Over the course of 36 hours beginning on 30 October, 2014, Sudanese army troops carried out a series of attacks against the civilian population of the town of Tabit in North Darfur, including the mass rape of women and girls.
Gender-based violence in emergencies
Khadamallah*, in her mid-teens, said that soldiers came to her home at about 10pm on Friday night: she was in the house with her younger siblings. Soldiers entered the house, took some firewood and hit one of the children. One soldier dragged Khadamallah out of the room. Two of them held her down while the other one raped her. Many others who were there were standing around. Eventually they brought her back to her room, tied her to the bed, and left.
Such despicable acts are enraging and heart-breaking at the same time, and they are commonplace in situations of conflict and disaster. Data on Gender Based Violence (GBV) in emergencies is hard to come by, but it is clear that it increases during such times. In contrast, the ability to prevent, detect and follow up on such cases decreases.
addressing the issue through SDGs' implementation
There is a clear will to tackle the problem
There is a clear will to tackle the problem. In September, 193 world leaders at the UN General Assembly agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development, to be achieved in the next 15 years. One of them – Goal five – is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. This includes eliminating all forms of violence and harmful practices against all women and girls.
The European Commission seeks to stop GBV in humanitarian situations in three main ways. First, by mainstreaming a gender approach into all actions, to create more awareness for differentiated vulnerabilities and needs.
Second, with targeted actions. These include empowering people to challenge attitudes that condone violence, but also assisting survivors with medical care, psychological support and referral mechanisms.
Third, with capacity building to empower humanitarian actors and partners to better address GBV. In this context, it is particularly important that the Sendai Framework repeatedly refers to the importance of integrating a gender perspective in disaster risk reduction.
We need to do more, and the EU is increasing its budget for external action, including for humanitarian aid
In 2014, the EU budget supported 40 projects that prevented and responded to GBV in humanitarian crises, contributing more than €12million, across countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. We need to do more, and the EU is increasing its budget for external action, including for humanitarian aid. I am also co-chairing the UN's High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing to address the growing gap between the number of people in need of assistance and resources available.
When we take stock in 15 years’ time, I hope we will have achieved all the goals set in New York this September. But I particularly want us to reach Goal five – for the sake of the girls and for the sake of humanity.
* Named changed to protect identity.
This artcile was first published in Plan International's Girls' Rights Gazette published for the International Day of the Girl on 11 October 2015.