One in three women experiences gender-based violence (GBV) in their lifetime, making it necessary to address these human rights violations and fund organizations that are working on GBV prevention. A report from the Accelerator for GBV Prevention and Equality Institute entitled, What Counts, looks at the current state of gender-based violence prevention investment and takes a deeper dive, analyzing the limitations of these funding pathways and opportunities for impact.

Tesmerelna Atsbeha, Senior Program Officer of Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, Emma Fulu, Founder and Executive Director of the Equality Institute, and Freya Seath, Policy and Advocacy Lead of Accelerator for GBV Prevention, all speak about these issues and contextualize data and information from the report that clarifies how funders can take action to support work that aims to end gender-based violence. 

Q. What qualifies as gender-based violence (GBV) prevention investment? What are some examples?

Atsbeha: Tracking GBV prevention funding is a difficult task, limited by a lack of disaggregated data in existing data sets, and inconsistency in recording and reporting on prevention-specific work. The What Counts report measures funding for programs, policies, research, and movement-building focused on GBV prevention. It is a starting point not only for understanding GBV prevention funding, but also defining the limitations in existing data, and finding ways to measure prevention investment more effectively

In the report, we define GBV prevention as work to address social norms, structures, attitudes, behaviors, and skills at the individual, interpersonal, community, and structural levels to stop GBV before it starts, as well as to reduce the frequency and severity of violence. Throughout the report, programs are highlighted if their stated outcomes included either preventing gender-based violence or changing unequal gender norms, attitudes, and behaviors. 

As an example, Beyond Borders works with communities in the Southeast of Haiti to address power imbalance as the root cause of violence against women and girls (VAWG) through its community-based program Rethinking Power and cultivating feminist movement building. The team identified the long-term, flexible, and core funding they received as crucial to the program's success. It allowed them the time to comprehensively engage with diverse women and girls in their communities, build trust, listen deeply, and be responsive to community concerns.

For more examples of GBV prevention strategies, visit the UN Women’s RESPECT Framework.

Q. What are the current barriers to gender-based violence prevention funding? How can research help be part of the solution? 

Fulu: The first issue is that there is not enough money going to the prevention of violence against women and girls, given the scale of the problem.

One of the key barriers that interviewees identified to increasing investment in prevention is the siloed approach to funding. Our analysis found funding for promising prevention-focused initiatives in livelihoods, agriculture, health, and education that was financed from GBV budgets rather than the respective portfolio budgets. If donors consistently ear-marked an additional 0.1% of health and education budgets for GBV prevention work, it could radically transform the funding landscape.

Second, short-term funding cycles hinder the successful implementation of evidence-based prevention programs. We start to see positive change in communities, but organizations are not supported to complete their work and drive long-term change.

Third, the majority of funding is not reaching women’s rights organizations that need more resources to deliver critical GBV prevention work in their communities. 

Finally, we must diversify funding sources and mobilize new money by looking at shared funding with large-scale sectors such as infrastructure, climate resilience and technology.

Q. What are the long-term goals for funding GBV prevention?

Seath: The findings in our report emphasise that meaningful and sustainable change takes time, and that short-term funding cycles have been shown to often negatively impact communities and become a real barrier to the successful and sustainable implementation of evidence-based prevention programmes. The GBV prevention field has the evidence – we know what works to prevent violence at different levels, and our strategies have demonstrated consistent reductions in GBV. What is missing are the resources to implement at scale. Increased, high-quality and long-term funding is critical to implement the GBV prevention approaches and programmes.

Women’s rights organisations and feminist movements truly form the foundation for achieving gender equality and preventing GBV in the long term. These organisations and movements drive GBV prevention by placing women and girls at the centre of programming and policies. They play a crucial role in advocating for policy changes, ensuring the implementation of robust National Action Plans, and the promotion of Feminist Foreign Policies. However, our What Counts report revealed that 98% of donor government funding for GBV prevention is channeled through International Non-Governmental Organisations, private contractors, multilaterals, and government agencies. Unfortunately, this often neglects women’s rights organisations, which play vital roles in building constituencies, fostering movements, and delivering services within their communities. There is a growing and evident need to increase funding and provide core, long term and flexible support for women’s rights organisations directly or through independent feminist funds.

Q. What are the policy frameworks that support and advance GBV prevention and investment?

Seath: Policy frameworks need to have clear tracking and accountability mechanisms that show who is investing in GBV prevention, the levels of funding, and the limitations in existing data to help us find new ways to count and track prevention investment more effectively.

According to the report, funds intended for promising prevention-focused initiatives in livelihoods, agriculture, health, and education are being drawn from GBV budgets rather than the respective portfolio budgets. To boost investment in GBV prevention, donors and governments should allocate specific funds within budgets across various portfolios and sectors, including education, climate change, health, agriculture, livelihoods, and social protection.

To establish a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach to GBV prevention, it is crucial to enhance knowledge and expertise within donor agencies and governments. There is a recognized knowledge gap among teams regarding evidence-based prevention and how to integrate it into non-GBV programmes, which leads to inconsistent approaches, the perpetuation of harmful norms, and increased risks. Prioritising knowledge and practices related to prevention and integrating them across departments and teams is therefore essential. Recent reports from USAID and UNDP offer guidance on effectively integrating GBV prevention into broader programs. Additionally, the RESPECT Framework, the UN Trust Fund Prevention Series, and the work of the Prevention Collaborative are useful tools too.

In the last few years, a number of governments have started exploring the adoption of Feminist Foreign Policies and Feminist Development Assistance Policies. These commitments hold the promise of mobilising resources and political support to prevent GBV. While these frameworks carry significant potential, their success hinges on a dedicated effort to leverage all available foreign policy tools, including substantial resource allocation for evidence-based GBV prevention programs. Moreover, we need to prioritise funding for women’s rights organisations engaged in GBV prevention to maximise impact.

Q. What is the most important takeaway for funders interested in GBV prevention investment? 

Atsbeha: Ending GBV is necessary to achieve gender equality, and with the right actions and investments, this goal can be reached within years – not lifetimes. Gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent and pervasive human rights violations, yet this report reveals that GBV prevention receives only 0.2% of overall aid and development funding worldwide. Effective GBV prevention work requires sustained commitment from donors and national governments, and a financial model that will catalyze transformative change across regions and countries.

Ultimately, this report calls upon donors to strengthen their efforts to drive investment in GBV prevention, as well as build collaboration, transparency, and good practices in collecting data and reporting on prevention investments.