UN Women Bangladesh held a learning sharing event at the Bangabandhu International Conference Cen-ter (BICC) on Wednesday showcasing the remarkable results achieved by the Combating Gender-Based Violence (CGBV) project.
Funded by the Government of Canada, the project aimed to develop effective strategies for preventing violence against women (VAW) in the country. Through extensive research, monitoring, impact evalua-tion, and innovative approaches, the project has made significant strides in promoting institutional and behavioral change, leading to a violence-free environment.
According to global data, approximately 736 million women, nearly one in three, have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence at least once in their lives.
In Bangladesh, at least 50% of women have faced physical or sexual violence from their male counter-parts during their lifetimes, according to UN Women in Bangladesh.
Recognizing the cost-efficiency of prevention programming on gender-based violence compared to re-sponse efforts, UN Women has been implementing the CGBV project since 2018.
One notable outcome highlighted during the event was the Evidence (Amendment) Act 2022, as present-ed by the Program Coordinator, Shrabana Datta.
Through concerted advocacy by civil society, women rights activists, and the Rape Law Reform Coali-tion which was supported by UN Women, the law now prohibits the questioning of a rape survivor’s character during cross-examinations and allows the submission of digital evidence in court.
MD. Muhibuzzaman, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, said, “The more we involve men in these programs, it will be easier for us to achieve equality and reduce violence.”
He added, “We want to work together – government, non-profit organizations and civil society organiza-tions. We want to involve everyone in the process of reducing VAW.”
Furthermore, the results highlighted the institutionalization of the Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment policy in 12 public and private workplaces, the establishment of 15 Complaint Committees in education-al, public, and private institutions, and the formation of an additional 78 committees in compliance with the High Court Directive of 2009.
Applauding UN Women’s efforts, Lilly Nicholls, High Commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh, who was present as the chief guest, said, “The project was exceptional in terms of achievement in such a short period of time. We have to work in a holistic fashion, we have to work in coalition with an intersec-tional approach, which means we have to include people of every gender and belief to achieve change.”
Over the course of five years, the CGBV project has worked with families, communities, and public and private institutions to transform mindsets and behaviors and prevent violence against women.
The project has utilized globally adapted prevention models, including the community mobilization ap-proach known as SASA! Together and the family-based prevention approach called Shomman O Sho-motar Jeebon.
Former adviser to the Caretaker Government, Sultana Kamal said, “We have to create a culture of good humanity and belief. If we can do that, only then we will be able to reduce violence against women in numbers.”
“Prevention works. We need to scale up investments in prevention efforts. The time for transformative action by all of us is NOW – no one can remain a bystander,” Gitanjali Singh, Country Representative of UN Women Bangaldesh, said in her opening remarks.
She emphasized on the cost-efficiency of prevention programming based on global data. The “What Works to Prevent VAW/G” program, supported by UK Aid in 12 countries in Africa and Asia, has pro-vided evidence of reducing rates of violence against women and girls through prevention initiatives.
Melissa Alvarado, Program Specialist, UN Women, Asia and the Pacific, said in her closing remarks, “This program has helped us to produce new knowledge and evidence, which would help combating VAW. We cannot leave the duty of achieving gender equality to future generation, it should be within us. We should act on it now.”
The event highlighted valuable insights and experiences gained throughout the duration of the CGBV project.
Grassroots participants shared their transformative journeys, underscoring the importance of understand-ing the root causes of gender-based violence for effective prevention.
The event was participated by Lilly Nicholls, High Commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh; MD. Mu-hibuzzaman, additional secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, as the guest of honor; Gitanjali Singh, Country Representative of UN Women Bangaldesh; Melissa Alvarado, Program Special-ist, UN Women ROAP; Barrister Sara Hossain, global experts, local implementors, and representatives from the grassroots level.