Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is among the most universal and pervasive human rights violations, affecting at least a billion women across the globe. Recent estimates suggest that approximately 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their partners, or non-partner sexual violence – just a few of the highly prevalent forms of violence. VAWG takes many forms, including physical and emotional abuse, forced and unwanted sex, early and forced marriage, female genital cutting, trafficking and deprivation of resources and rights.
Women and girls face violence at home, in school, on the street, at work, on public transportation and online. They experience violence in times of peace and times of conflict or war. The risk is intersectional, meaning that some women and girls face heightened risk of experiencing physical or sexual violence, including those married before age 18, living in conflict and fragility, with low levels of education or who are sexual and gender minorities.
VAWG incurs very high costs for individual women, their families and whole communities, stymying progress to achieving development goals. The good news is that VAWG is preventable, and emerging research is beginning to demonstrate the most effective ways to stem the cycle of violence. Several strategies are showing success, including those that change the acceptability of violence, address violent masculinity and transform gender dynamics within households and communities.
For 40 years, ICRW has been at the forefront of generating evidence for effective policies and programs to prevent and respond to VAWG. Our work has brought into sharper focus the gendered dimensions of VAWG, including the key social and structural factors that place women and girls at risk of violence. ICRW has produced seminal work on VAWG, including all forms of intimate partner violence, coerced and forced sex, public harassment and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage.
Our current work focuses on documenting impacts and identifying solutions. This includes developing cutting-edge models to estimate the social and economic impacts of VAWG, conducting evaluations of community and school-based programs to prevent VAWG and assessing innovative approaches to bringing essential services closer to survivors of violence, especially those in fragile and conflict-affected settings. We are also exploring several under-studied forms of violence, including those experienced by sexual and gender minority women, older women and cyber violence, which includes violence perpetrated online and through technology.
ICRW has been a leading expert on these issues, and we work with implementing and research partners to conduct quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods studies to continue innovative research that advances the evidence on VAWG. ICRW engages with other leaders in the field of VAWG research to conduct pioneering studies and to translate the insights from our findings and emerging recommendations so they are available to a variety of audiences. Key partnerships include the flagship DFID-funded What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Program, the Violence Against Women and Girls Resource Guide (with the World Bank Group, Inter-American Development Bank, and Global Women’s Institute at George Washington University) and the global Know Violence in Childhood initiative.
ICRW is also examining the policy dimensions of violence prevention by evaluating the impact of and challenges to existing legislation and using our findings to advocate for stronger, more effective laws. Finally, ICRW participates in strategic regional and global networks that work to strengthen civil society and advance the field of preventing violence against women.