Women and girls fleeing emergencies risk rape, violence, and exploitation on the road to safety. Now, COVID-19 has the potential to make gender-based violence in crises even worse.
The Safe from the Start Act would keep women and girls safe from violence, early marriage, and other injustices in emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
These issues are a matter of life and death for many women and girls caught in crises. Ask your members of Congress today to pass the Safe from the Start Act and protect women and girls from gender-based violence.
I'm speaking up with CARE Action advocates nationwide to urge you to support passage of the Safe from the Start Act that prioritizes the needs of women and girls in humanitarian emergencies.
Women and girls are impacted greatly during humanitarian crises, which currently affect more than 70 million people worldwide. Not only do crisis-affected populations face displacement and the loss of their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones, they often are vulnerable to acts such as rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, or child marriage during the emergency. This gender-based violence is a stark violation of their rights and dignity and stands in the way of the security and health of refugees and displaced people during a crisis.
COVID-19 has the potential to make GBV in humanitarian contexts even worse. Programs authorized under the Safe from the Start Act would help humanitarian aid workers prevent GBV and address an increase in acts of violence more effectively by equipping them with skills, protocols, and other tools to inform what they need to know and do. The bill will lead to better responses to GBV in humanitarian settings, including GBV exacerbated by COVID-19.
The Safe from the Start Act ensures that those responding to humanitarian emergencies can effectively identify and address gender-based violence (GBV) from the onset of a crisis, giving women and girls greater opportunities to help prevent such violence and contribute towards improving the safety of their communities. The goal of the Act is to reduce the incidence of GBV, ensure quality support for survivors from the very beginning of emergencies through timely and effective humanitarian action, and promote standards for prevention, mitigation and response to such crises.
In the wake of emergencies or crises, women and girls can be particularly vulnerable but also critically important to efforts aimed at returning their communities to normalcy. The Safe from the Start Act recognizes the value of women in meeting community and cultural needs during crises and empowering them to be leaders in those efforts. This will make U.S. contributions towards humanitarian aid stronger and more effective by both protecting and empowering the women and girls affected by conflict and disaster.
The United States has within its power the ability to provide support to those who have survived or who are at risk of these horrific acts of violence. We can help ensure that women's voices are heard in leadership and decision-making so that such acts can be prevented. We can empower women and girls to be agents of change in their communities, particularly during times of crisis. Your leadership in speaking and acting out against GBV in humanitarian emergencies is critical – particularly with the U.S. as one of the world's largest donors to humanitarian assistance.
I urge you to use your voice in Congress to support the Safe from the Start Act. The Safe from the Start Act makes clear that the United States stands alongside the millions of women and girls caught in crises across the world. I am standing up for this bill because it signals that women's rights, safety, and well-being matter – and I urge you to stand up for them too.