2022 in review: UN Trust Fund’s perspective
By Vesna Jaric, Chief a.i at the UN Trust Fund
In 2022, women and girls across the globe experienced unprecedented, overlapping, compounding and protracted crises during which they showed extraordinary resilience.
COVID-19 kept on taking its toll. It deepened socio-economic divides, plunging the most marginalized people further into health, economic and food insecurity. It pushed women and girls into situations of intensified and escalated violence, including being compelled to trade sex for survival or enter early/forced marriages, while simultaneously cutting off their escape routes. It also meant that service providers for survivors of violence were overwhelmed by the high levels of unmet demand as they were adjusting to the rapidly changing context, which generated burnout and vicarious trauma.
Natural disasters related to climate change shattered the lives of millions of people worldwide, often hitting first those furthest left behind. The flooding in Pakistan largely destroyed an already fragile infrastructure, jeopardized medical care and community support systems, and led to a rise in domestic violence by intimate partners and other male family members. It also exposed a lack of preparedness for the crisis’ impact, and the few available shelters for abused women and girls tragically, yet unsurprisingly, became new places of abuse and violence.
The wars in Ethiopia, Ukraine and elsewhere yet again involved the widespread use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, with the added victimization of online circulation of images of these crimes. In Ukraine, 7.8 million people had been displaced by the war by November. An estimated 90% of them were women and children who suddenly found themselves at increased risk of trafficking and other forms of abuse and exploitation. Despite documented impact on the lives of women and girls, the humanitarian response funding directed to Ukraine allocated less than 1% to ending gender-based violence*. The war in Ukraine also drove other global crises that dramatically increased levels of poverty and hunger around the world, again leaving women and girls at greater risk of violence.
Impact of UN Trust Fund-supported interventions in 2022
During the missions to Eswatini, Kenya and South Africa in 2022, there wasn’t a single person I met who didn’t testify to the dire conditions that had hit their communities as a result of overlapping, compounding crises. Shona**, a woman in Kenya living with disabilities, who was being supported by our grantee Women Challenged to Challenge with economic empowerment training for survivors, told me she lost 27 kilos (60 pounds) in five months during the COVID-19 crisis coinciding with drought, as she was prioritizing feeding her five children after her husband left them. She said that after receiving food parcels from the grantee, she regained strength and will to gain new skills for self-employment. Shona’s story is a testimony to the need for investing in women’s agency, empowerment and resilience-building through access to opportunities in pursuit of transformative change.
Women Challenged to Challenge is one of 186 organizations (62% of them women’s rights organizations) in 70 countries and territories that the UN Trust Fund has supported in 2022 with grants totalling USD 87.8 million. These 186 organizations are designing and implementing innovative prevention methodologies and approaches and delivering life-saving service for survivors of violence. For example, Martha Farrell Foundation in India designed game and art-based methodologies to prevent violence against domestic workers and end the culture of silence around sexual violence. They involved 2,722 women domestic workers in participatory trainings. On top of preventing and responding to violence against women, 47% of UN Trust Fund grantees advocated this year for effective implementation of laws and policies. For example, a feminist organization Corporación Sisma Mujer in Colombia, has supported 48 women survivors of sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict to report perpetrators to the competent specialized judicial authority. They mobilized 75 women human right defenders and women leaders to join the network for referral for protection of women’s rights.
To enable grantees’ results and organizational growth, in 2022, we designed 19 capacity development trainings delivered through 27 sessions in 3 languages, to at least 1,956 attendees. The catalytic role we aim to have in the ending violence against women (EVAW) ecosystem is reflected in the fact that 59% of grantee respondents to our annual partner survey were able to mobilize additional funding for their EVAW programming thanks to this investment in building their capacities.
In 2022, the UN Trust Fund awarded 37 new grants and allocated 17 million USD for the 25th grant-giving cycle, bringing us up to 640 initiatives in 140 countries and territories. This makes the UN Trust Fund one of the richest repositories of practice-based work and knowledge in EVAW.
Elevating practice-based knowledge
In 2022, our concerted efforts brought over 250 civil society organizations and 1,746 people into conversations, facilitating co-codification of their insights, knowledge and expertise in the Learning from Practice knowledge briefs about how to prevent violence against women and girls.
During the 77th UN General Assembly in September, we launched the “Pathways to Prevention” podcast, which amplifies the voices and knowledge of practitioners. The podcast peaked at #3 in the Netherlands, #15 in the US, #10 in the UK, #9 in Germany, all under non-profit category
At the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) Forum in Mexico, also in September, we presented consolidated lessons from the UN Trust Fund’s work in support of small women’s rights organizations, including increased focus and support to self- and collective care to prevent burnout, as well as the paper on work with women and girls living with disabilities. These lessons have informed UN Trust Fund’s investments in initiatives that adopt an intersectional approach that aims to reach women and girls who are most at risk of being left behind. In the recognition of the fact that practice-based knowledge is a continuous process of exchange and learning, we also designed a virtual knowledge exchange hub accessible in over 50 languages called SHINE. The UN Trust Fund partnered with the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative to broaden the scope and reach of this hub.
Amplifying voices of change makers
During this year’s #16Days under the call to UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women that began on 25 November, we celebrated the inspiring resilience and #StoryofResistance of the UN Trust Fund’s grantees with the invite to #TrustFeminists. From CSW66 through 77th UNGA to ECOSOC 2022 commemoration of International Day against violence against women, the voices of UN Trust Fund grantees have brought attention to pressing challenges that require urgent attention and meaningful funding for transformative change to enable achievement of SDG 5.
The boost of enthusiasm and hope for a brighter future came from a group of Young Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) who joined this year the #UNTFeminist journey.
Renewed commitment for 2023
On this wave of energizing activism, we end 2022 with renewed commitment to support women’s rights and civil society organizations through the 26th Call for Proposals. This will provide funding to proactively reach women and girls who are most at risk of exclusion and violence, with a special focus on situations of protracted crises where threats are multiplied and exacerbated. It will also enable women’s rights organizations and activists to exercise their expertise in ending violence against women in line with Generation Equality GBV Action Coalition goal 4.
The invaluable experience that six UN Trust Fund team members gained in 2022 while supporting the UN Women Country Office in Afghanistan in extremely challenging circumstances will be an asset as we design our tailor-made support to civil society organizations operating in situations of protracted crises. We are committed to further strengthen our investment in capacity development for organizational resilience by supporting organizations to become part of preparedness systems in the context of their operations.
Finally, our gratitude and appreciation go to partners who have generously contributed to our collective 2022 achievements: from grantee organizations to individuals, women’s human rights defenders, connectors, advocates, UN Women National Committees, private sector partners and the UN Member States who have relentlessly pushed forward the agenda to end violence against women.
*Marta Pérez del Pulgar, Graciela Van der Poel, 2022, “Case Study: Ending violence against women and girls in the context of the Ukraine crisis”, Background Paper Commissioned by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, New York, NY
**Name changed to protect identity.