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UNFPA Joins World Bank Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Great Lakes Region

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 11 2014 (IPS) - The United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank are partnering to oversee strategies to address gender based violence through the lens of education, capacity building and economic growth.

And as a public health and development issue, it is becoming increasingly hard, they say, to sweep gender based violence under the rug during parliamentary or community level conversations
During a meeting amongst ministers of health, public policy and population from Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Benin, Executive Director of UNFPA Babatunde Osotimehin urged the international community to help “rewrite the narrative from peace and security to one of development.”

According to Genevieve Inagosi, Minister of Gender, Family and Child for the DRC, for a woman there is “no place less safe than her own home,” and about 60 percent of women in the DRC suffer intimate partner violence.

UN Women estimates that 35 percent of women globally have experienced physical and or sexual intimate partner violence/non partner violence.

Last year, the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon travelled to the Great Lakes region to assess the remnants of countries post conflict.

The mission, which also included UNFPA, as the top UN agency on reproductive health and rights as well as maternal and new born health, found specific objectives to tackle.

“A, we had to stop the violence and B, we had to dig deep and look at gender based violence,” said Osotimehin.

After meeting with various heads of state , talking to representatives from various sectors of the community and touring local areas in the region, the World Bank committed one billion dollars.

Osotimehin noted that putting an end to gender based violence was just the tipping point as the entities involved also had to address capacity building and education.

“Send girls to school and let them stay in school.” Osotimehin said, pointing out the number of young girls enrolled in primary – and barely making it to secondary school.

With the World Bank’s commitment to support governments of the Great Lakes region in reducing poverty and promoting shared prosperity by pin-pointing some of the most vulnerable groups, including victims of gender based violence, Osotimehin saw this opportunity as a wise one, calling it a “time to invest in Africa.”

There are a few key issues the Great Lakes region faces with gender based violence where women are the most vulnerable group. Violence against women and girls is especially prominent in eastern DRC and a culture of impunity is still prevalent. The region is in need of an integrated multi-faceted response that covers the medical, mental, justice and economic systems of the community.

With the financial backing to tackle a mile high “to do” list (support for survivors and violence prevention, maternal and reproductive healthcare services, capacity building and regional knowledge sharing), UNFPA can focus on the day-to-day programmes and capacity building projects on the ground, slowly implementing steps for success.

While calling for governments to “take ownership” and support initiatives that promote gender equality, perception and violence prevention, Osotimenhin also noted the importance of building infrastructure that can sustain a community long enough to tackle the issue of not only gender based violence, but also of inequality.

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