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PracticePrevention Foundations
UN Women

Why does GBV programming focus on women and girls?

This Tip Sheet is part of the COFEM Feminist Pocketbook ( . The Feminist Pocketbook is a resource to support practitioners, researchers and others working in humanitarian and development settings to articulate and implement feminist-informed approaches to addressing VAWG, also referred to as gender-based violence (GBV).

The Pocketbook consists of 10 ‘tip sheets’ on key topics related to addressing GBV in humanitarian and development settings. The goal of the Pocketbook is to empower practitioners, researchers and activists to help their colleagues, organisations and other stakeholders improve advocacy, policy, and programming efforts by promoting a common theoretical ground for shared understanding and action.

This tip sheet discusses why it is important to centre gender-based violence (GBV) programmes around the experiences of women and girls even when synchronising work with other groups, and why and how to be accountable to principles of gender equality and feminist activism in all work to end GBV. 

Key points

  • Gender-based violence (GBV) programming focuses on women and girls (1) because women and girls are at greater risk of experiencing certain types of violence because of their subordinate status to men and boys globally, and (2) to address the underlying causes of violence against women and girls (VAWG): gender discrimination and unequal power between females and males.
  • In some contexts, the definition of GBV is shifting away from a focus on women and girls with the result that GBV programmes are diluted from a clear, feminist-oriented focus on women and girls and toward a more diffused approach that includes other groups.
  • There is no theoretical or evidence base to inform or support this shift; instead, it reflects a trend toward gender neutrality and depoliticisation of gender in GBV work.
  • Working collaboratively and in alliance with others focused on different populations experiencing violence — rather than including diverse forms of violence under a GBV umbrella — will lead to more effective approaches that better serve feminist aims to achieve gender equality and end VAWG. 
Date published
  • 2018
Published by COFEM