Ndyandin Dawara made a momentous decision to break with long tradition in her community in Gambia. She would not subject her toddler daughter to female genital mutilation (FGM), a violation that can usher in a lifetime of debilitating health and other consequences. Dawara’s choice came after she attended training on ending the practice held by GAMCOTRAP, an advocacy group. It is just one of the organizations around the world making a difference in the lives of women and girls through support from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.
The training showed Dawara how other women, coming from the same background, had decided to abandon FGM. That gave her strength. “We need to work to change people’s mindsets,” she says, stressing that all women and girls should live free from this harmful practice. Even her husband is now involved, intent on protecting his own daughter and all other girls in their community. He also attended the training, and speaks out in the community and to other men about the damage FGM causes.
GAMCOTRAP has now mobilized heads of villages in 58 communities to support the abandonment of FGM. It has organized training for community leaders and workshops empowering over 300 women to claim their rights and those of their daughters. Among young mothers, 64 per cent said they would not subject their daughter to the practice, while community leaders are, for the first time, discussing how to protect girls and their communities. In 2015, Gambia passed legislation to criminalize and prohibit FGM, a major achievement stemming in part from GAMCOTRAP’s long-term advocacy.
These accomplishments join a long legacy celebrated in 2016 as the UN Trust Fund marks its 20th anniversary. It remains the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated exclusively to addressing all forms of violence against women and girls. Managed by UN Women on behalf of the UN system, the UN Trust Fund to date has supported 426 initiatives in 136 countries and territories with grants totaling USD 116 million. In 2015, the Fund awarded USD 12.86 million through 33 grants covering 29 countries and territories, with bringing benefits to at least one million women, girls, men and boys.
Building on two decades of strong results and evidence, the UN Trust Fund has fine-tuned its strategies to deliver the greatest impacts and respond to evolving challenges. Increasingly, it emphasizes preventing violence against women and girls—often through community interventions that challenge the gender discrimination underpinning violence. The Fund focuses on initiatives that promise lasting change, including by being institutionalized in official national programmes to prevent and end violence.
In 2015, other grantees included The Story Kitchen in Nepal, implementing the “SAHAS (Courage) for Justice” project in 10 districts. It helps women survivors of conflict and violence acquire new skills to access justice, including through testifying at the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission. During workshops, women survivors share their stories and in the process grow more comfortable talking about issues long kept locked within themselves. As one participant recalls: “I had forgotten to smile after seeing 15 people killed in front of my eyes. After coming to this workshop and meeting with other sisters, the smile has returned.” Complementary efforts include enhancing the quality of media reporting on violence against women and girls. New guidelines help journalists cover the issue in conflict settings in more sensitive and accountable ways, bolstered by a national consultation that has developed a broader set of standards on ethical reporting.
Najoti kudakon, another UN Trust Fund grantee, has extended a lifeline to rural women in Tajikistan by improving access to basic protection services and helping to implement new legislation on domestic violence. In addition to running the only shelter for survivors of domestic violence in the country, Najoti kudakon helps expand networks for assistance by setting up women’s support groups in remote areas. Participants have become active community mobilizers, organizing events, and creating and sharing information about the new law and women’s rights. Moreover, the groups have quickly become efficient referral mechanisms for survivors of violence, improving access to a variety of services, including legal aid to help take cases to court.