Promoting Health By Responding to Gender-based Violence

Alejandra Meglioli, Senior Program Officer - Access

Today, thousands of organizations and individuals around the world are demanding an end to gender-based violence in their communities as a part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign. Each year, the campaign begins on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends sixteen days later on December 10th, International Human Rights Day, to emphasize that gender-based violence is not only a violation of women’s rights, but also a violation of human rights.

It is important to use this day to reflect how much progress we have achieved and continue to increase visibility of the ways gender-based violence effects our lives. In 2011, our local partners provided more than 316,000 services for the prevention and detection of gender-based violence in Latin America. They assist women who have been victims of gender-based violence through the integrating screenings into the provision of health services. We do this work because we are committed, as a Federation and as Member Associations in Latin America and the Caribbean, to the overall health of women and have a fervent desire to put an end to gender-based violence.

We are working to ensure all of our local partners in the region are able to provide services to prevent and detect gender-based violence, as well as counsel women who have endured violence. We offer technical assistance and resources to our Member Associations so they may begin providing screening services and referrals.

In 2013, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, Mexfam, our partner in Mexico, will provide comprehensive response services to women who visit their clinics. Recently, health providers at all Mexfam clinics in the Federal District received training on how to detect, support, and give referrals to women who have been victims of violence. Also, as a part of our South-South Initiative, staff members from Profamilia Dominican Republic trained the staff at ASHONPLAFA in Honduras with the aim of strengthening their gender-based violence screening methods and their system of making referrals for women to access specialized services.

IPPF/WHR advocates for gender-based violence screening to be a routine part of sexual and reproductive health service provision. Research shows that when health care providers ask women if they live or have lived in a situation of violence, many women share experiences of abuse with their provider. Most of our Member Associations have adopted routine screening for gender-based violence as a best practice. They and many others use our resources on improving the health sector response to gender-based violence. We see this as an excellent opportunity to ensure women are receiving the best possible care and services they need.

According a 2011 report by the United Nations, up to 70% of women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. In most cases, the abuser is a woman’s husband, her intimate partner, or a member of her family. The number of women who experience violence is alarming, and health care providers must make an effort to effectively respond to the needs of women living with violence. In doing so, we not only provide women with tools to make informed decisions, but we also recognize and promote the right of all women to live free from violence.

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