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“Gender-based violence continues to impact millions of women, girls, and marginalized people around the world, particularly in areas of democratic backsliding, conflict, and instability.  The United States will not stand by as they face pain and suffering.”President Joseph R. Biden, Statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2022 

The U.S. Department of State is proud to announce the release of the updated United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally.  The strategy was released on December 12 at a virtual launch event with remarks from Assistant to the President and White House Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and USAID Administrator Samantha Power.  The U.S. commitment to preventing and responding to gender-based violence both at home and abroad has only grown in the last decade, since the release of the first version of this strategy in 2012 and subsequent update in 2016.  As highlighted in the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ending gender-based violence as one of ten interconnected priorities to advance gender equity and equality. 

Five women smile as one holds a microphone and recorder and another answers questions. Behind them is a poster that reads: Internews Local Voices Global Change.
Margaret Simon Gatluak, a community correspondent in Bentiu, South Sudan, interviews women leaders from the Protection of Civilians. Together, they discussed how they approach problem-solving in the community and how they overcame the challenges they face as women leaders. (Internews Photo)

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 3 women were estimated to have experienced gender-based violence in their lifetimes.  A survey conducted by UN Women in 2021 found that 1 in 2 women experienced or know a woman who experienced gender-based violence since the pandemic began and one in five women felt unsafe in their home.  Along with COVID-19, climate change and conflict around the world continue to put women, girls, and LGBTQI+ persons at disproportionate risk for experiencing gender-based violence.  Additionally, advanced technology has given rise to new forms of gender-based violence and exacerbated pre-existing manifestations of gender-based violence, as digital online harassment and abuse increase.  This updated strategy reflects the current global context and commits the U.S. government to policy, diplomatic, and programmatic actions to prevent and respond to all forms of gender-based violence. 

With the ultimate vision of building a future free from gender-based violence for all people, this third iteration of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, seeks to:  

  • Advance equity and inclusivity and address the factors that increase the risks of gender-based violence and undermine access to services and safety, particularly for the most marginalized; 
  • Support comprehensive approaches for addressing gender-based violence priorities across a range of thematic areas; and 
  • Strengthen the commitment and work of the U.S. government to scale what works, enhance our partnerships, and improve our capacity to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. 

The strategy is divided into three pillars which direct U.S. government efforts in this area: focusing on gender and at-risk populations, integrating GBV prevention and response across sectors, and strengthening our efforts.  Pillar I underscores that our approach must be intersectional and inclusive, acknowledging existing and systematically intersecting forms of discrimination and marginalization that put specific populations at unique risk of facing gender-based violence and its impacts.  Pillar II recognizes the importance of integrating gender-based violence prevention and response efforts across foreign policy and foreign assistance sectors, including as related to peace and democracy, humanitarian assistance, justice and accountability, economic empowerment, education, health, climate, and technology.  Finally, Pillar III emphasizes the renewed commitment of the United States to address gender-based violence globally including through increased partnerships, bringing to scale what works, and building internal capacity.  

This strategy was drafted collaboratively, across multiple federal agencies and departments.  As part of a six-month process, the Department of State and USAID hosted numerous consultations which included over 450 individuals representing civil society, bilateral and multilateral partners, the private sector, academia, implementing partners, U.S. government officials, and importantly, survivors themselves.  Following the release of the strategy, the Department of State and USAID will review and update their agency-specific implementation plans and will lead an annual interagency progress review. 

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In an environment of free speech and sisterhood, more than 300 women gathered to demand inclusive and equitable development in the regions of Bajo Cauca, Antioquia Department, Colombia on International Day for Women’s Rights on March 25, 2022. (Andrés Palacio photo)

The United States Department of State is committed to working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development (SDG) Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and women and girl’s empowerment, which is not achievable without addressing gender-based violence and its profound impacts on the lives of women, girls, and gender non-conforming persons around the world.  We believe that continued collaboration with internal and external stakeholders, including survivors, throughout the implementation of this strategy will advance our collective efforts to achieve SDG Goal 5 and protect and promote the rights and empowerment of all people.  With the release of this updated strategy, the United States stands firm in its commitment to and leadership of preventing and responding to all forms of gender-based violence around the world.   

About the Authors: 

Muna Sultana served as a Student Intern with the United States Foreign Service Internship Program (USFSIP) in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State, serving in her domestic tour before her overseas assignment.  She is currently completing undergraduate studies at Franklin & Marshall College and will graduate with a joint-major in Government and International Studies and a minor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in May 2024. 

Lauren Silver serves as a Virtual Student Federal Service Intern at the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues in the U.S. Department of State.  She is currently completing her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles where she is majoring in Political Science.  

U.S. Department of State

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