16 Days of Activism: The power of investing in data-driven advocacy to combat gender-based violence (GBV)

How are organizations across the Equal Measures 2030 coalition using data to prevent and tackle gender-based violence (GBV)? 

Written by Esme Abbott, Communications Lead, Equal Measures 2030 

In 2021, more than 5 women or girls were killed every hour by someone in their family, and 1 in 3 women have already experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. These staggering figures have been critical in calling attention to the wide-spread prevalence of gender-based violence and demanding action.  For the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we want to highlight how Equal Measures 2030’s coalition members are harnessing the power of data and evidence to tackle gender-based violence and how others can too. 

What does this look like in practice across our coalition? 

Whilst gender-based violence impacts every woman and girl, either directly or indirectly, stigma, shame and fear often obscure it from mainstream conversations. Promoting discussions online, in communities and in policy-making spaces is paramount in demanding justice, both through calling for legal frameworks and by providing women with the support networks and information needed to seek justice when they face GBV. 

In Senegal, Réseau Siggil Jigéen has led multiple digital campaigns to draw the attention of decision-makers, technical and financial partners and civil society to the urgent need for effective initiatives to eradicate GBV using data. ARROW, in the Asia-Pacific region, also use data in their advocacy campaigns to end GBV and their #CSE4ALL advocacy campaign which engaged with young people to demand inclusive, evidence-based Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for all.

They have also used data-driven advocacy to highlight the issue of FGM/C at various international platforms including ASEAN and Women Deliver, and co-launched the Asia Network to End FGM/C bringing together activists, civil society organisations, survivors, researchers, medical professionals, journalists and religious leaders to promote the abandonment of all forms of FGM/C across the Asia region. 

SAHAJ, a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) in India, has taken a community-centric approach, identifying GBV cases, implementing primary interventions and mapping out support and referral systems. To ensure the work continues, they’ve engaged with local youth and community leaders to understand their knowledge and practices, and familiarising the leaders with the support and referral systems; as well as working with support groups to extend awareness and preventive measures deeper into the community.  

Similarly, GROOTS Kenya has trained grassroot responders in the community on GBV. These responders not only intervene in GBV cases but also collect data, which is used to raise awareness and advocate for collaborative efforts to address the issue. By highlighting the high levels of GBV in their communities, they have secured funding for sensitization and awareness initiatives, empowering communities to identify and address GBV cases. And in Latin America and the Caribbean, CLADEM has heightened awareness of forced child pregnancies, femicide, and sexual violence against girls and adolescents through annual Diploma Courses. 

To empower women’s organisations and CSOs to undertake this work effectively, and to ensure the necessary referral systems and legal frameworks are in place, advocating against GBV in political decision-making spaces is essential. CLADEM has actively engaged in the evaluation of the Belém do Pará Convention, submitting national reports and participating in expert hearings to present data and evidence on women’s access to justice in cases of sexual violence and child marriage in the LAC region.

Demanding accountability and action with gender data 

Gender data is vital for understanding the prevalence, forms, and drivers of gender-based violence, illuminating the root causes and the ways in which violence is intensified at the intersection of various identities and contexts. The power of gender data extends beyond merely highlighting the issue; it demands accountability and drives action. Once we know where the problem is and can provide decision-makers with the concrete evidence they seek, gender data can inform the design and implementation of interventions, ensuring they are effectively implemented and sufficiently funded.  

Through their data-driven advocacy, ASOGEN in Guatemala, has influenced decisions at the national and local levels, to prevent violence against women and promote their human rights. They have fought to increase budgets for the country’s network of shelters protecting women and girls against GBV, including recently securing government funds for the CAIMUS Centers that support women survivors of violence in the departments of Chimaltenango and Sacatepéquez. Moreover, they’ve secured a commitment to implement a technical working group for the prevention of violence against women in Sacatepéquez, ensuring this issue remains on the agenda.  

 It’s not only crucial to establish these policies and programmes, but also to ensure they are implemented effectively, leading to tangible change. Previously, the advocacy work of KAPAL Perempuan, and its partners in Indonesia successfully advocated for the Indonesian parliament to raise the legal marriage age for girls from 16 to 19 years, aligning it with that for boys. This significant legal victory enables teenage girls to continue their secondary education, have more control over their lives, and reduces the risk of sexual, physical, and psychological harm associated with child marriages. 

