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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence


The State Department is committed to ending the global pandemic of violence against women and girls. This violence cuts across ethnicity, race, class, religion, education level, and international borders. It has the potential to affect women and girls at every point in their lives, from sex-selective infanticide, to child marriage, trafficking, domestic violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, "honor" killings, the neglect and ostracism of widows, sexual violence, rape as a tool of war, and much more. Additionally, women and girls are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, with rape and relationship violence contributing to the growing infection rate, especially among adolescents.

One in three women worldwide will experience gender-based violence (GBV) in her lifetime. According to UN Women, violence against women causes more death and disability for women and girls between the ages of 15 and 44, than do cancer, traffic accidents, malaria and war combined.

The United States takes a multi-pronged approach to addressing gender-based violence, including both short and long term goals to ensure appropriate care for survivors while also strengthening deterrents against gender-based violence. Our priorities include the protection of women (physical and legal), the prevention of violence against women, and the prosecution of perpetrators in order to address impunity. The Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) regularly coordinates with other bureaus and agencies to ensure a collaborative approach to addressing violence against women. Each year, the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues raises awareness and highlights the issue by commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) on November 25th and the accompanying “16 Days of Activism.”

Violence Against Women and Girls

As part of a $5 million small grants initiative, S/GWI is currently providing over $1.2 million in small grants to grassroots NGOs addressing gender-based violence globally. These projects focus on a range of issues – from increasing access to justice for survivors of sexual and domestic violence to the establishment of adolescent leadership groups to working with men and boys to raise awareness about gender-based violence. Additionally, through the Secretary’s International Fund for Women and Girls, in partnership with the Avon Foundation, S/GWI awarded 10 grants totaling $500,000 to grassroots non-governmental organizations in eight countries working to address GBV.

S/GWI’s single largest program of $1.5 million comes out of the Iraqi Women’s Development Initiative (IWDI). The specific program is aimed at reducing violence against Iraqi women and girls. Investments to combat violence against women and girls include:

  • Prevention and Response: Expanding local NGO services to effectively address the needs of women and girls in conflict areas, through physical and psychological treatment, legal counsel, and protection measures, including access to safe houses.
  • Community Engagement: Supporting civil society efforts to engage with men and boys to combat violence against women and girls. It is important to change underlying social attitudes that perpetuate violence through dialogues with religious leaders, politicians, military officials, and students.
  • Capacity Building: Strengthening grassroots NGOs to further local judicial and law enforcement education and training, coordination of development efforts, and public advocacy aimed at preventing violence against women and girls.


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