Virtual meeting tackles challenges women in the Great Lakes region face in dealing with violence

Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi, First Lady of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addressing the roundtable on the prevention of violence against women in the Great Lakes region.

11 Aug 2020

Virtual meeting tackles challenges women in the Great Lakes region face in dealing with violence

Nairobi, 11 August 2020 – The Office of the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region organised a virtual meeting to discuss challenges women face in dealing with domestic violence.

The event, part of a series of three consultative round-table discussions on Women, Peace and Security in the Great Lakes region, was held under the theme "The Prevention of all Forms of Violence Against Women and their Protection". It discussed ways to address impunity and reparations for victims of violence, within the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has intensified gender inequalities, mainly because of unequal power relations. Mandatory lockdowns and restrictions on movements, combined with high unemployment and an increase in poverty, have made more women and girls vulnerable to extreme forms of violence.

A brief by UN Women on "COVID-19 and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls" highlights an increase in statistics of gender-based violence (GBV), particularly violence against women and girls, since the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe, as security, health, and money worries generate tensions and strains accentuated by confining people to their homes.

Participants noted that although the lockdown restrictions are necessary to curb the spread of the virus, women and girls have found themselves trapped with their abusers, with no access to help.

Gender inequalities, economic insecurity and poverty-related stress were cited as key elements in the relationship between GBV and the COVID-19 pandemic, with several studies noting that the actual cause of GBV during these outbreaks is a function of pre-existing gender inequality, which is reinforced and aggravated during emergency or disaster situations.

Participants included women champions and women leaders representing the Advisory Board of the Women’s Platform in the Great Lakes region, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, as well as relevant UN entities, regional fora, civil society organisations, regional and international partners, advocates, experts and academics.

The virtual meetings were initiated in July, with the first session held under the theme "Women as Agents of Change for Social and Economic Transformation". A third session is slated for 20 August under the theme "Women’s Meaningful Political Participation", culminating in a high-level meeting of the UN Peacebuildin Commission in September 2020.

The meetings are held in line with the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), which affirmed that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict, the delivery of relief and recovery efforts. It urges actors to incorporate a gender perspective in all peace and security efforts, and calls parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from all forms of gender-based violence.

The Office of the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, headed by Ambassador Huang Xia, is the main organizer of these meetings.