Strengthening participatory practice with children and young people affected by sexual violence

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Young girl leaders in Ukraine fight violence against women and girls

Posted: Thu Jun, 2014

Author: Claire Cody

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a serious problem in Ukraine. According to a social poll conducted in 2009 by the UNDP in Ukraine, 44% of Ukrainian women experience violence at least once in their lives.

According to an assessment of experts from the non-governmental sector, it was reported that about 20-30% of Ukrainian women experience violence on a regular basis. 27% of Ukrainian young women and girls under 18 had experienced violence.
The Ukrainian Government has put measures in place to combat VAWG. The law on the prevention of domestic violence in Ukraine was adopted in 2001. It introduced the issue of VAWG and made Government responsible for preventing and combating it.
Approximately 20 public crisis centres for survivors of VAWG exist in Ukraine. In addition, care to violence survivors is provided by social service institutions. However, the care is limited to psychological and sometimes legal support. Some NGOs are also working to provide care to violence survivors and vulnerable girls and women, but there is not enough support.
In 2013 the Ukrainian Women's Fund launched a two year project to fight VAWG. The goals of the project are to ensure that young girls and women are able to:

  • Identify various forms of violence
  • Prevent violence
  • Live in communities that have greater respect for the right to live free of violence and;
  • For those affected, access high-quality care.
  • Empower young girls-leaders and support their awareness raising initiatives
  • Ensure that government institutions and social care centres improve the scope and quality of prevention and intervention services
  • Promote non-violent behaviours among peers and community members and encourage them to help girls and women affected by violence.

The focus of this project is both on prevention of VAWG – by raising awareness and promoting a strong stand against violence among young boys and girls – and on increasing the opportunities of those affected by violence and those at risk to obtain high-quality services and care.
The project is dealing with all types of non-partner violence in the family, and violence in the community (sexual harassment and violence in public spaces and institutions). It includes all physical, sexual, psychological and emotional violence.
The main strategy is empowering young girl-leaders to conduct advocacy and awareness-raising among young girls and boys. Currently, many manifestations of violence are not recognised by the majority of young people in Ukraine, and therefore they perceive such violence as normal.
The project combines innovative and up-scaling approaches. It starts with selecting motivated and qualified young girl-leaders. This year girls-leaders will be trained on VAWG issues, project management and running advocacy campaigns and they will develop initiatives aimed at raising awareness in their communities. They can select initiatives from a "menu" (training, opinion polls, poster competitions, short videos and web applications, a march against violence etc) or implement their own ideas. Young girl-leaders will be encouraged to engage with boys around these issues.
In parallel, the project will describe and make recommendations for a unified model of work with young women and girls who experienced VAWG. As the project will work closely with young girl-leaders and young girls affected by sexual violence, this will allow the model to be developed based on the needs and conditions of young people. The project will seek to get this model approved by the Ministry of Social Policy and disseminated to all crisis centres, NGOs and other bodies that provide care to young girls who experience violence.