But advocacy work cannot stop at this win. Since then, KAPAL has been collecting data on instances of child marriage and marriage dispensation in religious courts from 2020-2023. The data showed a growing trend in child marriage and marriage dispensation during the pandemic. KAPAL has been utilising data-driven advocacy to engage with local stakeholders in each province to co-create and implement child marriage prevention and response strategies and plans.   

Gender-based violence escalates during crises, as KAPAL observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in times of conflict as seen in Colombia where a history of armed conflict has significantly impacted women’s rights, including their right to live free from violence, their livelihoods and those of their families and communities. La Ruta Pacifica in Colombia has been monitoring the implementation of the gender measures in the Peace Agreement, raising awareness on the slow progress. Their work to strengthen the peace efforts is fundamental to break the continuum of violence against women and girls and protect their human rights.   

The work of the organisations in our coalition demonstrates how data-driven advocacy leads to substantial change, from influencing policy decisions to implementing programmes that protect women and girls from violence. It is crucial that investments to combat gender-based violence include investments in timely gender-disaggregated data to ensure we can identify patterns of violence, evaluate the efficacy of solutions and guide investments and policies to ensure they bring about genuine progress.  

Guaranteeing access to justice for survivors of violence 

By Suzanne N’Gouandi, Francophone Communications Officer, and Meganne Boho, President of the Ivorian League for Women’s Rights 

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world. Yet, it remains one of the least reported due to the prevailing culture of impunity. 

According to the United Nations, violence against women can be defined as: “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” Such forms of violence negatively impact the well-being of women. 

Globally, 736 million women – almost one in three – have suffered physical or sexual violence at least once. This issue is even more prevalent in the least developed regions and countries, affecting nearly thirty-seven percent (37%) of girls and women aged 15 to 49. In West Africa, for example, a 2018 report by the Network of Locally-Elected Women of Africa [Réseau des Femmes Élues Locales d’Afrique / REFELA] noted that 40% of women had been victims of violence, rising to 65% in Central Africa. There are nonetheless important regulations and standards in place to put an end to this global scourge. 

Women’s right to live in a society free from violence is supported by several international and national conventions. Of particular note, is the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, which provides a framework for international and national action, together with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. National legal frameworks differ from country to country. West African countries such as Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, for example, have an extensive legislative framework for the protection of women’s and girls’ rights. So why is it that, despite all the legal instruments available, impunity for violence against women and girls persists in the region? 

According to EM2030’s SDG Gender Index, sub-Saharan Africa actually slid backwards between 2015 and 2020 in terms of women’s access to justice. This can be explained by a failure to enforce existing laws and the inadequacies of some of those laws. In Senegal, where sexual violence is on the rise, the law criminalizing rape and paedophilia is barely effective. Among the shortcomings of this law, is the lack of psychological and legal care for survivors of violence, who still have to prove that they did not give consent during a sexual assault. 

In Burkina Faso, it is estimated that more than one in three women (37%) have been a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. Although there is a law prohibiting all forms of violence against women and girls, domestic violence is not criminalized

Adding to this, sociocultural constraints prevent women who have been abused from seeking justice. UN Women estimates that fewer than 40 percent of women who experience violence seek help, and fewer than 10 percent of those who do seek help, call the police. Unfortunately, those who do decide to report their case to the relevant institutions sometimes find that their complaints are rejected, or that their cases go unresolved.  

In May 2023, the Ivorian League for Women’s Rights [Ligue Ivoirienne des droits des femmes] used the hashtag #PrenezNosPlaintes [#TakeOurComplaints] to denounce the mistreatment of survivors in police stations. This initiative highlights a painful reality: not only do women victims of violence face stigmatization but they also often encounter indifference from the very institutions that are supposed to protect them.  

Faced with this situation, Meganne Boho, President of the Ivorian League for Women’s Rights, stresses the urgent need for better handling of cases of violence: “ Raising victims’ and survivors’ awareness of the need to report is an important step but when they then come up against the failure of the gendarmerie, the police or the justice system to consider their cases, we’re back to square one. The Ministry of Justice must be called upon to effectively deal with cases of violence against women. Women are citizens of this country and deserve justice and reparation when they brave shame and sociocultural constraints to break the silence and the cycle of violence.” 

