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Speech by Mr Guoqi Wu, IFAD Associate Vice-President, at the opening ceremony of the Rome-based Agencies’ 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

Où: WFP Headquarters, Rome, Italy

25 novembre 2019

Your Excellences,

Dear guests,

Dear colleagues,

It is an honour for me today to share the stage with WFP Executive Director, Mr David Beasley, FAO Deputy Director-General, Mr Daniel Gustafson, and the distinguished panellists to officially launch “the RBA’s 16-day campaign against gender-based violence”. Today IFAD is reaffirming its commitment to eliminate and prevent gender-based violence.

Gender based violence is often used interchangeably with violence against women, reflecting the disproportionate number of these particular crimes against women. It is a global pandemic, deeply rooted in gender inequality, and is fundamentally a human rights violation. Gender-based violence has no social or economic boundaries. It is present in all countries rich and poor and affects all socioeconomic groups.

Let me share with you some sobering facts:

  • It is estimated that worldwide 35 per cent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives. In some countries, that figure is as high as 70 per cent;
  • It is broadly recognized that male violence against women can increase when women are targeted for economic empowerment. There is also evidence that joint decision-making reduces violence (GDSRC, 2012);
  • Men who witnessed their fathers using violence against their mothers, and men who experienced some form of violence at home as children, are significantly more likely to report perpetrating intimate partner violence in their adult relationships;
  • Evidence suggests that certain characteristics of women, such as disability status, ethnicity, and some contextual factors, such as humanitarian crises, including conflict and post-conflict situations, may increase women’s vulnerability to violence;
  • Gender equality and women empowerment is critical to prevent gender-based violence against women and girls. 

What do we do at IFAD?

At IFAD, we embrace a zero-tolerance culture that says NO to gender-based violence, NO to sexual harassment and NO to sexual exploitation and abuse in any way, shape or form.

IFAD does not tolerate any form of harassment, within the workplace or associated with the work performed on behalf of the organization at headquarters or in the field.

The organization has established solid mechanisms to promptly address and investigate allegations of misconduct and has reinforced its reporting channels to encourage staff, as well as other individuals, to report such allegations.

Sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse are all considered serious misconduct and are grounds for summary dismissal, termination of contracts and referral to national authorities.

IFAD management continues to work to raise awareness of IFAD’s zero tolerance policy as well as the mechanisms that staff and others can use to confidentially report misconduct.

Promoting gender equality is a key element of IFAD’s work to reduce rural poverty and improve food security. Gender mainstreaming is cast within the framework of IFAD's Policy on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment, approved by the Executive Board in 2012. A specific gender mainstreaming action plan has been developed which covers the period 2019-2025 and gives specific attention to gender-based violence.

How do we address gender-based violence in our work?

IFAD mainstreams gender equality and women empowerment in all its supported programmes and projects and addresses some of the root causes of gender-based violence, such as reducing inequalities between men and women and empowering rural women, to strengthen their agency and reduce their vulnerability to any type of abuse.

Some specific activities include:

  1. Increasing economic empowerment of women
    Empowering rural women economically – as the first objective of IFAD’s Gender Policy – can help reduce their vulnerability to abuse and strengthen their independence. Many IFAD-financed programmes support women’s livelihoods in smallholder farming, fishing, livestock-keeping and rural entrepreneurship. By enabling greater access to land, credit and other productive resources, these initiatives accelerate the economic and social empowerment of rural women. In the process, they allow women a greater degree of safety from harm.
  2. Getting a seat at the table
    IFAD’s efforts to prevent violence against women also include strengthening their representation in producer organizations and community decision-making bodies. Traditional and political leaders, local government officials and opinion leaders all play a vital role in community life. Any systemic change has to be supported by these leaders, and should include women amongst them, to become sustainable.
  3. Promoting cultural change at the household level
    Empowering rural women economically can help reduce their vulnerability to abuse, however the same women often remain disempowered within their household and communities. Promoting cultural change at the household level is key and involves all members of the family, in particular men. Evidence from the field shows that through the introduction of household methodologies, like the Gender Action and Learning System (GALS) and household mentoring, gender relations are improved and the gender-based violence is decreased.

Let me bring some true stories from the field in India and Burundi:

As cases of violence against women and girls in India continue to raise widespread concern, thousands of women in rural villages across the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are organizing to stand up for their rights and raise their standard of living.

Thanks to an empowerment project initiated by the state government with support from IFAD, women are organizing themselves into Shaurya Dal, or "Courage Brigades," and together fighting domestic abuse, caste violence, corruption and malnutrition.

Women in 2 733 rural villages in six districts of Madhya Pradesh have formed committees with local leaders to challenge social attitudes towards women and to seek community-based solutions.

Many issues are tackled - gender violence, alcoholism, gambling and child marriage. Reducing violence against women and girls requires a community-based, multi-pronged approach and sustained engagement with multiple stakeholders.

Another example comes from Burundi, where the IFAD-supported Value Chain Development Programme, known as PRODEFI, is providing woman leaders with the legal training necessary to help other women claim their rights in cases of land conflict or sexual violence.

For example, when Sylvane Ntigacika, a woman helped by PRODEFI, confronted her husband with his adultery, he beat her and threw her and their nine children out of the house and off the land they shared.

Sylvane, subsequently working as a poor labourer to feed her children, went to court to try to secure half of the property she jointly owned with her husband. She was unsuccessful until she turned to a Centre for Family and Community Development for legal advice, which helped her obtain 50 per cent of their holdings.

Many women like Sylvane have been supported by the family development centres. Now, if wives are treated unfairly by their husbands, they tell their husband that women also have rights.

These examples demonstrate how awareness, capacity building, agency and community engagement have brought about change and reduced violence against women. The most effective initiatives address underlying risk factors for violence, including social norms regarding gender roles and the acceptability of violence. The EU-funded RBA Joint Programme on gender transformative approaches, which was launched earlier this year, provides an ideal opportunity for closer collaboration between the Rome-based agencies in our efforts to end gender-based violence.

Let me conclude by reiterating:

  • I have a vision of an inclusive world, free of discrimination and gender-based violence;
  • The realisation of that vision requires the commitment of every one of us;
  • Today I am reminded of the many ways in which together we can and should make a difference;
  • Let us commit today to continually – in our day-to-day work – challenge ourselves institutionally and personally to raise awareness and stand against gender-based violence.


Thank you for your attention