Our 2nd Global Call to Action was adopted by delegates at the 3rd World Conference of Women's Shelters and by the Global Network of Women's Shelters on November 6, 2015.

3rd World Conference of Women's Shelters 2015 Connect and Act

We, the participants of the 3rd World Conference of Women’s Shelters, held in The Hague, The Netherlands, from the 3rd to the 6th of November 2015, attended by over 1000 advocates and activists representing 115 countries, call upon Governments, UN Agencies, International Organizations, the Private Sector and Civil Society to take urgent and effective action to prevent and end violence against women and children.

Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation. One in every three women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lives, usually by an intimate partner. United Nations (UN) Secretary–General Ban Ki-moon has proclaimed the elimination of violence against women as a top priority of the UN’s work. Achieving “gender equality and empowering women and girls” is one of the Goals of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, adopted by the 193 member states of the UN during the annual General Assembly (25 September 2015). One of the important targets of the goal is the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls. We commit to contributing to the realization of this Goal, which will transform the lives of women and girls.

Violence has a profound impact on survivors, their families and communities. It comes with enormous social, economic and productivity costs for individuals, families, businesses, communities and societies. Over the last decades many countries have made considerable progress in introducing legislation and institutionalizing policy frameworks. However, implementation, monitoring and accountability are weak, slow or lacking. Former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo has stated, “violence is endemic and the lack of accountability for violations experienced by women is the rule rather than the exception (2013).”

We draw focused attention to the rights and needs of women and girls facing multiple forms of discrimination, including women of Aboriginal and/or Indigenous backgrounds, women with immigrant and/or refugee status, undocumented women, survivors of trafficking, women living in poverty, women with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ women, women of ethnic minorities and women enduring the trauma and violence of armed conflict and in post-disaster situations. In every case the inclusion of women’s voices is imperative in efforts to prevent or mitigate such violence.

Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) urges for the implementation of special measures to protect women and girls from violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual violence, in armed conflict as well as in emergency and humanitarian crises. The recent UN global study “Preventing Conflict – Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace,” a 15 year review of the implementation of Resolution 1325, states that “women’s participation is key to sustainable peace.” We call upon all states and conflicting parties to include women in all conflict resolution and peace processes, as well as in the planning and formulation of all post-disaster relief, recovery and reconstruction programs.

We express our concern about the growing use of the Internet as a tool to perpetrate violence against women and girls. The United Nations Broadband Commission Report ‘Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls’ (2015) reveals that almost three of every four women and girls online have been exposed to some form of cyber violence. In line with the suggestions of the report, we urge Governments and industries to protect the millions of women and girls who are the targets of online violence.

As members of the Global Network of Women’s Shelters and participants of the 3rd World Conference of Women’s Shelters, we bear witness to the imperative global work of shelters in mitigating and preventing violence. Women’s shelters are critical partners not only in providing safety to women and children, but also in the overall prevention of violence against women and girls.

The 2015 Data Count of the Global Network of Women’s Shelters, in which 2497 shelters and agencies in 46 countries took part, states that on one day, 53,230 women and 34,794 children sought and acquired shelter services. However, 7,337 women and 4,410 children were turned away due to limited resources and capacity. This validates the need for increased resources and capacity for existing shelters, as well as the need for more shelters.

Therefore, we call upon all key stakeholders to considerably strengthen efforts to prevent violence and to effectively protect women and girls. Particularly, we demand that states and all other relevant stakeholders:

  • Sign, ratify and effectively implement relevant conventions and agendas, including:
    • The Convention on Ending all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and it’s optional protocol;
    • The Beijing Platform for Action;
    • The International Convention on Population and Development (ICPD) and it’s Program of Action;
    • All other relevant documents and regional policies and instruments;
  • Provide adequate funding for women’s shelters, including by considerably increasing the capacity of women’s shelters;
  • Redirect military spending towards funding for social and economic development, including shelter spaces to save women and children fleeing violence, as outlined in Beijing Platform for Action strategic objective E.2.;
  • Implement a standalone Convention on Violence Against Women which is internationally binding;
  • Hold perpetrators to account and to provide services to assist perpetrators to transform their behaviour and become peer educators.

The following are the main burning issues developed in the regional networks meeting at the 3rd World Conference of Women’s Shelters in The Hague. We fully support these regional recommendations. 

Inter-America Region:

  • Provide sustainable funding for women’s support services;
  • Work with women and girls during and after armed conflict;
  • Create special international measures for exceptional violence against women in organized crime territories;
  • Strengthen international cooperation;

Asia Region:

  • Ensure economic empowerment through well funded employment, housing and community programs that help women after they leave the shelter to become independent;
  • Give women equal property rights, rights to inheritance, affordable housing for survivors of domestic violence, and guarantee the property rights of widows;
  • Ensure sufficient funding for shelters;

Europe Region

  • Ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention in all countries and implement the CEDAW;
  • Focus on CEDAW Article 6 on Trafficking and Prostitution, which reads “States shall take all measures to stop all forms of trafficking and the exploitation of prostitution of women;”
  • Increase the number of women’s shelters and specialist women’s services and implement sustainable funding for women’s and children support services, with commitments from Governments to finance specific support services for victims;

Africa Region:

  • Enact and implement policies and legislation to establish and support shelters and space spaces for women and girls in Africa;
  • Strengthen political will and invest/allocate funds for survivors of violence to guarantee service provision and access to safe space;

MENA Region:

  • Highlight the impact of violence on women as individuals, acknowledging their humanity and shedding light on them as well as the family and society;
  • Recognize female victims of harmful cultural practices, such as honor killings and Female Genital Mutilation;
  • Ensure that women’s rights to privacy are not violated in the name of security measures;
  • Draw attention to the role of media, which portrays a stereotyped image of women and enhances violence;

Indigenous Network:

  • Call for an international strategy to prevent murdered and missing Indigenous women and children worldwide;
  • Demand that all states recognize and apply the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • Ensure sufficient support for the Indigenous Women’s Shelters Network;

Oceania Region:

  • Ensure proper resourcing to redress violence against women that is exempt from political cycles, including increased ongoing resourcing for specialist women’s domestic and family violence services for women and their children;
  • Provide consistent criminal justice responses that hold perpetrators to account and enable opportunities for change;
  • Make Governments accountable for transformative change which focuses on gender, social, political and economic inequalities and Indigenous rights, with a focus on gender and intersectionality, including women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, women with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ women, and honouring Indigenous rights.