Each year, between 25 November (International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women) and 10 December (Human Rights Day) the world comes together to commemorate 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The campaign draws attention to the impact of gender-based violence (GBV) on individuals, families and communities – galvanising action to end violence against women and girls around the world.
Violence against women and girls manifests in many forms including, intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation and child marriage. The World Health Organisation estimates that globally 35% of women have experienced physical and/ or sexual violence. In 2012, just under half (47%) of female homicide victims were killed by their intimate partner or family member compared to 6% of men during the same year (unwomen.org).
The effects of GBV have a profound effect on the physical, sexual reproductive and mental health of affected women and girls. “Women who have been physically or sexually abused by their partners are more than twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to experience depression, and in some regions, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, as compared to women who have not experienced partner violence” (unwomen.org). The effects are also felt across generations with some research showing that boys who witnessed violence against their mothers became more likely to commit violence against a female partner in later life (worldbank.org).
GBV is a human rights violation and an impediment to the attainment of gender equality laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals. It curtails women’s participation in social, political and economic spheres undermining development. It also has a negative effect on GDP and national economic wellbeing. For example, in 2015, the World Bank reported that Brazil lost an estimated 1.2% of GDP in productivity due to violence against women. For business, violence against women has a direct impact on productivity and profitability. It:
- Increases costs associated with absenteeism and presenteeism.
- Increases turnover.
- Has a negative impact on performance reducing the productivity of GBV survivors and their colleagues.
- Has a negative impact on an organisation’s ability to attract and retain female employees.
A study by the Overseas Development Institute on the financial costs of GBV in Papua New Guinea showed that on average, “staff lost 11 work days per year to GBV, including two days to presentism, five to absenteeism and four to assisting other GBV survivors” (ifc.org).
What can we do to end violence against women and girls?
The private sector has the capacity to make a difference in addressing GBV. There is a moral, social and economic imperative to act. Workplace HIV and wellness programmes within SWHAP are:
- Mainstreaming gender within workplace programmes in order to more effectively address gender inequalities and issues related to GBV and sexual harassment.
- Interrogating social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls through workplace and community dialogues.
- Recognising and engaging men as key partners to end GBV.
- Working with spouses of the male-dominated workplaces to offer life skills training on HIV risk and prevention, and improving access to economic activities.
- Extending workplace programmes to communities and populations at risk.
- Building Peer Educator capacity to identify and address harmful gender norms which are barriers to HIV, sexual reproductive health and rights and GBV responses in workplaces and communities.
- Engaging value chains to develop workplace programmes with HIV and AIDS policies that explicitly promote non-discrimination, and take gender issues into consideration.
- Creating internal and external partnerships to enhance workplace and community GBV responses with some, for example, resulting in income generating projects for GBV survivors in the community.
This year’s campaign is being held under the theme Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Girls. For inspiration and ideas on how to participate check out the link below.