PATH participates in congressional briefing on violence against women and HIV

February 1, 2008 by PATH

Message to lawmakers: resources needed to expand anti-violence programs and HIV prevention

PATH recently joined the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) at a congressional briefing to encourage stronger support for programs that address violence against women through the International Violence against Women Act and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

As Congress prepares to consider the Act and reauthorize PEPFAR, experts from the three organizations urged members to support vital funding for programs aimed at preventing violence against women, thereby reducing vulnerability to HIV. The briefing was held in conjunction with the Congressional Human Rights and Global Health caucuses and chaired by Hans Hogrefe, staff director of the Human Rights Caucus. Over 140 people attended the January 24 event, including congressional staff and representatives of organizations focused on violence against women and HIV prevention.

Both bills represent important opportunities

Kiersten Stewart, FVPF’s public policy director, began the briefing by highlighting the opportunity presented by the two bills for a meaningful, aggressive response to violence against women and HIV. She emphasized that, despite seemingly overwhelming challenges, a number of successful, cost-effective programs and interventions have already demonstrated their impact on the social norms and behaviors that underlie both of these issues.

Successful programs are making a difference

Mary Ellsberg, PATH’s senior advisor for Gender, Violence, and Human Rights, shared some pivotal lessons from courageous women and inspiring organizations dedicated to ending violence against women. She emphasized the need for integrated, multisectoral work that engages all members of the community in galvanizing change and the importance of promoting access to justice, strengthening services for survivors, and prioritizing prevention efforts. She also echoed Ms. Stewart’s message by stressing that programs for the prevention of HIV need to integrate responses to violence against women if they are to have a meaningful impact in reducing women’s vulnerability. Most importantly, she highlighted the wealth of initiatives from around the world that are making a difference in women’s lives and demonstrating that change is possible—but resources are urgently needed to scale up positive changes.

Effective, community-level change is possible

Nata Duvvury, director of Gender, Violence, and Rights at ICRW, noted that, in addition to strengthening laws, policies, and institutions, reducing women’s vulnerability to violence and HIV infection ultimately requires a transformation of deeply entrenched norms, attitudes, and behaviors. She spotlighted a number of innovative education and media programs that have shown promise in energizing community-level change and highlighted that the International Violance Against Women Act and PEPFAR could be important vehicles for scaling up critical primary prevention efforts.

The briefing also featured Pamela Sibanda Mumbi, director of the International Justice Mission in Zambia, who described her organization’s work providing legal support to women living with violence and shared the personal stories of women and young girls struggling to protect themselves from violence. Ultimately, the briefing provided an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of addressing violence against women and HIV in tandem and to spotlight promising, existing interventions in need of funding.