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New US Initiative Aims to Quickly Help Violence Victims

  • Mariama Diallo

The U.S. State Department has unveiled a new initiative to respond quickly to gender-based violence. It will address the urgent needs of survivors of severe gender-based violence, as well as individuals under credible threat of imminent attack.

“Working with our local partners, we’ll be able to provide funding, medical expenses, emergency shelter, psycho-socio support and legal assistance to survivors,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary William Burns as he introduced the program Thursday.

A consortium of aid groups, including the Avon Foundation, will run the program. Alyse Nelson runs Vital Voices, the international organization that is leading the effort.

“It’s something we need - not just have NGOs [and] leaders around the world dealing with and trying to combat [violence], but we also need corporations to recognize it’s in their interest to stop violence against women and obviously governments as well,” said Nelson.

Cindy Dyer, Vital Voices’ vice president, said violence against women occurs in every country, and the only way to stop it is to hold perpetrators accountable. She said the new program will help do that.

“The initial seed money is over $1 million, and the support of the Avon Foundation for women is allowing us to provide the second component of this initiative, which is to provide multi-disciplinary training for criminal justice professionals and the direct service providers that are on the ground in countries,” said Dyer.

South Africa, India, Nepal and Mexico are the first countries to take part in the program. Nishi Kant, who runs Shakti Vahini, an organization in India fighting violence against women, hopes more victims will seek help.

“It’s very difficult in a country like India for a woman to come out and speak about such kinds of issues like this has happened… As a service provider, we are trying to reach out to as much to community women group as possible,” said Kant.

Singer Fergie, a member of the Black Eyed Peas and the Avon Foundation for Women Global ambassador, said she is shocked by the statistics: one in three women in the world suffers from gender-based violence.

“There are laws to protect women and punish their abusers in many countries, but they aren’t applied effectively and consistently, leaving women unprotected,” said Fergie.

This new initiative, she said, will help countries better enforce their laws and stop the violence.