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Five Questions for Lara Fergus from the Expert Group Meeting in Bangkok
Lara Fergus, independent expert leading the discussions on prevention strategies to end violence against women and girls in the Expert Group Meeting in Bangkok. Photo credit: Jane Sweeney
Experts on preventing violence against women and girls are meeting this week in Bangkok to examine promising practices on prevention and present recommendations to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). CSW is the principal global policy-making body on gender equality and the advancement of women. During its next session in March 2013, UN Member States will share experiences and adopt resolutions aimed at eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls.
The Expert Group Meeting in Bangkok, will present its recommendations to the CSW for their consideration. Lara Fergus, an independent consultant experienced in prevention policymaking will be leading the discussions at the Expert Group Meeting. She talked to UN Women about why it is important to invest in prevention to eradicate violence.
When we talk about preventing violence against women and girls, what are we specifically talking about?
Prevention is about identifying and addressing underlying causes of a problem, rather than focusing solely on its results or impacts. So in terms of violence against women and girls, prevention means looking at things like attitudes, behaviours, practices and ‘social norms’ that have been shown to contribute to violence, and working out strategies to change these.
This is not as simple as it sounds, as the factors contributing to violence against women and girls are many, and they exist at different levels of society – e.g. individual attitudes, community expectations and – importantly – broader gender discrimination or inequality. But just as Governments have employed multi-pronged and sustained strategies to successfully reduce other complex harmful behaviours – such as smoking or drink driving – so too can we prevent violence against women and girls.
Why is prevention such an important aspect of addressing violence against women and girls?
While it’s extremely important to continue investing in an effective response to existing violence against women and girls – such as through improving service, police and justice systems – we now know that focusing on response alone will never reduce the number of new incidences of violence.
Prevention is not only possible, it’s essential. In addition to being a human rights obligation on states, violence against women and girls carries huge social, economic and health costs and drains public budgets, and it is only by addressing the underlying causes of violence that these costs will be reduced. Prevention also has the potential to create numerous benefits for communities beyond reductions in violence, because it addresses the discrimination, inequality and other violence-supportive practices and behaviours that contribute to a range of social ills. Prevention is ultimately about creating relationships, communities and organizations that are equal, non-violent and respectful of all individuals – and where women and girls live free from the discrimination, harassment or violence that can block them from reaching their full human potential.
What is the current situation in the field of prevention?
In recent years we’ve seen a growth in primary research, evaluation and programming activity on prevention, and consequently a growing evidence and practice base for what works – at least at the intervention level. We’ve also seen increasing calls from intergovernmental fora for more comprehensive, coordinated and sustained approaches to prevention to be implemented, based on the human rights obligations in existing treaties such as CEDAW, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Beijing Platform for Action.
However, current work on preventi