01 July 2020

Partner Spotlight: Five Questions With Together For Girls

The COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardized hard-won gains in women’s, children’s and adolescent health. Though women and children are at less risk from the virus itself, the knock-off effects—such as limited access to vaccines and sexual and reproductive health resources—are projected to do immense harm. Every Woman Every Child believes that women and children must be placed at the center of COVID-19 recovery plans. In that spirit, we have launched a new “Five Questions” feature to feature partners who are working to make sure that no one from these vulnerable groups is left behind.

1. What is your organization’s primary concern with the global pandemic as it relates to women, children and adolescents?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are now facing disruptions in routine, isolation from society, more time spent at home and online, financial insecurity, stress, and anxiety. As a result of all of this, the risk of violence against women, children, and adolescents in all forms is on the rise.

Since many children are staying home due to lockdown measures, they’re now hidden from the caring adults, community members, and mandated reporters who could have protected them: friends, neighbors, family members, teachers, doctors, dentists, and even child protective service professionals. Additionally, large numbers of children are spending unprecedented time online, increasing exposure to online violence, sexual exploitation, and abuse. Reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Tipline doubled in the last two months.

2. What concrete actions are you taking to advance/safeguard the goals of the EWEC Global Strategy during this time, specifically for ending all preventable deaths among women, children and adolescents by 2030?

Together for Girls (TfG) has a three-pronged approach to preventing and responding to violence against children and youth: data, action, and advocacy:

Data: The Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS), led by the CDC as part of the TfG partnership, document the magnitude, nature and impact of physical, emotional, and sexual violence against girls and boys to inform government leaders, communities, civil society and donors. We are currently in various stages of the VACS implementation and planning process in more than 20 countries around the world.

Action: VACS results are published in national reports, used in the development of national action plans, and guide effective programs and policies, all with the goal of preventing and responding to violence against children.

Advocacy: TfG uses global advocacy and public awareness efforts to bring attention to the problem of violence against children, promote evidence-based solutions, and provide a platform for survivors, young people, and advocates to share their stories.

3. How are you supporting national COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, particularly in ensuring that women, children and adolescents remain at the center of such efforts?

While we know that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing pandemic of violence against children, we also know that timely action by the United States Congress can keep kids in the US safe at home and online. We recently launched a campaign called #KeepKidsSafe, led by adult survivors of childhood sexual violence and more than 40 allied organizations in the US, calling for emergency funding to strengthen child safety and protection programs in the next COVID-19 relief package. We’re encouraging supporters to take action by signing the letter to Congress, contacting their congressional representatives, spreading awareness on social media, and committing to preventing violence. 

Additionally, TfG Executive Director and CEO Dr. Daniela Ligiero joined global leaders in calling for an urgent, united effort to address violence against children as part of the broader response to COVID-19. Through a joint statement, the leaders acknowledge that governments should ensure COVID-19 prevention and response plans integrate age-appropriate, gender-sensitive measures to protect children from violence, exploitation, and abuse.

We know that we all have a role during COVID-19 and beyond. We’ve curated a resource hub with tools for parents, educators, and policymakers to help protect women, children, and adolescents from violence during COVID-19.

4. What impact will your organization have on the lives of women, children and adolescents, and how are you measuring this?

The VACS provide never-before-seen information about violence against children and youth. But we don’t collect this data for the sake of having data, we use this data to inform strategies for violence prevention and response. Using the data as our guide, TfG works with national governments and civil society to prevent and respond to violence. These efforts include strengthening capacity in-country and providing strategic guidance, training, technical assistance, and funding when possible. These actions, along with appropriate budget and accountability measures, will lead to better prevention, improved health outcomes, and a sustainable protection system for all girls and boys.

You can visit this page on our website to see the progress of our partner countries. While some countries are in the process of developing their national action plans to prevent violence against children, others, like Kenya, have an established national action plan and are repeating the VACS to measure progress made since their first VACS.

5. Who (partner organizations) are you working with to achieve this?

At TfG, we believe there is strength in numbers. TfG partners are global leaders in their areas of work and each one contributes unique expertise and skills to strengthen our collective impact at national, regional, and global levels. Our partners range from national governments to UN agencies to private sector organizations. You can find a list of our partners here.