Empowerment and protection of women and girls are central to U.S. foreign policy and international security. This particularly applies to conflict-affected countries, where gender-based violence destabilizes communities and tears apart lives. And although gender-based violence affects men and boys, the overwhelming majority of victims are women and girls.
“Gender-based violence plagues every country and it perpetuates conflict,” said Secretary of State John Kerry at the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies side event at the UN General Assembly this September. “It creates instability that can flow from generation to generation. It makes all nations that experience it less secure, less prosperous, and clearly less free,” he said:
“We can end sexual warfare conducted against the innocents, and partly it can happen by eradicating the impunity that has been able to go along with it. We can establish new norms of respect for women and girls, men and boys. And we must hold those who commit these acts and those who condone them accountable. That’s the way you stop it. That’s the way you change things.”
In addition to supporting efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and encourage justice for survivors, The United States is to working expand prevention efforts and ensure vital assistance is available for survivors. One area of significant progress includes efforts to prevent violence against women and girls during humanitarian crises. Last year, Secretary Kerry inaugurated the Safe from the Start initiative. The initiative aims to prevent and respond to gender-based violence from the very beginning of humanitarian emergencies.
Secretary Kerry announced new funding, which will help launch innovation challenges, to equip aid workers across different sectors with the skills needed to prevent and mitigate the effects of gender-based violence, deploy gender and protection specialists to crisis settings, and support cutting edge research on social norms and new models of care for survivors.
Although the entire international community has a role to play in addressing gender-based violence, in times of crisis such as conflicts or natural disasters, the humanitarian community's efforts to address violence against women and girls is an important contribution.
“The Call to Action is about forcing the world to stop looking away,” said Secretary Kerry. “It's about protecting and empowering the world's most vulnerable populations. It's about deepening our partnerships with grass roots organizations and local communities. And it's about forging a global coalition that rejects gender-based violence as a byproduct of war, conflict, or natural disaster.”