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DATE : 21-04-20 11:24
CSW65 ICW Parallel Event “VAWG and COVID-19: Policies/Practices needed to build back better”
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During the 65th Commission on Status of Women, ICW-CIF organized a virtual parallel event, Violence Against Women and Girls and COVID 19: Policies/Practices to Build Back Better, on March 18, 2021 at 3:30 a.m. ICW-CIF invited an excellent panel of 4 experts from the United Nations (UN),World Bank and OECD and two survivor activists to speak at the webinar.

In her opening speech, ICW-CIF President Dr. Jungsook Kim remarked that in addition to a health pandemic, COVID-19 increased the inequalities faced by women and girls and aggravated all forms of violence against women. Dr. Kim noted that post recovery programs present a good opportunity for countries to implement policies and practices to eliminate gender-based violence and achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment and expressed her hope that the event will inspire concrete strategies and ideas on how to combat and eliminate violence against women and girls. ICW Vice-president and moderator of the event Linda Liu briefly introduced the panels and their aims for the event’s fruitful discussion.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Dr. Dubravka Šimonović, spoke about how the COVID pandemic and the policies adopted to control the pandemic resulted in the reduction of funding in most countries for services provided to victims of violence against women (VAW) including shelters, data collection and medical services, thereby exacerbating problems related to gender-based violence. She stated that the various socio-economic stresses created by the COVID pandemic and government lockdown measures to control the pandemic resulted in trapping many women at home with their abusers and made it more difficult for them to seek help or escape the abuse.

Ms. Gbedemah, the immediate past chair of CEDAW committee, further added that lockdown measures led to dire impacts on the livelihood of women, especially those who worked in the informal sector, in outdoor work, and in work that require physical contact with people. Dr. Simonovic and Ms. Gbedemah pointed out that the effects of the pandemic were aggravated for disadvantaged women, including migrant women living in crowded conditions and informal settlements.

Ms. Diana Arango spoke of the World Bank’s commitment to end VAWG at the start of the pandemic by incorporating this goal in their programs with UN agencies, governments, and private sectors. Some of the examples she provided include: funding media campaigns on the radio and television

to heighten awareness on the prevention of VAWG and to inform women that protections services for victims of VAWG would not stop

during the pandemic; conducting studies to identify gaps in services for VAWG and to close such gaps such as establishing hotlines, and expanding safe service and referral centers to gas stations; and funding the construction of hospitals and medical services to build back better through strengthening physical, reproductive and mental health services for victims of VAWG. She specifically disclosed the World Bank’s requirement that their programs or operations include monitoring and mitigation methods to prevent and ensure that they are not impacted by sexual exploitation, abuse or harassment.

Ms. Hyeshin Park spoke of the OECD’s commitment to work for the elimination of VAWG through collecting data and enhancing understanding of

the root causes of VAWG, one of them being socio-cultural masculinity norms, which is a source of the power imbalance between males and females. These masculinity norms include men being the breadwinner in the family, men having the final say in household and financial matters, and real men

suppressing their emotions. She cites education, creating campaigns that succeed in transforming socio-cultural masculinity norms, and engagement of men and boys in the campaign as ways to work toward eliminating VAWG.

Through the personal stories of the two survivor activists, the audience heard true accounts of how two young girls inadvertently became victims of

different forms of violence against women and girls and also how they managed to escape the violence.

Ms. Grizelda Grootbroom spoke about being raped at a young age to being forced into sex trafficking and drug abuse at 18 years old by her best friend and finally to extricating successfully from the violence after 12 long years. She explained that by telling her painful story and through her work as an activist, she hopes that she is able to help girls escape from sex slavery, trafficking and violence.

Beginning with her own story as a survivor of child marriage to the stories of other girls who tried to escape the child marriage and consequently

became victims of honor-based violence, Dr. Mohinder Watson introduced and discussed the issues of child marriage and honor-based violence as forms of violence against girls and their devastating consequences which can include killings and suicides.

Before turning over to the Q&A, the moderator, Linda Liu, summed up some important points drawn from the event.

She noted that although it is tragic that VAWG has increased during the pandemic, the spotlight on the issue will hopefully lead to the incorporation of policies, measures and practices to prevent and end VAWG into national and local recovery plans that will rebuild the world back better.



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