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Empowerment of women

Last edited: January 22, 2019

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Violence against women intersects with other societal issues, is affected by globalisation and other structural processes and, as noted above, it is rooted in gender inequality.  Reducing the prevalence of violence against women requires investment in long-term initiatives that address the structural barriers to women’s equality (Ertürk, 2009).  These barriers can include economic dependency and limited survival and income-earning options, or discrimination under the law as it relates to marriage, divorce and child custody rights, among others.

Promoting the economic empowerment of women can be an important strategy in a coordinated response as it can serve as a protective factor both against violence and in the aftermath of violence (Postmus, 2009).  For example, a woman who is economically dependent may be afraid to leave a violent partner for the sake of her children.  Similarly, a woman with independent livelihood options who can generate her own income may be more able to take steps to protect herself and her children from violence, leave an abusive situation or once she has left, stay away from her abuser.

Coordinated responses can include economic empowerment initiatives within their overall programme of work, ensuring that these efforts are an integral part of providing more holistic support to victims/survivors.  Coordinated responses can also ensure women’s social and economic needs are met by including entities that focus more broadly on gender equality and human rights.  Especially in low-income settings, interventions that address violence against women in conjunction with related issues (e.g. such as HIV) can be effective in terms of both costs and outcomes.  The comprehensive care framework developed by the African Regional Network illustrates the inter-connections among services, including health care, that a coordinated response to sexual violence seeks to achieve.


Comprehensive care model (African Regional Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Network)

This model was developed by a multi-sectoral, multi-country network of partners working to strengthen responses to violence against women, supported by the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), the Population Council, the Swedish-Norwegian Regional HIV and AIDS Team for Africa and US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  Since 2006, the network has been developing a comprehensive approach to preventing and responding to violence against women, especially sexual violence, in select African countries.  The model includes health, criminal justice, and psychosocial services required by victims/survivors, and works to strengthen the linkages among these sectors.  Seventeen organisations in nine countries (Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Senegal and Ethiopia) are currently involved in implementing the comprehensive model.  Partners are also working on initiatives to strengthen national programmes on sexual and domestic violence and to enhance prevention strategies.  Lessons learned are being documented so that policy frameworks, implementation guidelines and other resources can be shared with others seeking to strengthen programmes in the region.

Tools and resources:

PEPFAR Special Initiative on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence: Baseline Report (2010). Available in English.

Sexual Violence: Setting the Research Agenda for Kenya (2009). Available in English.

Africa Regional Sexual and gender-Based Violence Network Consultation: Technical Exchange and Planning Meeting (2008). Available in English.

Sexual and Gender Based Violence In Africa: Key Issues for Programming (2008). Available in English.

Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Africa: Literature Review (2008). Available in English.

Source: Population Council, reproduced in Keesbury et al., 2011 (see also Sexual Violence Research Initiative website)

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