UN Trust Fund responds swiftly to COVID-19 crisis


Prevent. protect. respond. Photo: UN Women
Image: UN Women

“Accompanying the crisis has been a spike in domestic violence reporting, at exactly the time that services, including rule of law, health and shelters, are being diverted to address the pandemic.” - from the UN Secretary-General's report “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19"[1]

As health, economic and security concerns increase around the world related to the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging data shows an increase of violence against women and girls.[2]

The United Nations sees women’s organizations, such as those funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), as essential in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, it is calling for increased funding for women’s organizations needed during the crisis through the “expansion and capitalization” of mechanisms such as the UN Trust Fund.[3]

“COVID-19 pandemic exposed the lack of our societies’ preparedness to respond to and deal with an existing, ongoing and persistent pandemic – violence against women and girls. Women’s organizations and their staff are essential workers, providing so much needed specialist services to survivors of violence where these services wouldn’t have been otherwise available. Our duty is to keep them safe and capacitate them to overcome this critical moment. Ensuring institutional sustainability of women’s organizations through investing in their core resources is key to maintaining the fundamental infrastructure that drives locally and globally the agenda of ending violence against women and girls”, says Aldijana Sisic, Chief of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

Increased violence against women

The work of the UN Trust Fund and its grantees to prevent and end violence against women and girls is critical more than ever. In many cities and communities, the emergency services and institutional responses are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 health crisis, and service providers have rapidly lost capacity to respond to the needs of survivors of violence. UN Trust Fund grantees are playing a critical role at the community level, and their sustained operation is vital to a comprehensive and successful pandemic response.

In response, the UN Trust Fund is mapping the impact of the crisis on its 144 grantees working around the world to better understand the challenges they face and strategies adopted in response. The grantee organizations are reporting that their beneficiaries are exposed to an increased risk of domestic violence during the pandemic, while services are experiencing increased workloads in response to the public health crisis. The very tactics to protect individuals from COVID-19, including social distancing, mandatory lockdowns and isolation in the home, intensify the risks of violence against women and girls.

Masa Pavlovic, Project Coordinator of the Mental Disability Rights Initiative in Serbia, which is implementing a UN Trust Fund-supported project with the organization FemPlatz, said, “We are certain that this situation and restrictive measures will have [a] very negative and long-lasting impact on our beneficiaries.”

Grantees are also anticipating delays and modifications to projects, which will directly impact beneficiaries. The completed mapping will enable the UN Trust Fund to assess the full breadth of the challenges COVID-19 presents to service providers as well as the impact on women and girls particularly at risk, including those living with disabilities.

Immediate and long-term needs

The UN Trust Fund is adjusting its operations and responding swiftly to the evolving crisis. Immediate action taken includes project reviews to enable quick reallocation of existing funds to enable grantees to respond efficiently to pressing challenges and safety of their staff, ensure institutional sustainability, manage potential organizational risks and make sure that women and girls receive essential support.

The UN Trust Fund also recognizes the anticipated long-term needs of its grantees to best serve women and girl survivors of violence. Through the establishment of a specific Ending Violence against Women COVID-19 Response Funding Window, it will support existing grantees with core resources to actively respond to the challenges created by the pandemic, prioritizing small women’s organizations. In addition, subject to increased resources, the UN Trust Fund aims to launch a global Call for Proposals for the new COVID-19 Crisis Response Window to fund projects specifically designed to support long-term interventions for women and girl survivors that are specific to the context of the pandemic.