UNITED NATIONS - World leaders meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday launched a half-billion-dollar effort to end violence against women and girls, a crime suffered by 1 in 3 in their lifetimes.
The effort will fund anti-violence programs that promote prevention, bolster government policies and provide women and girls with improved access to services, organizers said.
It will take particular aim at human trafficking, femicide and family violence, they said.
A third of all women experience violence at some point in their lives, and that figure is twice as high in some countries, according to the United Nations.
"Gender-based violence is the most dehumanizing form of gender oppression. It exists in every society, in every country rich and poor, in every religion and in every culture," Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of U.N. Women, said as the United Nations held its annual General Assembly.
"If there was anything that was ever universal, it is gender inequality and the violence that it breeds against women," she said.
In other forms of violence, more than 700 million women worldwide were married before they were 18, and at least 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries, according to U.N. figures.
The initiative of 500 million euros (US$595 million) was launched by the U.N. and the European Union, which is its main contributor, organizers said.
"The initiative has great power," said Ashley Judd, a Hollywood actress and goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) who participated in Wednesday's announcement.
"There are already so many effective, research-based, data-driven programs," Judd told the Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of the announcement. "Financing for existing programs is a beautiful thing.
"It also makes an incredibly powerful statement to show that the world is increasingly cohesive around stopping gender-based violence," she said.