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NAIROBI, Kenya, 10 December 2021—Representatives from national governments, regional bodies, international development agencies, and civil society organizations convened a high-level forum on the use of gender data and statistics to address violence against women in East and Southern Africa (ESA).

The joint UN Women-UNFPA forum, titled “From Prevalence Surveys to Action”, showcased the latest statistical innovations and developments in eliminating violence against women. These include a joint global UN Women-World Health Organization programme aimed at strengthening the collection of data on violence against women and increasing country capacities to collect this data in line with global standards.

“The initiatives presented here today have significant implications for data collection as well as projects and programmes in ESA”, said Maxime Houinato, UN Women Regional Director.

A panel of experts discussed the findings of the most recent surveys conducted in the region and how survey findings have been and can be used to combat violence against women. For instance, according to a 2021 report of 13 countries surveyed worldwide, more than 80 per cent of women in Kenya perceived an increased incidence of sexual harassment since the onset of COVID-19. Of the countries surveyed globally, Kenya was also found to have the highest exposure (80 per cent) to at least one form of violence during the pandemic.

Addressing violence against women and girls calls for distinct policy changes.

In Rwanda, the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) includes a module on domestic violence and provides an invaluable trend series from 2005 to DHS 2019/20. Published with support from UN Women, the current DHS shows a steady incline in intimate partner physical, sexual, and emotional violence (42 per cent in 2020 compared to 34 per cent in 2015 and 2005 for physical and or sexual violence). This could be another indication of how the pandemic influenced violence against women. Data also indicates that married women are nearly twice as likely as women who have never been married to experience sexual violence (42 per cent compared to 23 per cent) and that women who are divorced, separated, or widowed are at highest risk (64 per cent) of physical violence.

Uganda’s first-ever Violence Against Women and Children Survey, published in November, shows a high incidence of sexual and emotional violence during the pandemic. Seventy-five per cent of girls aged 10-14 years experienced physical violence and more than 60 per cent experienced sexual violence in the past 12 months.

“Addressing violence against women and girls calls for distinct policy changes. This includes putting women at the center of COVID-19 recovery planning and allocating additional resources towards addressing such violence,” said Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, UNFPA Regional Director, a.i.. Without survey evidence for planning, resource allocation and monitoring this task will be a lot more difficult to achieve.