Violence against women and girls is overlooked and underfunded

Spotlight Initiative's Dania AlRashed AlHumaid and Dalberg's Shruthi Jayaram at the launch of the Imperative to Invest study in Cancún.
September 22, 2022

CANCÚN, Mexico – 1 in 3 women and girls aged 15 and older have experienced physical or sexual violence. The Spotlight Initiative, a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union, published a report, Imperative to Invest, conducted by Dalberg Advisors, that lays out substantial evidence showing that the costs of violence against women and girls are borne by all society. Yet the issue is severely underfunded, receiving only 0.5% of official development assistance and philanthropic funding. The Spotlight Initiative is committed to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030. The Initiative is actively working with governments, civil society organizations, faith-based leaders, and other partners to achieve this goal and create a safer society for all.

The Imperative to Invest report brings together the evidence for the first time

The study estimates the potential impact of the Spotlight Initiative’s comprehensive model to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. In addition, it sheds light on the potential effects this might have on the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Addressing violence against women and girls through comprehensive and civil society-centric models can contribute to reducing violence and fostering peace and stability. In the more than 26 countries where Spotlight Initiative is active, it could lead to: 

  • Effective prevention of violence for 21 million women and girls by 2025
  • Improvement of perpetrator accountability and survivors' access to quality support services 
  • Saving 2 women’s and girls’ lives every day and 140,000 children’s lives by 2025
  • Mitigation of physical harm for 2,500 women and girls every day and pre-empting onset of serious psychological disorders for 320 women every day
  • Reducing escalation of conflict and fostering peace and stability


The Spotlight Initiative is committed to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. 700-750 million (1 in 3) women and girls have been subjected to violence. The reported global figure for femicides each year is 50,000.

Violence against women and girls is often considered an intractable problem. The agenda for the development sector is often drawn across specific issue areas - such as health, education or agriculture - with violence against women and girls seemingly sitting outside these priorities. While gendered violence affects and is affected by all these areas, it receives only 0.5% of the official development assistance and philanthropic funding.

Furthermore, gender-based violence is interlinked with every other issue and impacts several global priorities, such as health, education and economic prosperity. Though lesser-known and less discussed, it is deeply interlinked with some of the great challenges of our time – inequity, war and instability. Reducing and eliminating violence against women and girls can lift society as a whole, positively impacting all people around the world.

“Violence against women is all around us. It affects everyone, in all walks of life. At the Spotlight Initiative we believe that by investing in organizations at the grassroots level that are closest to the problem and have the highest level of credibility in their communities, we can deliver change." - Erin Kenny, Spotlight Initiative Technical Lead


Eliminating violence against women and girls creates a safer and stronger society for all

The economic costs of violence against women and girls on people and nations are large and difficult to calculate. High levels of domestic violence decrease the number of women in the workforce, minimize women’s acquisition of skills and education, and result in less public investment. Violence costs a woman over 30% of her earnings potential to a combination of direct costs of gendered violence and lost work opportunities. Moreover, the estimated cost for society is at least 2% of the annual GDP, i.e. $ 1.7 trillion globally, which is the equivalent of the combined GDP of 100 countries.

Spotlight Initiative’s work on prevention could help avoid the burden of violence-related costs. Eliminating violence against women and girls will support people in reaching their full potential, benefitting our collective progress as a society and can, among other things, result in: 

  • Keeping 1 million more girls in school by 2025
  • Adding back 43 million productive days a year
  • Enabling role-modeling of gender-equal relationships for 90 million children


Shruthi Jayaram, Co-author and Co-lead Dalberg Gender Equity Practice: “People across the world believe that violence against women and girls is a niche and intractable issue. Our findings demonstrate that this is not true; they affirm and reinforce what leaders, advocates, and grassroots organizations have known for decades – that VAWG is preventable and addressable, and that doing so builds more peaceful and prosperous societies today and in the future. We hope that this report’s quantitative illustration of this issue can elevate the discourse on VAWG and will inspire greater public and philanthropic funding and action to end violence against women and girls.”

Future investment can build on the foundation created by the Spotlight Initiative and its partners. We are positioned now to make huge strides with relatively little funding: dedicating just 0.25% of global development spending next year to comprehensive models for eradicating violence against women and girls would be the equivalent of funding one additional Spotlight Initiative programme.

Erin Kenny, Spotlight Initiative Technical Lead, elaborates: “We are at a crossroads. We can only achieve our goals if local organizations have the platform, space and funding to take the lead. To continue supporting these grassroots organizations and to pursue our mission of eliminating violence against women and girls we need new donors to join the effort. We believe this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build on hard-won gains and create lasting change.”

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