WASHINGTON (March 11, 2021) – CARE applauds today’s introduction of the Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) along with 10 additional sponsors. This bipartisan bill will ensure that the U.S. prioritizes the needs of women and girls in responding to humanitarian emergencies. This legislation works specifically to prevent gender-based violence (GBV), including child marriage, domestic violence and human trafficking, at the onset of a humanitarian emergency and to fully address its impacts.
The following statement can be attributed to CARE USA President & CEO Michelle Nunn:
Women and girls displaced by conflict and disaster carry so much on their shoulders, yet their unique needs and rights are often overlooked. Domestic violence increases during emergencies. Child marriage too often becomes a way that families cope with dwindling resources. Rape may be used as a weapon of war or a crime of opportunity in poorly secured displacement camps, and so on. As humanitarians, we play a role in changing the system so that women and girls can live free from violence and get the support they need. CARE strongly endorses the Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act for bringing attention to these issues and for standing alongside women and girls as they demand safety, rights, and dignity.
One in five women report experiencing sexual violence in humanitarian emergencies. The COVID-19 crisis alone may cause 15 million more cases of gender-based violence globally for every three months the virus causes shutdowns. Yet, we know this staggering reality is preventable. Our humanitarian responses must support survivors and ensure that we address these horrific abuses before they happen. The world is currently witnessing the largest forced displacement crises in recorded history – amid a pandemic – where the majority of those displaced are women and girls.
It is critical that the United States make a robust commitment to address gender-based violence in its humanitarian response efforts. The Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act does just that, and we thank Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Murkowski (R-AK), Merkley (D-OR), Rosen (D-NV), Van Hollen (D-MD), Markey (D-MA), Cardin (D-MD), Coons (D-DE), Shaheen (D-NH), Kaine (D-VA), Schatz (D-HI), and Collins (R-ME) for sponsoring the Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act and call on the Senate to swiftly pass this critical legislation.
The Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act will codify and enhance the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Safe from the Start initiative, which provides training and support to address GBV in humanitarian settings and will open greater opportunities for local organizations to play a role in protecting and empowering survivors. This bill will also give critical momentum to the U.S. Government’s work to advance prevention and response to GBV globally by making it a priority to address this issue in crisis contexts. As a recent CARE study shows, support for gender equality in humanitarian emergencies is urgent and critical – the United States as the world’s leading humanitarian donor can lead the charge in supporting women’s leadership and rights in crises.
This bill introduction comes on the heels of the Biden-Harris Administration’s launch of the White House Gender Policy Council, a cabinet-level body mandated to integrate gender equality government-wide in the United States’ programs and policies.
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Senior Press Officer