Responding to gender-based violence in the time of COVID-19

As we begin this year's 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence, we take a look at the creative ways that CARE teams have been working to end gender-based violence during a pandemic.

“I am just praying that the medical scientist gets the vaccines because the disease has come to stay with us and some of us may not survive in our homes if this continues. Now I’m experiencing the fear of my husband and the fear of the disease at the same time,” says Gloria in Ghana.

CARE and others have written about the increase of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in COVID-19, and how that has incredibly damaging impacts around the world. One of the successes of the COVID-19 response globally has been the attention global actors—up to and including the Secretary General of the United Nations—are paying to the “shadow pandemic” instead of allowing it GBV to pass in silence, overshadowed by other facets of crisis.

It’s a success to even be talking about GBV, and CARE and our partners doing more than just talk. Today is the first of 16 days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence. We’re supporting women like Gloria to find solutions that will work for them. As we think about the 16 days—and years of work—ahead to end GBV, take a look at the creative ways teams in CARE have been working to end GBV even in COVID-19, finding solutions to overcome mobility restrictions, increasing stress, lower services, and restricted operations for many GBV service providers.

CARE has supported 2.3 million people in 64 countries to access information and services about GBV in COVID-19.

What are we doing about GBV?

  • Helped health care providers deliver GBV services. The CARE team in Ecuador adapted the mechanism of delivery of medical supplies, medicines and medical exams with emphasis in sexual and reproductive. Iraq is training front line workers in Psychological First Aid, and on GBV referral options. Vanuatu is helping the Ministry of Health create information campaigns about GBV services. In Cameroon, CARE is supporting our partner Horizon Femmes provide counselling and referrals for survivors of violence. In Colombia, CARE is providing counseling for health workers and helping them identify and refer of women and girls at risk of GBV.
  • Create remote ways to access GBV services. Haiti set up a helpline for survivors to access GBV remote support and referral. Jordan and Nigeria have hotlines staffed by our case to respond to inquiries, provide advice and referrals. Laos has a GBV hotline and specific services for high risk groups including migrants who have lost jobs. The Balkans put together Instagram campaigns and videos to help young people stop GBV.
  • Raising awareness: Honduras's campaigns addressing key health, hygiene and GBV issues have reached 70% of all people in Honduras's national population (5.8 million people) targeting rural sectors. Iraq is including GBV-related messages when it does communications campaigns about how to prevent COVID-19. Rwanda and Tanzania are using radio shows and text messages to share messages on preventing and responding to GBV for savings group members. Vietnam and Indonesia are creating household booklets and other information campaigns on how to prevent and reduce violence.
  • Provide safe spaces. South Sudan hosts recreational activities for women and girls at safe spaces so women can spend more time together discussing ways to reduce their risk of violence. In Guatemala, CARE has helped the Guatemalan Women’s Group set up centers for supporting survivors of violence that have reached more than 2,000 survivors. Mozambique is setting up help desks and safe spaces for GBV survivors to access services.
  • Making it safer to get the basics. CARE South Sudan provided households with more fuel efficient stoves to reduce frequent movement by women and girls to collect firewood, which exposes them to sexual abuse, including rape. In Palestine, CARE worked with partners to get hygiene kits and food to GBV survivors and those at high risk of GBV. Burundi re-built showers in camps for displaced people so women could have safety and privacy. Ecuador is supporting GBV survivors with cash grants as part of comprehensive assistance and follow up.

How are we doing it?

  • Working with others: 39 country teams are partnering with Women’s rights organizations. CARE Honduras is leading communication for the Humanitarian Country Team for all of Honduras. Guatemala signed a strategic alliance with the Guatemalan Group of Women (GGM). In Brazil, our partner Themis is supporting GBV cases through legal and advocacy services. In Mali, CARE is supporting a local youth network to lead awareness campaigns around COVID-19 and GBV.
  • Think about employers. In Cambodia, CARE is working with factories to share information on GBV for their employers. In Latin America, country teams and partners are working to help domestic workers to access GBV services and have safe workplaces.
  • Using technology. Nigeria is using an online platform called Primero to track and support GBV cases online. Ecuador created a new app for people to report GBV and access services from home. Egypt is hosting virtual sessions on GBV, self-defense, and psychological support to survivors.
  • Making sure our staff have the tools they need. Zimbabwe offered GBV prevention training to all of our staff, as well as training on protecting participants. CARE Philippines is also offering GBV training.
  • Advocate for change: GBV, and ensuring safe access to GBV services have been key advocacy issues and recommendations for most of CARE’s countries, and a core component of all of the Rapid Gender Analyses CARE has produced. In Egypt, the CARE worked with the National Council for Women to plan a campaign on FGM, sexual harassment and child marriage. CARE convened women-led organizations from the West Bank, Gaza and 1948 areas to discuss gendered impact of COVID-19 and to implement a joint Campaign to address GBV.
  • Learning from others. In Ecuador, we may be training local groups on GBV case management, but the local groups are teaching us, too. They are helping CARE understand local dynamics and specific strategies to reach and attend people in need in their contexts.