To ensure access to justice for survivors of violence, it is vital to raise awareness and educate our societies on the issue of women’s rights and the legal mechanisms available for bringing these cases to justice. Particular attention needs to be paid not only to strengthening and enforcing existing laws but also to ensuring access to legal aid so that women can benefit from the necessary legal assistance. 

Finally, strengthening victim support services, such as reception and listening centres, specialist counsellors and social reintegration programmes, are all essential to help survivors rebuild and recover. 

First National Action Plan against the armed conflict in Colombia: What impact can it have on the lives of women and girls? 

By Katharina Wagner, International Civil Service Peacekeeper of the Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres (Women’s Pacific Route) in Colombia and Ester Pinheiro, Communications Officer – Spanish, Equal Measures 2030 

Armed conflicts in Colombia have a direct impact on women’s lives, through forced displacement and other violations, such as the right to land and work, to culture, and even the violation of their bodies. These forms of direct violence appear together with threats and harassment as forms of control over territory and the lives and organizational initiatives of women.  

The impact of conflicts around the world affecting women is similar to that of Colombia, and that is why, on October 30, 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted the historic Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. It recognizes the differentiated impact of armed conflicts on women and girls, the importance of their protection and the need for their participation in peace processes. 

Based on this resolution, in order to contribute to the official construction of the first National Action Plan for 1325 (PAN 1325), the feminist peace movement Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres in Colombia has been working for more than a year with 13 other national women’s organizations with a presence in different parts of the country within the framework of the Alliance 1325: Women, Peace, and Security. 

These organizations seek to influence the Colombian government to commit to this Action Plan. “We have advanced quite well, because the new government listens to us through the Presidential Counselor’s Office for Women’s Equity and the Foreign Ministry, and the dialogue with other women’s organizations has been important for the process of building a NAP 1325. The current Deputy Foreign Minister, Laura Gil, commits to the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. She pushed the current government to commit to it,” says Katharina Wagner, International Civil Service Peacekeeper of the Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres. 

What impact will the Plan have on the lives of women and girls in Colombia?   

In Colombia, women’s access to justice is limited, and the country scores poorly in perceptions of openness and legitimacy of the state, according to the Equal Measures 2030’s 2022 SDG Gender Index. It is therefore valuable to consider the importance of resolution 1325, which recognizes for the first time the relevance of women’s participation in peace negotiations, humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. 

For La Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres, this Plan is necessary for Resolution 1325 to materialize and for public policies to be specific, with an allocated budget and clear responsibilities so that the four pillars of the Resolution are fully implemented in the lives of women.  

“As long as there is no specific policy and budget this is nothing more than a paper document. This Plan could mean that women are guaranteed effective participation in all peace processes and conflict prevention and that they are also protected against all forms of violence, especially gender-based and sexual violence. In addition, this Plan is important for measures to be taken for female victims of the conflict with a view to their recovery and for peace signatories to be able to reintegrate into social life”. 

Considering that women’s perception of security in Colombia is almost 12 points lower than the global average, the National Action Plan 1325 is also necessary to have an impact on conflict and issues of violence. “This Plan has a broader vision of violence because women and women’s organizations have pointed out that violence against women is exacerbated in the framework of the armed conflict. This affects private life because it reinforces the historical discriminations they have suffered, and therefore this construction of the Plan should be supported”, says Katharina Wagner. 

Women in the Action Plan: how are their voices being heard? 

Photo of the 1325 Workshop in Cartagena with women from Bolivar and Sucre. Credits: La Ruta Pacifica. 

To listen to women from different regions, the Alliance is conducting workshops in different territories of Colombia to gather input from the voices of women, their needs, and priorities on peace and security issues. According to UN Women, more than one thousand diverse women have been heard: indigenous, black, Afro-descendant, LGBTI, etc.  

Alliance 1325 will use the women’s contributions for the construction of input documents that will be delivered to the Government. Some of the concrete actions proposed by women in this regard are: 

  • Comprehensive implementation of the Final Peace Agreement, specifically of the gender measures. 
  • Efficient protection measures for women defenders and leaders that take into account the needs of women and the particularities of the territories.  
  • Differential and comprehensive care for female victims of violence that does not re-victimize them. 
  • Guarantee the effective participation of women in decision-making spaces on security and peace issues. Therefore, there will be measures to promote the participation of women in political decision-making spaces, for example, in the legislative branch.  
  • Sensitization, education, and training on gender issues and women’s rights for all officials. 
  • Police training in conflict resolution respecting human rights and based on dialogue. 

