United Nations, Nov 21 (IANS) The impact report of the Spotlight Initiative, the world's largest targeted effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls, was released at the UN headquarters in New York.Despite Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, some 650,000 women and girls were provided with gender-based violence services through this joint UN and European Union (EU) program working to stamp out what is arguably one of the most prevalent human rights violations, reports Xinhua news agency.The report details how partners rapidly adjusted programs to address the shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls amid ongoing global challenges."Covid-19 continues to exacerbate violence against women and girls in a context of sustained and new backlash against women's rights globally," Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, said at the impact report release press conference at the UN headquarters."Now more than ever we need concentrated action to protect the gains made and to guard against reversals," she said.In addition to scaling up services during the pandemic, the program assisted civil society organisations to swiftly adapt to the changing environment and to strengthen online services, such as telecounselling and hotlines, according to the report.Funds were also shifted to support more local and grassroots organisations, with $146 million allocated to date, the report said.Additionally, some 880,000 men and boys were educated on positive masculinity, respectful family relationships, non-violent conflict resolution and parenting, it added.Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund, reported on some of the activities across the globe."In Malawi, we are working with community organisations and media partners to raise awareness among educators, young people, and especially boys. These efforts are helping to increase reporting and providing girls and women with faster and more effective support," Fore told reporters via video link.Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Programme, said via video link that although strong strategies and legal frameworks do not guarantee the end of gender-based violence, "they are essential to making a dent in this global scourge".With the aim of ending all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030, the EU and the UN have been collaborating since 2017 to empower, promote, and protect the rights of women and girls worldwide.The Spotlight Initiative is a $564 million program that deploys targeted, large-scale investments in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific.
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