UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women: Annual Report 2020



Violence against women and girls (VAW/G) remains the most widespread breach of human rights – a long-standing pandemic whose many forms and manifestations are often exacerbated in times of crisis. Since its establishment in 1996, the UN Trust Fund has evolved, adapted and learned about effective initiatives to end VAW/G. Over the past 25 years, its grantees have impacted the lives of women and girls in every region, addressing complex and diverse forms of VAW/G through innovative programmes driven by the demands of their particular contexts.

The UN Trust Fund deployed this cumulative and unique body of knowledge and experience in 2020 to support organizations confronting the challenges of implementing initiatives to end VAW/G during the COVID-19 pandemic. An understanding of the importance of flexible and swift responses, underpinned by relationships of trust, helped ensure that vital civil society organizations (CSOs), especially women’s rights organizations (WROs), working to end VAW/G were able to survive and adapt.

During 2020, COVID-19 and the measures adopted to contain the pandemic saw a dramatic rise in VAW/G, severely impacting the work of the UN Trust Fund and grantees. Above all, it exposed the lack of preparedness of countries to respond to and deal with existing, ongoing and persistent VAW/G.

Indeed, prevalence figures released by the World Health Organization based on 2018 data, confirmed that 1 in 3 women around the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner, indicating that levels of VAW/G remained disturbingly high and gains in women’s rights fragile, even before COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, also highlighted the vital role played by CSOs/WROs in preventing and addressing VAW/G as first responders in crises. Their work is especially important in meeting the needs of women and girls who experience intersecting forms of discrimination and who are at most risk of violence.

This report reflects on the work of the UN Trust and its grantees since its inception in 1996 and looks in greater detail at the achievements of grantees during the last Strategic Plan (2016-2020) and specifically during 2020.

In its 25 years of existence, the UN Trust Fund has supported a total of 572 initiatives specifically aimed at preventing and addressing all forms of violence against women and girls across the globe.

In the past five years, its grant giving has focused primarily on funding CSOs/WROs and specifically WROs. During this time the grantees reported reaching at least 54,615,105 people and at least 1,604,305 women and girls benefited directly through services, empowerment activities and protection from violence, including more than 149,958 survivors of violence.

During 2020, COVID-19 and a dramatic increase in VAW/G globally posed new, and at times existential, challenges to UN Trust Fund grantees. Despite this, grantees reached over 31,071,058 people through various initiatives and ensured that more than 242,569 women and girls directly benefited from support that led to transformative changes in their lives, to prevent and respond to violence including services for at least 26,519 women/girl survivors of violence.

As this report shows, during 2020 grantees were able, with UN Trust Fund support, to adapt swiftly to maintain key aspects of their projects, while protecting the safety of beneficiaries and staff. The overall impact of COVID-19 on grantees and their work to prevent and address VAW/G was localized and complex, but some key trends were clear.

These included a stark rise in intimate partner violence, sexual violence, online harassment and harmful traditional practices; a severe impact on those experiencing intersectional discrimination and marginalization and those most at risk of being left behind; and a lack of sustainable, structural and societal support for work on ending VAW/G. CSOs/WROs rose to these challenges. This report also describes some of the specific steps taken by the UN Trust Fund to strengthen and support their role as first responders to women and girls, including funding specifically aimed at ensuring organizational survival and resilience.

With UN Trust Fund support, grantees have enabled 158,736 women and girls to access specialist support services and helped 23,089 service providers around the world to improve their provision of services.

The year also saw the close of the Strategic Plan 2016-2020. The three priority areas set for this period were: improving access for women and girls to essential, safe and adequate multisectoral services; furthering implementation of legislation, policies, national action plans and accountability systems; and promoting the prevention of VAW/G.

In addition, at least 133 institutional policies or protocols on VAW/G have been developed or improved at various institutional levels. This report details some of the key achievements of grantees in 2020 under these three pillars.

Throughout the period of the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, the UN Trust Fund has continued to build a global Evidence Hub on ending VAW/G, grounded in evaluated grantee results, to create a platform for collecting and disseminating practice-based knowledge and lessons. This report looks at some key areas of progress in taking forward this commitment to continuous learning and sharing practice-based knowledge and lessons learned, which proved invaluable in enabling a prompt and effective response to the crisis in 2020.

This report also looks to the future, highlighting the priorities, challenges and opportunities identified to take the UN Trust Fund forward over the next five years. Its Strategic Plan 2021-2025 will continue efforts to effectively support CSOs/WROs to prevent and end VAW/G. Grounded in feminist principles, it will continue to be led and informed by women’s experiences and civil society efforts to end VAW/G, fully recognizing women’s and survivors’ own agency and will be guided by the expertise and knowledge generated by CSOs/WROs.

The final chapter is devoted to the achievements during the year by grantees under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative. The specific central focus of the collaboration between the UN Trust Fund and the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative is strengthening and supporting women’s rights groups and autonomous civil society organizations (Outcome 6 of the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative Theory of Change) for projects working to end VAW/G.5 In 2019 and 2020, the UN Trust Fund cumulatively awarded USD24 million in direct grants to 55 CSOs/WROs in 25 countries in Latin America (11 grants) and sub-Saharan Africa (44 grants). This included USD9 million in resources to 44 CSOs/WROs in sub-Saharan Africa for their institutional strengthening in the context of the COVID-19 Response Framework in 2020. Looking to the future, the UN Trust Fund is analysing the contribution grantees make to women’s / feminist movements locally and nationally as well as how grantees have organisationally and programmatically adapted to COVID-19 that provide lessons for future ending VAW/G work especially in times of crisis.