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New initiative uses digital approach to protect women

Alyse+Nelson%2C+president+of+Vital+Voices+and+Fergie+are+part+of+the+group+launching+the+Gender-Based+Violence+Emergency+Response+and+Protection+Initiative.+
Cathryn Walker/ shfwire
Alyse Nelson, president of Vital Voices and Fergie are part of the group launching the Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative.

WASHINGTON – A new program will allow women around the world to receive emergency care by simply pushing “send.”

A victim of extreme physical abuse can send an email message to the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women to ask for emergency funds of up to $5,000 for medical care, legal assistance, shelter or evacuation. She will also be connected to a long-term care provider.

The partnership, a collaboration between Vital Voices Global Partnership, the Avon Foundation for Women and the U.S. Department of State, announced the Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative Thursday in an effort to end violence against women.

“Advancing gender equality is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” William Burns, deputy secretary of state, said. “The Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative builds on these efforts.”

The initiative is the first emergency response program of its kind, Cindy Dyer, vice president of human rights for Vital Voices, said.

“The statistics shock me,” Fergie, the singer and an Avon representative, said. “One in three women will be a victim of partner violence in her lifetime. That is totally unacceptable.”

A 2013 study by the World Health Organization found that 35 percent of women worldwide have been victims of physical or sexual violence and 38 percent of murdered women were killed by an intimate partner.

Dyer said in an interview that the rate of domestic violence doesn’t significantly vary from country to country, but the resources available to help women recover do. The initiative is building an advocacy support training program for cities in India, Nepal, South Africa and Mexico.

Click on photo to enlarge or download: Uzra Zeya, assistant secretary of state for democracy, left; Alyse Nelson, president of Vital Voices; Fergie; William Burns, deputy secretary of state; and Sheri McCoy, chairman of Avon Products Inc., are part of the group launching the Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative. SHFWire photo by Cathryn WalkerAlthough the initiative launched Thursday, efforts began at the end of January.

Two victims have used the emergency resources in the past month. When a 15-year-old Syrian girl and a 3-year-old Somalian girl were raped in separate incidents and left with serious injuries, the initiative provided immediate financial assistance for medical care. Both girls are now in shelters with their mothers and have been paired with service providers.

Speakers at the event launch event said that, although emergency funds and shelters are crucial to advancing their efforts, the only way to end violence against women is prevention.

“There are laws to protect women and punish their abusers in many countries, but they aren’t applied effectively and consistently,” Fergie said. “The new Justice Institute on Gender-Based Violence is designed to ensure that laws achieve their purpose and their promise.”

Dyer said she is confident that the training program will teach lawmakers and community members how to enforce punishment and promote a culture of nonviolence.

Cathryn Walker is a senior journalism major at UT Austin. She is currently participating in the Scripps Howard Semester in Washington Program. She may be reached at [email protected].

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New initiative uses digital approach to protect women