A lock. A light. A secure shelter. All three can prevent violence against girls and women in emergencies, and provide a sense of security in a time of increased vulnerability and stress.
Violence against women and girls does not discriminate by race, religion, culture, class or country. Worldwide, one in three women have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence, and more than 15 million girls aged 15-19 years have experienced rape.
For International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the following 16 days of activism, here are 16 actions UNICEF and our partners are taking to increase girls’ and women’s safety in emergencies:
1-Let girls’ and women’s voices be heard Most importantly, #HearMeToo. Women and girls should be the at the centre of all design and delivery.
2-Connect to those who know, who care When developing programmes, ensure local women’s and youth organisations are consulted and build on their best practices and evidence. And for the many men and boys who are champions for an end to GBV, let’s work together.
3-Light the way All shelters, latrines, water points and pathways within camps must have ample lighting to reduce the risk of sexual violence.
4-Be non-apologetic about female-only safe spaces Most public spaces in emergencies are dominated by men and boys. Women and girls need a place where they can feel safe, report gender-based violence confidentially, receive information and support, and build their social network and confidence.
5-Make safe spaces mobile The most vulnerable women, married adolescents, adolescent mothers, and disabled women and girls need services brought to them.
6-Build a trusted partnership for case management Case managers provide crucial support to survivors of gender-based violence, empowering them to assess their needs and develop a plan to heal and recover.
7-Train frontline health workers Frontline health workers should be trained in supporting survivors of gender-based violence, including skills on survivor-centred communication and clinical management of rape.
8-Equip toilets with locks All latrines and toilets must have locks to offer women and girls security, and there should be separate facilities for males and females.
9-Expand the partnership circle In addition to local civil society, engage governments, donors and private partners to find new ways to collaborate – including blended financing mechanisms—to bring results to scale.
10-Construct secure shelters Women and girls often lack privacy within their shelter due to thin walls and proximity to neighboring tents. Shelters should be built to the design and needs that women and girls request for their safety.
11-Supply hygiene kits Women and girls have the right to manage their periods with privacy and dignity. WASH and hygiene kits, designed by women, with menstrual health products, soap, whistles and torches keep them safe and allow them to participate in school and other activities.
12-Build referral systems These give survivors a pathway to receive life-saving and confidential health care, psychosocial and other support on their journey to recovery.
13-Provide age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health services Access to clinical care for sexual assault, HIV and sexually-transmitted disease testing, and other health services should be accessible and adolescent-friendly.
14-Deliver life skills Through life skills training, women and adolescent girls can be leaders and creative thinkers, engage in citizenship, and gain skills that can reduce their risk of gender-based violence.
15-Cash in the hands of those who need it most In severe cases where a woman or a girl’s life is in danger, emergency cash can help facilitate access to immediate shelter and subsistence.
16-Women in WASH Meaningful participation of women and girls in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) committees allow them to raise their concerns about safety and privacy, and the solutions to improve services.