As billions of people are still under COVID-19 lockdown, the shadow pandemic of violence against women has been growing within homes around the world.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women and girls, a gross human rights violation, impacted one in three women worldwide. Recent data from multiple countries already show a spike in reporting of domestic violence through helplines since COVID-19 lockdowns started. As countries now contend with economic crisis, service shortfalls and high levels of stress, many women find themselves trapped in isolation with abusive partners, without access to information and support services that they need.
To counter this alarming rise, UN Women offices around the world have partnered with tech giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook to provide important information about helpline services for domestic violence survivors.
Among the “Big Five” tech giants, Google and Facebook have partnered with UN Women to make information and resources available to survivors of violence.
Google has recently provided Ad Grants valued up to USD 1 million to UN Women through the “Ad Grants Crisis Relief Program” to promote content on COVID-19 and gender equality in 2020, including resources on ending violence against women to address the alarming spike in domestic violence globally. Google has linked to UN Women’s main section on the issue through its COVID-19 information hub in the USA and will later expand this to additional languages and countries.
Facebook is also making resources for survivors of domestic violence easily and quickly available through its platform. Together with UN Women’s longstanding partners, the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence and the Global Network of Women’s Shelters, 62 UN Women country offices contributed to a helpline repository on Facebook. Other information and resources include tips on how to recognize the signs of domestic abuse, how to help someone you suspect might be experiencing domestic violence, and how to keep yourself safe. These resources will be available worldwide and spotlighted strategically on the platform, for example in the COVID-19 information Center and in Facebook groups.
“For the millions of women in these desperate circumstances, getting accurate information about local shelters and helplines can make all the difference,” says UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “It can be difficult to find out where to get help, and keep that search private, especially when under tight control by an abusive partner. We really appreciate the massive boost to accessibility this collaboration brings, so it’s easy for women searching for help to find it safely.”
In Asia and the Pacific region, where 2 out of 3 women reported experiences of violence even before COVID-19 lockdowns started, a partnership with Twitter is providing helpline numbers for accelerated support. When a Twitter user searches for terms associated with violence against women (such as “abuse,” “sexual assault,” “domestic violence,” etc.), the top search result will be a notification in their local language: “If you are experiencing violence, help is available”, followed by a relevant hotline number and the Twitter handle of that service.
Twitter, with support from UN Women, is launching these notifications in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Viet Nam as part of Twitter’s #ThereIsHelp campaign.
“Violence against women and girls across Asia-Pacific is pervasive, but at the same time widely underreported,” says Melissa Alvarado, UN Women Asia Pacific Regional Manager on Ending Violence against Women. “Fewer than four in 10 women experiencing such violence actually report these crimes or seek help of any sort. As lockdowns and stay-at-home orders are being prolonged by countries around the world to contain the spread of COVID-19, women with violent partners increasingly find themselves isolated from the people and resources that can help them. Connecting women who are feeling fearful or in danger is critical for their safety.”
As part of the #ThereIsHelp campaign, Twitter users are also encouraged to send messages of support and let others know that services are open and available to help women experiencing violence.