Women's Health | Combating Violence Against Women

Whether it is rape used as a weapon of war or domestic abuse used to enforce submission, gender-based violence seeks to strip women of power and agency. It devastates those who are targeted and destroys the social fabric of families, communities and societies. Violence against women occurs in every country and to women from all walks of life.  It is one of the world’s most widespread abuses of human rights.

And it can be stopped.

Around the globe, MADRE’s members and partners are working to combat violence in their own communities. Together, they are helping women to heal from abuse and become powerful advocates for every woman’s right to a life free of violence. They are building clinics and counseling centers. They are sending girls to school. They are equipping women with tools to prevent sexual assault in war and in the aftermath of disasters.  And every day, they are affirming that violence against women doesn’t have to be a fact of life.

Here are some of the ways MADRE’s members and partners are combating violence against women:

Haitian mother and childHAITI: After the record-breaking earthquake, thousands of people are still living in filthy displacement camps, with very little shelter. Rape and sexual violence are at epidemic levels in the camps, with police often turning a blind eye. MADRE is working with our partner, KOFAVIV, to meet immediate needs of rape survivors and develop community-based anti-violence strategies. In support of KOFAVIV, MADRE is delivering clean water, enhancing security, holding trauma counseling sessions and helping survivors of violence seek justice. Since we began our campaign to combat violence against women, 800 Haitian police officers have been trained on sexual violence awareness and our partners at KOFAVIV have gained access to UN-led meetings where important decisions are made about the camps. With member support, MADRE produced a powerful report about violence against women in the displacement camps. In September, the UN launched a campaign against rape, adopting MADRE's recommendations almost verbatim.


Afghan woman

AFGHANISTAN: Women in Afghanistan are threatened, attacked and even murdered for daring to exercise basic human rights. Through The Afghan Women’s Survival Fund, MADRE has created an underground rescue network of women committed to providing shelter and secret transport to women whose lives are threatened. The Fund covers costs of emergency medical care, food, shelter, local and international transportation, and clothing and other personal effects for women who are forced to escape quickly. The women’s movement in Afghanistan is continuing, and women who speak up for their rights know they have somewhere to turn.


Pakistan flood aidPAKISTAN: After the devastating flooding, MADRE’s partner, Shirkat Gah, put it plainly: “women are the most vulnerable in terms of health and food facilities.” And women face the added pressure of caring for children, the elderly and those who cannot care for themselves. Shirkat Gah is ensuring that women (especially pregnant and nursing women) have the basics they need for survival, as well as access to medical care and family planning resources. Flood-affected women are also vulnerable to isolation and psychological distress as well increased levels of domestic violence that invariably accompany distaster situations. To combat this threat, Shirkat Gah is making sure women in the displacement camps have safe, women-only spaces to gather and offer one another support.


Guatemalan girlGUATEMALA: Over the past decade, almost 5,000 women and young girls have been murdered. Many of them were raped and mutilated, their bodies discarded in public places. Despite the prevalence of femicide (the gender-based murder of women) and other forms of violence against women in Guatemala, the government has done little to stop the killing. MADRE and our partners at the Barcenas Women Workers’ Committee are promoting health and security for women and families in the Barcenas neighborhood of Guatemala City.  They are creating neighborhood watch groups and teaching women anti-violence strategies and basic safety precautions. Through our Helping Hands program, MADRE sends flashlights and whistles to women in Barecenas to help them protect themselves from sexual violence. Through the Women Worker’s Committee, women in Barcenas are creating a support network to combat systemic violence.