Press release: Women’s organizations confirm surge of domestic violence during COVID-19 in the Arab States

Date: Thursday, December 3, 2020

3 December 2020, Cairo — Since its spread in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a global emergency with multiple dimensions. Beyond the health repercussions of the coronavirus, a “shadow pandemic” of violence against women and girls (VAWG) has emerged across the world,  as women are confined at home with their abuser.

The UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States (ROAS) conducted a rapid assessment of the impact of the pandemic on women civil society organizations (CSOs) and their beneficiaries: “Impact of COVID-19 on Violence against Women and Girls in the Arab States – through the Lens of Women Civil Society Organizations. Of the surveyed organizations, 55 per cent identified an increase of VAWG in the context of COVID-19, while 43 per cent observed an increase in online violence.

The study surveyed 220 CSOs working with women survivors of violence, women peacebuilders, women in conflict-affected communities, and more broadly on gender equality, from 15 countries across the region, including Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Its findings were released by ROAS during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence.

Organizations noted the disruption of essential services for women and girls survivors of violence during the pandemic, with 39 per cent of the surveyed organizations indicating that legal services for women facing violence have been affected by the pandemic.

In response to the challenges brought by the pandemic, women’s organizations have adapted and shown resilience in exploring new approaches and initiatives. 86 per cent of organizations surveyed mentioned having changed how they reach out to communities by using more technology-based platforms.

Despite quickly adapting to the new context of the pandemic, 84 per cent of the CSOs participating in the survey mentioned that COVID-19 has impacted them either negatively or very negatively, with 94 per cent of them stating that additional funding would be required to address new needs resulting from the pandemic.

“The role of Civil Society Organizations in responding to violence against women and girls during the pandemic is absolutely pivotal. Only a comprehensive, inclusive response to violence against women, putting civil society and other service providers at its core, will enable us to end this ‘shadow pandemic’. UN Women remains strongly committed to supporting women and grassroots organization, including through UN Women’s regional network of women’s CSO to allow exchanges of best practices and shared solutions towards ending violence against women and girls” said Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, UN Women Regional Director for the Arab States.

Based on the results of the survey, the report proposes a set of policy recommendations to prevent and respond to VAWG during the pandemic and as part of longer-term recovery plans including: 

  • Consider VAWG services essential during crises and allocate the necessary means to provide these services
  • Build clear and effective referral pathways for women facing violence
  • Develop more knowledge and data to understand women’s needs and barriers to access services
  • Make information on services accessible and inclusive to reach all groups, including the most vulnerable ones
  • Putting women’s organizations at the center of the response
  • Earmark funding for women CSOs to enable them to continue their critical work
  • Build women CSOs’ capacities on providing services remotely and using online-based tools
  • Map, assess and share best practices for reaching out to women who are locked up with their abusers
  • Support women CSOs to be able to respond to crises by developing contingency plans and preparedness tools

See the report here.

Media Contacts: 

Diego De La Rosa - diego.delarosa(at)unwomen.org
Nourhan El-Nagdy - nourhan.elnagdy(at)unwomen.org