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Ending violence against women and girls – why funding is the solution

Mark Durkan MP

3 min read

Mark Durkan MP writes ahead of his debate on the Sustainable Development Goals and ending violence against women and girls.

Violence, or the threat of it, is a daily reality for millions of women and girls around the world, making it one of the most widespread and insidious human rights abuses globally. 

While progress has been made over the last four decades towards recognising and addressing the injustice of gender inequality and violence against women and girls, it is unacceptable that in 2016 one in three women still experience some form of violence in their lifetime. 

Last September, world leaders came together in New York to agree a new sustainable development framework, including a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment (SDG 5) and target to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres. 

But the existence of these targets alone will not bring about the change necessary. This will require a redoubling of efforts from everyone and in particular a renewed emphasis the role of women and girls themselves leading these efforts. 

Today in Westminster it’s our chance to take action. I’m proud to be supporting anti-poverty charity ActionAid’s Fearless campaign to end violence against women and girls, and joining their call for greater funding for women’s rights organisations around the world – which are on the frontline of the fight against violence.

I have secured a parliamentary debate on violence against women and girls in the context of the SDGs. As we discuss the issue we must ensure that it’s the women and girls around the world who are at the forefront of our minds.

Women like Thuzar Tin, leader of the Women’s Federation for Peace in Myanmar, which she set up in 2009 when she noticed rising violence against women in her community after a devastating cyclone. There they provide women with psychosocial council and legal support, help them understand their rights, empower them to demand freedom, and generate their own income. But like far too many women’s rights organisations around the world their most pressing challenge is that they are chronically underfunded and in danger of closing.

The Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, has shown leadership in ensuring women and girls’ rights feature at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals. And now, when she is making key decisions about future funding priorities for her Department, she must seize the opportunity to ensure women and girls are prioritised and resources are available to defend and sustain the progress to date, and eliminate violence against women.

Women’s rights organisations and Women Human Rights Defenders have long been at the forefront of the fight to end violence - from providing life-saving services, raising marginalised women’s voices, to holding governments to account for their policies and practices. 

Increasingly, however, their voices are being muted and their vital work is threatened. It is imperative that they participate in the development and implementation of all global violence against women and girls commitments. And most crucially, with less than 1% of UK aid for gender equality currently going directly to grassroots women’s rights organisations, they must be adequately funded.

So much is at stake. If we are serious about achieving the SDGs by 2030 we must prioritise gender equality and the elimination of violence against women - and galvanise the necessary political will and resources to implement this ambitious framework.

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