EU and UNFPA join forces to tackle gender-based violence across Darfur

Originally published

The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched a new programme to battle gender-based violence in Darfur and make available the necessary support services for victims.

“While gender issues are integrated in all EU-funded humanitarian projects, including in Sudan, this programme is bringing gender-based violence specifically to the forefront,” said Wim Fransen, Head of the EU’s Humanitarian Aid Office in Sudan. “Strained circumstances, including the current coronavirus pandemic, can lead to more gender-based vulnerability. The programme is battling this scourge on different fronts to help in preventing violence from occurring in the first place and also to ensure that victims do not suffer in silence and reach out for help.”

The programme, supported with €500,000 in EU humanitarian funding, will coordinate efforts to fight gender-based violence across the three Darfur states, create an awareness campaign aimed at reducing violence against women and disseminate information about support services available, and also help victim support services implement the latest protection measures.

“Recent violence in Darfur has been devastating for women and girls,” said Massimo Diana, the UNFPA Representative in Sudan. “With the unstable political situation in Darfur and the upcoming rainy season, this program comes just in time.”

The coordinating role of this EU-funded programme is essential so that different agencies and organisations working towards the same aim in this sector can act in synergy with each other to cover needs. At the same time, the programme will train health workers, psychological counsellors and social workers. It will, in addition, create a network of midwives, teachers and community leaders who can refer cases of gender-based violence to the services they need.

UNFPA is the lead aid organisation responsible for the coordination of the international community’s response to violence against women in Sudan. UNFPA also works with a network of local organisations that amplifies efforts to prevent domestic violence.

“Coordinating efforts in Darfur is crucial in the efforts to prevent abuse, if these efforts are to be efficient,” said Abeer Abdulsalam, Head of the Gender-Based Violence Unit at UNFPA. “The new UNFPA and EU programme is a first step to lowering violence against women and girls in Darfur.”

Women and girls in Darfur are particularly vulnerable to violence. A 2018 study found that 80 percent of the women interviewed in Darfur identified domestic violence as a problem. A further 70 percent said that violence related to economic vulnerability is an issue. Conflict contexts also tend to see an increased rate of violence against vulnerable members of the community. However, the stigma surrounding gender-based violence, and sexual violence in particular, prevents survivors from speaking up and seeking help.

“Reducing gender-based violence in Darfur will not happen overnight, but we can build on this program to help bring a change to tens of thousands of women and girls,” Diana added.

About EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid:

The European Union and its Member States are the world's leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity with people in need all around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises.

Through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian aid Operations department, the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the EU provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs.