Spotlight Initiative needs Korea’s help to end violence against women
Violence against women spiked through the pandemic. As many as one out of three women and girls aged 15 and older have experienced sexual or physical assault as of 2021, according to the World Health Organization.
Spotlight Initiative, a program launched by the United Nations and funded by the European Union is trying to change this reality for women around the world, and it can do more with help from a country in Asia like Korea, said the initiative’s consultant.
“Minister Park Jin himself has made public Korea’s plan to expand the role of women in peace and security, and made this one of the main agendas for Korea’s bid to be a non-permanent member at the UN Security Council from 2024 to 2025,” said Kim Min-sun, coordination and planning consultant at Spotlight Initiative’s management unit.
The initiative, launched in 2017, was funded through 2022 by the European Union with 500 million euros ($544 million).
Through disbursing the funds to grassroots civil societies and women’s movements across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, the initiative has reached more than 200 million people in 26 countries with educational programs including behavior change interventions as of last year.
It also encouraged nearly 200 additional legislations to address violence against women and girls in 39 countries as of 2021.
In a report produced with global consulting firm Dalberg last year, the initiative said that its continued efforts can prevent at least 21 million women and girls from facing sexual and physical assault by 2025, and save nearly two lives of women and girls every day.
But as is the case with every multinational or international initiative, funding is paramount for its continuation.
“After this year, if we cannot find further funding, no country offices will be able to implement further activities for schools, civic organizations and other communities,” Kim said.
The impact of the initiative may have been different per community, but the change brought to the lives of women and girls they were able to reach was potent every single time, Kim noted.
“We were hosting a global learning session in Cancun, Mexico, last year, where a lady from Papa New Guinea was speaking about her experience in founding and running a civil society organization,” Kim said. “Despite years of efforts, she was not able to be heard, until she met the team from the Spotlight Initiative. There is something very powerful in a woman finding her own voice.”
Spotlight Initiative also funded an exhibition that showcased 103 outfits worn by survivors of sexual assault when attacks on them took place, representing 1.3 billion survivors worldwide. Organized with Rise, a civil rights organization based in the United States, the exhibition was held in New York in July last year.
Some survivors also spoke at the exhibition titled “What were you wearing?” — a question that is often posed to survivors when they speak of their experiences, usually to pin blame on the victims.
There is healing in being able to share one’s experiences as a victim of sexual or physical assault, but the initiative did not start out with temporary goals in mind, Kim said.
Scars from the experience tend to harass the victims much longer, many for their lifetime, and hence the more reason for the initiative’s continuation.
“I met a lot of women who had experienced sexual violence during the war in 1999 in Kosovo,” Kim said, recalling her mission to Kosovo in 2018 when she worked on a capacity assessment project for the United Nations Development Programme.
“Everything was vivid for them still, the traumas and the memories.”
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]