Although the organizations are assisting the Government in the formulation of the Plan, contributing the experiences of women from different territories, the responsibility for this Plan lies with the Colombian State. This process completes in September 2023, and presented at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Once the plan is finalized, La Ruta and Alliance 1325 will be closely monitoring the implementation of the plan to ensure that it leads to real change in the lives of women and a lasting peace in Colombia. 

*Originally written in Spanish, as such some links may lead to Spanish articles.   

Day of the African Child: “We must ensure the rights of Burkinabe children are respected”

By Wendyam Micheline Kaboré, Executive Director of IPBF

Burkina Faso is a French-speaking West African country with a population of over 20 million: 51.7% are women and 48.3% men. The population is predominantly young with 45.3% under 15 years old, 64.2% under 24 years old and 77.9% under 35 years old.

On the occasion of International Day of the African Child, IPBF wishes to take this opportunity to make a strong appeal to international human rights movements, development actors, and Burkinabe leaders.

Combined with the health and food crises, the impact of the ongoing security crisis in Burkina Faso since 2015 has forced millions of people, women, girls and children in particular, to flee their homes. These internally displaced persons (IDPs) find themselves in critical situations at the reception sites, faced with a number of overriding difficulties. Despite the basic needs of survival, the most vulnerable groups, notably women and children – especially girls – are faced with yet more challenges: school dropout, forced marriage, domestic violence, etc.

Apart from the security issue, the main areas of concern are health and education. We are observing, helpless, an upsurge in child labour: girls, as well as boys are being exploited at the sites of artisanal mines. In spite of the diseases they contract, these children are exposed to violence in all its forms. And most of the girls not working at the artisanal mining sites end up in the city looking for work. These minors end up entrusted to families or commercial drinking establishments where they are exposed to sex, drugs and physical violence from an early age.

In addition to child labour, these girls suffer other ills that were previously reduced by their presence in the school system, namely excision, early marriage and, in particular, gender-based and sexual violence. Rape, death from abuse, and lifelong stigma are the daily fate of thousands of children. Statistics collected by the National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR) give a total of 1,481,701 IDPs as of 31 October 2021, of which 906,963 are children and 333,244 are women.

All children have the right to education, to health and to a fulfilling life, and respect for the rights of the child is the responsibility of every society and every people. In this regard, Burkina Faso ratified the International Convention on the Rights of the Child on 23 July 1990. It should further be noted that Burkina Faso’s constitution recognizes the right to health and child protection.

We are therefore calling on the financial and technical partners, development actors and, especially, our leaders to be more committed and to take action to ensure adequate protection of Burkina Faso’s children. We have ratified legislative texts and now we must ensure that the rights of Burkinabe children are respected.

For more information on Burkina Faso and children’s rights, see:

Protecting Girls’ Right to Education: Data-Driven Advocacy in Burkina Faso

Leveraging Data to Strengthen Girls’ Education in Emergencies

Eliminating SRGBV: FAWE’s model to protect the African Child

by Julie Khamati, Programme Assistant, FAWE.

While Sub-Saharan African governments acknowledge the value of education attainment for all as a driver of economic and national development, school related gender-based violence (SRGBV) continues to be a continental barrier to access and participation of learners in school (African Union 2020).

Despite being recognized as places of personal development, learning and empowerment, schools often perpetuate some forms of violence and discrimination particularly with a bias against girls.  According to UN Women (2016), 246 million children are subject to various forms of gender-based violence in and around the school every year. This is exacerbated in conflict and post conflict situations and for minorities and vulnerable learners. Some of the common forms of SRGBV include bullying, corporal punishment, and sexual harassment (UN Women, 2016). Worldwide, at least one in ten girls between the ages of 13 and 15 is likely to experience sexual violence and boys within the school are likely to experience severe corporal punishment (UNESCO, 2017). Millions of learners live in fear of physical abuse disguised as discipline. In addition, millions of learners face significant barriers reaching school everyday both in rural and urban areas and this affects their overall class attendance. For example, in some countries ‘boda-boda’ riders tend to prey on school going girls and engage in transactional sex for basic needs such as sanitary products and meals (Education News, 2022).  

