Foundation and Nahla Valji, Spotlight Initiative Global Coordinator, United Nations.

Gender-based violence is all around us. Few people are willing to talk about it openly, but violence against women and girls is so pervasive that it has affected nearly everyone. It is a threat the world’s girls and women find impossible to ignore or dismiss. As we mark another International Women’s Day this month, we all should be reminded of the role we play in ending this scourge.

Globally, one in three women personally experience violence. It ranks as one of the world’s worst human rights abuses and negatively affects every aspect of a woman’s life, including her health, income, relationships, education, family, ability to participate in her community and her likelihood of experiencing violence in the future.(HT File) PREMIUM
Globally, one in three women personally experience violence. It ranks as one of the world’s worst human rights abuses and negatively affects every aspect of a woman’s life, including her health, income, relationships, education, family, ability to participate in her community and her likelihood of experiencing violence in the future.(HT File)

Globally, one in three women personally experience violence. It ranks as one of the world’s worst human rights abuses and negatively affects every aspect of a woman’s life, including her health, income, relationships, education, family, ability to participate in her community and her likelihood of experiencing violence in the future. There is no country or community in the world where girls and women live free from violence and its impact extends beyond the individuals whose lives are forever altered, reverberating across communities, health systems and economies.

Because it is a universal challenge, reducing and ultimately eliminating gender-based violence is our collective responsibility. Beyond being a gross violation of rights, its perpetuation undermines our shared hopes for peaceful and prosperous societies.

For the women who experience gender-based violence, the impacts extend beyond their physical and mental well-being. Gender-based violence thwarts economic health by depriving women of work opportunities and access to education, and forces absence from the labor force. Women who experience violence earn 60% less than those who do not, blocking their economic mobility and costing the international community; it is estimated that the loss of women’s economic potential due to domestic violence, globally, is $1.7 trillion annually, the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 100 countries. Think about that for a moment.

Given the massive economic toll exacted by violence against women, we have a moral duty to focus on a proven strategy to fight it: increasing investments in women’s local leadership. Feminist activism is essential as it plays a more critical role in accelerating action to end this violence than many realize, with its unique ability to have an immediate impact at the grassroots level as well as pressure national governments to act. We have the evidence to prove this approach works.

Women’s rights and feminist grassroots organisations have unparalleled access to and buy-in from their communities. Yet, they receive only 1% of current gender-related international aid. This must change.

The Covid-19 pandemic spurred international attention around both gender-based violence and women’s economic losses, but the scrutiny was fleeting. Briefly, the world took note that women were forced out of the workforce, twice as likely to lose their jobs as men. Gender pay gaps widened and more women were pushed into poverty, a situation compounded by women experiencing gender-based violence. Observers may be quick to view this phenomenon as simply another “women’s issue,” but this could not be further from reality; if this gap is allowed to persist, it will threaten to decrease global GDP by over $1 trillion by 2030.

For too long, development strategies have cast women as passive recipients, but the evidence shows that real progress and positive impact results from grassroots efforts where women are in positions of leadership and influence. Small, local, women-led organisations, with their strong relationships and community presence, have the ability to respond to violence and help prevent it; they often lack the institutional capacity to take in and administer large grants, which come with attendant paperwork and rigorous reporting demands. This opportunity gap presented a clear pathway for action when, in 2021, the UN Foundation and the Spotlight Initiative partnered to launch the WithHer Fund to bring much-needed resources to feminist grassroots organisations around the world working to end gender-based violence.

The Fund connects interested philanthropic donors and private sector partners from global beauty brands to major retailers, providing investment opportunities in evidence-based, grassroots programs working to eliminate gender-based violence. Similarly, it provides frontline, women-led organisations with the flexible funds they need to further their initiatives.

Despite its entrenchment in human history, gender-based violence can be eliminated. It is not an insurmountable goal, but we must change how we view the problem. Violence against women is a human rights issue that is perpetuating a massive global economic burden. We have an imperative to invest sufficiently in funding feminist grassroots organizations. This bold move will empower women and communities alike, producing solutions that work for women’s personal, physical and financial wellbeing and result in lasting, positive economic impact.

The article has been authored by Michelle Milford Morse, Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy at the UN Foundation and Nahla Valji, Spotlight Initiative Global Coordinator, United Nations.

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