Speeches & Transcripts

Remarks for the Event: Intimate Partner Violence - Effective Interventions

March 6, 2013

World Bank Managing Director, Caroline Anstey The United Nation’s 57th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women: US Side Event – U.S. Mission to the United Nations New York, United States

As Prepared for Delivery

First let me begin with some quotes

“A woman should be beaten if she deserves punishment.”

“If she is nagging me and I tell her to stop, and she continues nagging, then it is her fault, and she deserves to be beaten.”

“The women are not physically abused as frequently as they used to be. Of course, around 40 percent are still being abused physically.”

These are direct comments from men made in focus groups as part of a study of 4000 men and women from a range of ages and economic mixes in 97 rural and urban communities in 20 countries.

A third of the women’s groups in the study said domestic violence was a regular or frequent part of their lives.

Perhaps not surprisingly economic factors such as poverty, joblessness, hunger and financial problems  emerged most often as causes of domestic violence. And as the quotes and findings highlight, there’s no simple solution to end violence against women and girls.

Empowering women – and increasing their agency – their ability to make choices and act on those choices –remains challenging.

Probing what works

Relative to men, women in many low-income countries today generally produce less from their fields, earn lower incomes, run less profitable businesses, and lack the ability to influence decisions that impact their lives.   They are also considerably more likely to experience violence or rape during their lifetime.

This is not because women are worse farmers, entrepreneurs or politicians, but because they face an added set of constraints and risks and face discrimination in credit markets and in society at large.

Using the rigorous methodology of impact evaluation, the World Bank's Africa Region’s Gender Innovation Lab aims to find out why some of these inequalities and risks persist, and how policies can effectively close these gaps.

Working with the NGO BRAC, our Innovation Lab finds that BRAC's adolescent girl program, which provides girls with a safe space and gives them life skills and vocational training, resulted in a 75 percent reduction in the probability that they had sex against their will. It also increased the likelihood that girls were earning an income by 30 percent.

But unless it's done right, women's increased economic power can actually lead to higher risk of gender-based violence. A study across 19 countries – by our World Development Report team – found a wife with a higher income was generally seen as a threat to male status rather than a boost to the household

So before we take action it is essential to understand - through initiatives like the Africa Gender Innovation Lab - what works, what doesn't and why.

There are few things more shocking in development than the brutal rape epidemic in eastern DRC. We’re working with community-based organizations and other partners in South Kivu to help survivors of sexual violence, as well as those who may be vulnerable, including widows, female-heads of households and teenage mothers to promote treatment and prevention of gender based violence. The project expects to reach 7000 women and girls. And we hope to be able to bring this type of experience and funding to our work with many more countries.

But we will not be successful in rooting out gender-based violence only by putting laws and institutions in place, or by launching targeted projects—much as they are necessary. 125 countries today have legislation on domestic violence, but laws are one thing; implementation is another. And gaps remain in terms of legal equality, access to justice, support services and, importantly, in norms.

This is a problem.  In countries such as Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Morocco and Sierra Leone over 50 percent of women think it’s acceptable for a husband to beat his wife when she argues with him. This has become their norm.   

We need laws that are responsive to women. We need effective court systems to back up the laws. We need exit options for women who’re under threat – quick and integrated support to victims – hotlines, shelters, psychological care.

We also need health and education systems that work for women and girls. But perhaps most importantly we need leadership, information, education and role models to help establish new norms.

The Technology push

The good news is that new technologies are enabling us to be much more effective at reaching out.

We saw that through the Bank’s global, ThinkEqual, campaign aimed at raising and sustaining worldwide awareness of gender equality issues. The #thinkEQUAL hashtag reached over 44 million people in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

And we’re doing it now – in the lead up to the Spring Meetings – asking young people in South Asia via social media what will it take to stop gender based violence in that region. Just consider some statistics: in Bangladesh, every week more than 10 women suffer from an acid attack. In India, 22 women are killed each day in dowry-related murders.

At the end of January, we launched our first Hackathon against domestic violence in Central America ….where up to half of all women may experience domestic violence at some point in  their lives.

