WHO addresses violence against women as a gender equality and health priority

July 18, 2023

Together with UN Women, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) today launched the RESPECT Women website, a new online one-stop platform that aims to drive concrete actions—in policies and programs—to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. The website was launched during the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, which brings together over 6,000 delegates focused on advancing gender equality and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. 

Preventing and responding to violence against women and girls continues to be a worldwide public health, gender equality and human rights priority. Globally almost 1 in 3 women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner. This is a stark reminder of the scale of gender inequality and discrimination against women.

“Violence against women and girls remains an immense crisis for rights and health for millions of women and girls around the world,” said Dr Pascale Allotey, Director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO, and head of the UN Special Programme on Human Reproduction (HRP). “Governments need to ‘walk the talk’ in investing in evidence-based resources for violence prevention and response, while advancing gender equality. This new platform aims to support this process.”

Digital tools support concrete efforts to end violence against women and girls 

Women Deliver 2023 coincides with the mid-way point since the Generation Equality Forum appointed WHO and UN Women as co-leads of the Action Coalition for ending gender-based violence, which continues to affect millions of women and girls around the world—with devastating health impacts.

The new RESPECT women website contributes towards delivering the Action Coalition’s commitments for violence prevention. The user-friendly, interactive platform provides practical support for implementing the RESPECT women framework’s seven evidence-based strategies, with briefs on how to implement successful programs, and training and multimedia materials for advocacy. The RESPECT framework, which launched in 2019, has been rolled out in 16 countries, with country examples illustrating positive results. Yet, data from a WHO report shows only 40% of countries include at least one of three essential RESPECT strategies—empowering women, ensuring relevant services, and transforming gender attitudes, beliefs and norms—in their national policies for addressing violence against women. 

Violence against women, a public health, gender equality and human rights priority  

Recognizing the health sector’s important role in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls, WHO is working with partners to fulfill commitments to address gender-based violence in the following ways: 

  • In 2021, WHO published global, regional and country prevalence estimates for violence against women and girls, along with an interactive visualization database.
  • In countries experiencing conflict, natural disaster, and other emergencies, WHO is supporting 21 countries in humanitarian settings to strengthen health responses to gender-based violence.  
  • WHO is helping countries develop clinical protocols for tackling violence against women and girls, focusing on comprehensive, survivor-centered health care.  In 2022, 71 countries reported using WHO guidelines and tools for this purpose.  
  • Additional actions address such issues as care services for girls and women at risk of or affected by female genital mutilation and child marriage, including a training package for health workers to support prevention counselling.

Advancing gender equality: a critical moment 

Together with the UN Special Programme for Human Reproduction (HRP) and the Implementing Best Practice (IBP) Network, WHO is engaging in-person and digitally at Women Deliver 2023 , supporting efforts to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and people’s universal right to health.

You can access a new Resource Finder for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

Visit the WHO’s Women Deliver Event Page for detailed information on its booth and events at the conference.

WHO has the article.

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