Making gender equality a reality.

Three Things to Know about the International Violence Against Women Act

Posted on November 20, 2013 by Christine Hart

On November 21st, Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) is expected to introduce the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).

Wondering how exactly it would prevent violence against women and girls globally? Well, prepare to wonk out.

Below are three key things you should know about how IVAWA would work:

1) IVAWA codifies the Office for Global Women's Issues at the State Department.

This crucial office ensures that women and girls are at the center of all of the United States’ foreign policy… and helps prevent violence against women through a range of practices.

Right now, the office is not permanent. It exists (or doesn’t) at the whim of whatever Presidential administration happens to be in power. If the office is recognized in a law passed by Congress, it can't just be disbanded by the next president.

The Office of Global Women’s Issues has been vital to the the U.S. Gender-based Violence Strategy (see below), ensuring coordination between agencies working on gender-based violence and leading the implementation of the National Action Plan on women, peace, and security.

2) IVAWA makes the U.S. Gender-based Strategy and its implementation the law of the land.

This strategy helps the U.S. address ways in which gender-based violence intersects with other aspects of women's lives. Violence doesn’t exist in a vacuum and shouldn't be treated as such.

The Strategy ensures that the U.S. is scaling up international programs that we know work – and that these programs are comprehensive and holistic in their approach. By definition, such programs must address violence and other issues impacting women and girls. Take, for example, USAID’S new 24-hour court in Guatemala (More on the court here…)

The Strategy also ensures that various U.S.-government agencies working on gender-based violence around the world coordinate with each other, and that research and data collection is improved.

3) IVAWA provides Congressional support for the position of Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment at USAID.

This position ensures that someone at the most senior level of USAID is charged with ensuring that gender and women are integrated across all of the agency’s work  -- in all sectors and countries.

This empowered, accountable position is crucial if USAID is to make ending gender-based violence part of how the agency does business.

Each of these three elements of IVAWA is an important tool to enable the U.S. to more effectively work to reduce violence against the world’s women and girls. And Congress should pass the bill intact in order to meet our moral obligation to help women and their allies reduce suffering and expand opportunities for half the world’s population.


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