Through a Hackathon

Stretching from Washington DC to simultaneous events in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, the Hackathon was devised as a means to raise awareness, spur new partnerships and deliver results. It brought together freelance, student and professional programmers from universities and technology companies face to face with domestic violence specialists, NGOs, police, parliamentarians, aid agencies and the media. 

They had the platforms to innovate, collaborate and devise ways to use technology to help victims find legal and health services or a home; help detect whether a woman’s in a dangerous situation; or help organizations be more effective, and also help connect the victims of violence with jobs and services to rebuild their lives.

The work was spurred by what we’ve already seen - A web and mobile application for domestic violence shelters to help coordinate the availability of space and beds for victims. https://sheltr.org/;  An application or website to help healthcare workers identify signs of domestic violence and refer women ( https://www.harborhousefl.com/2012/01/r3-app-2 ) and an SMS application allowing police and service providers to map reports of domestic violence submitted by text message ( https://harassmap.org/, https://survivorsconnect.org/haitismshelpline/ ) so identifying areas of high need.

Some of the prototypes coming from the Hackathon were aimed directly at helping women under threat. In Guatemala, SMS Ruta Critica was devised using SMS to inform potential and actual victims of violence what to do and where to get help.

From El Salvador, to address the lack of public information about domestic violence, there was an SMS and web integrated system that serves as a domestic violence hotline.

From Costa Rica, a Facebook application was thought up to allow young girls to self- assess their relationship, with links to a site where they could get information about violence.

From Panama came an app that allows victims to send an SOS to a circle of friends.

And from Nicaragua – info-games devised to be used in different platforms, aimed at children.

A number of institutions (Telefonica, Banco de Costa Rica, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, UN and USAID)  contributed to the events in Central America and have also expressed interest in giving support to help turn these ideas into reality – financial support to the development phase of possible applications.

A global push

Technology can also help us make the case for global action.

That’s why at the World Bank we have the Gender Portal. It’s a one-stop shop for gender information.  The portal includes gender  datasets from the UN as well as Bank research and can help not only monitor the Bank’s work but also country progress on key development agendas, such as the Millennium Development Goals.

With the Gates Foundation we've worked on the Global Financial Inclusion Index (Global Findex) – first public database measuring how men and women in 148 countries are engaging in financial activities.

And our  Women, Business and the Law database lays out indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees.

The bottom line is gender data and evidence about what works need to be much more available and accessible to support decision making that positively impacts women and children.

An Internal Push

We also need to take domestic violence seriously in our own workplaces. My colleagues and i are particularly pleased that out of the Central America Hackathon came the idea - and the design thanks to a couple of very innovative students - for a WB domestic violence app, to link staff to our domestic violence hub and hotline. We'll be launching that app in May with links for our staff in over one hundred offices around the world.

For the Future

Let me end with another encouraging  example of innovation that’s already started and comes from the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.  There the World Bank has been using a Development Policy Loan, which many of you know is not traditionally an instrument used to address gender inequality. We’re using it to help the government make gender-based violence part of its broader strategy.  The numbers were compelling. A third of all women and girls in Pernambuco were exposed to high rates of physical violence.  Fourteen percent were subjected to sexual violence.  Under the $500 million development policy loan, we’ve worked to help promote women’s economic empowerment with the setting up of a permanent Women’s Secretariat with twelve regional coordinators throughout the state; and also we dealt with the physical nature of the harm with training of 2000 health workers and law enforcement officers in gender-related issues.

The Bank is now making gender equality a central focus of its lending and analysis in education, health, access to land, financial, agricultural services, and infrastructure.   But gender violence remains all too prevelant.

We know that 510 million women will be abused by a partner in their lifetime. This has enormous physical and emotional costs for individuals, families, and can be passed through generations.  And there are also huge costs for societies and economies - though no one quite knows how much.

The Bank is hosting an event on this topic at CSW here in New York on Monday next week and I hope many of you will atttend. Just as looking at interventions that can work is important – so too is finding out much more about the costs not only for a woman, or girl, but also for a family, a community and a country. These numbers and these facts need to become part of our public policy discussions.