The Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies (Call to Action) is a groundbreaking global initiative to fundamentally transform the way gender-based violence (GBV) is addressed in humanitarian action. The aim is to drive change and foster accountability so that every humanitarian effort, from the earliest phases of a crisis, includes the policies, systems, and mechanisms necessary to prevent, mitigate, and respond to GBV, especially violence against women and girls.
GBV is a horrifying reality and human rights violation for women and girls globally. It is a power, health, rights, and protection issue that is deeply rooted in gender inequality and structural norms that disempower and discriminate. The risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse is heightened during emergencies. Crises weaken national systems, such as health and legal systems, and community and social support networks. This breakdown of systems can reduce access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, and legal services, leading to an environment of impunity in which perpetrators are not held to account.
When systems and services are disrupted or destroyed, women and girls face even higher risk of human rights violations such as sexual violence, intimate partner violence, exploitation and abuse, child marriage, denial of resources, and harmful traditional practices. Forced displacement by conflict, natural disasters, climate change, or other crises may further compound the risks. GBV has significant and long-lasting impacts on the health and psychosocial and economic well-being of women and girls, and their families and communities. While women and girls are disproportionately affected by GBV, the risks of sexual violence against men and boys can also rise in crises.
Early and sustained action to prevent, mitigate, and respond to GBV is at the heart of the humanitarian mandate. It is a collective responsibility that requires all elements of the humanitarian system to do their part. Yet, GBV was not historically considered a lifesaving priority in humanitarian response. The Call to Action was launched in 2013 to meet this challenge head on---to secure the transformational change that ensures priority attention to the needs and rights of women and girls and GBV survivors in humanitarian action.
By the end of 2019, there were over 80 global Call to Action partners committed to achieving this transformational change. Partners are states and donors, international organizations, and international, national, and local nongovernmental organizations, each bringing their unique strengths and capacities to drive change. The strength of the Call to Action lies in the power of collective action and the shared commitment of diverse stakeholders to accountability for results. The success of the Call to Action will ultimately be determined by the crisis-affected women, girls, families, and communities who are safer because GBV was effectively addressed in partnership with them from the start of the humanitarian response to the restoration of peace and development.