CSSP Guidelines to better support women and girls victims of violence throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

Starting with the first of May 2020, the Civil Society Strengthening Platform has started its third year of the EU/UN Women programme ‘Implementing norms, changing minds’. The EU/UN Women programme ‘Implementing norms, changing minds’ aims at ending gender-based discrimination and violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey, with a particular focus on the most disadvantaged groups of women.

This year’s project focusses on one specific key regional challenge identified by all CSSP partners under Phase I of the programme: the serious gap in sexual violence services in the region. Therefore, this year all nine partners in the seven partner project countries, will focus on developing guidelines on how to better cater to the needs of victims of sexual violence to support service providers in responding to the needs of victims of sexual violence.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures of containment implemented by national governments to counter the spread of the virus, have strongly impacted the health of populations, economies and public services. Since March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic, governments in the Western Balkans and Turkey began introducing measures of containment (such as closing different businesses, limiting free movement of people) to respond to the crisis. The impact of the pandemic and of these measures has deepened already profound gender gaps grounded in patriarchal structures and cultures, and the burden of the COVID-19 crisis has been particularly placed on women.

Violence against women has increased during the lockdown imposed by national governments in the Western Balkans and Turkey[1], women’s access to support services being consequently limited. Furthermore, after the pandemic outbreak, women’s organizations faced a loss of staff, capacity and financial resources. Some services were temporarily cancelled, while a few organizations decided to better respond to the pandemic by starting new services.

The following gaps have been identified by women’s support services[2]: imposed lockdowns, reduced mobility and firmer control of abusers make shelters non-accessible to women; women’s helplines have limited resources to deal with online reporting of VAW; there is a  lack of protocols on how to admit women respecting health measures, limited resources to keep shelters and centers operational and the immediate healthcare for women survivors of violence are overlooked.

To better respond to the needs of women victims of violence and to ensure adequate support as well as taking into consideration the fear of resurgence of COVID-19 cases, Civil Society Strengthening Platform partners in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey have prepared a set of guidelines in all national languages to better support national governments and service providers in times of crisis.

The guidelines are accessible here.

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