Efforts have been made globally to address SRGBV with schools acting as violence prevention centers (UN Women, 2016). The African Union, through its Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016- 2025 (CESA 2016 -2025) under pillar 3, champions for the need to eliminate any forms of violence within the school and training setups. Further, the Gender Equality Strategy for the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (GES4CESA) developed by FAWE on behalf of African Union exemplifies the commitments to curbing SRGBV in learning institutions.

Understanding contextual differences in African countries is key to preventing and addressing SRGBV in education institutions. Recently, FAWE developed a mirrored approach manual in response to a global call to prevent, respond and adopt mechanisms to stop SRGBV. The manual draws strongly from best practices documented under FAWE models including the Gender Responsive Pedagogy and Tuseme “Let’s Speak Out[1].”  Given FAWE’s understanding of the African context, the manual recommends solutions and preventive measures relevant to the context. The FAWE mirrored approach SRGBV manual is two-fold and as such, targets both school administrators and learners, and aims to strengthen their capacity to identify, prevent and respond to SRGBV. Lastly, it also offers monitoring and evaluation tools that are instrumental in tracking the effectiveness of measures put in place in schools to prevent SRGBV.

Addressing SRGBV calls for concerted efforts from different partners and FAWE continues to spearhead interventions that aim to eliminate all forms of violence in schools and promote access, enrolment, and performance of learners in school.

[1] Tuseme (‘Let Us Speak Out’in Kiswahili) enables female youth empowerment and gender awareness by enhancing girls’ self-esteem, leadership, social and life skills, and promotes a positive attitude amongst boys towards girls’ education.

“We have demonstrated the need to have statistical data on violence against women” Danessa Luna, Executive Director of ASOGEN

By Danessa Luna, Executive Director of ASOGEN

The Asociación Generando Equidad, Liderazgo y Oportunidades (ASOGEN) is an association of women in Guatemala recognised for generating and facilitating spaces for citizen participation, leadership, political analysis, defence and empowerment of women’s human rights with cultural relevance, generational, and gender equity.

One of ASOGEN’s main lines of work is the prevention of and attention to violence against women, from a human rights and feminist perspective. Guatemala is one of the worst countries for women globally. According to the EM2030 SDG Gender Index, Guatemala shows very poor performance on two indicators related to women’s physical safety:

• The percentage of women over 15 years of age who reported not feeling safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live, with a score of 44/100;
• The number of women killed as victims of intentional homicide (per 100,000 inhabitants), with 19/100 — making it one of the worst rated countries in Latin America.

Faced with this problem of gender inequality, ASOGEN offers comprehensive accompaniment to women and girl survivors of violence, which is a fundamental part of our strategy of empowering women as a sustainable measure to eradicate violence. Advocacy is one of the approaches we work on most within the organization to influence not only the community, but also national-level decision makers in order to achieve changes to public policy and, consequently, in women’s lives.

The women who have participated in ASOGEN’s programme have managed to break the cycle of violence they had experienced for years within the home; some have managed to gain access to justice and combat impunity while others have managed to empower themselves in their rights as women, being multipliers of their learning.

At ASOGEN, we have had significant achievements in recent years making use of data for advocacy. For example, ASOGEN is the main driving force behind the opening of specialised bodies such as the Court and Tribunal against Femicide in Chimaltenango, where we have demonstrated the need to use statistical data on violence against women, children, and adolescents in the region of Chimaltenango.

Another achievement was the opening of a temporary shelter for women survivors of violence in the Chimaltenango area. With the use of statistical data, we were able to obtain public funds and we also received a donation of a piece of land for the construction of the shelter building.

The partnership between ASOGEN and EM2030 will strengthen ASOGEN’s work on three main levels:

  • Within the team: to increase its knowledge and improve the local and national advocacy work that is already being carried out;
  • At the local level: alliances with leaders who work for gender equality will be strengthened in order to continue to have a greater impact on the use of data in each strategy;
  • At the national level: ASOGEN aims to be recognised nationally for its ability to use evidence and gender data to obtain more results in the advocacy work that allows the promotion and approval of legal frameworks and public policies in favour of women in Guatemala.

This alliance will also strengthen our skills to effectively communicate data so that more audiences join the fight against gender violence, the call for justice at the heart of ASOGEN’s work.