20 November 2012

IFSW makes statement to the UN on the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls

The following statement has been submitted by the International Federation of Social Workers to the United Nations on occasion of the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women:

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) supports the theme of “Prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls” of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) because it is totally congruent with the aims of IFSW.  This association is a global federation of social work organizations in 90 countries, representing over 750,000 social workers (www.ifsw.org).   The goals as are to promote social and economic equalities, promote the dignity and worth of peoples, work toward environmental sustainability and strengthen recognition of the importance of human relationships. We promote social strategies that build cohesive societies and remove the seeds of conflicts (The Global Agenda, 2012). This commitment coincides with the theme of the 57th session of CSW, as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda. Additionally IFSW supports the Convention of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1979).  Addressing violence against women is vital for the empowerment of women around the world.  Moreover  IFSW considers the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women to be a potent element towards the achievement of the MDGs (End Poverty, Universal Education, Gender Equality, Maternal Health, Combat  HIV/AIDS, Environmental Sustainability, Global Partnership) (Millennium Development Goals, 2012).

IFSW supports the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, building on the CEDAW requirement. The Platform identified violence against women as one of the twelve critical areas of concern requiring urgent action for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace (Beijing Platform, 1995).

IFSW also favors the visibility that other major treaties and conventions have brought to the global issue of violence against women, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (United Nations Women, 2010).

Social workers around the world work in policy, program and practice areas to eliminate violence against women and girls and promote their educational, physical, economic, and social wellbeing (IFSW Policy on Women, 2012)

1. Violence

Violence against women can occur at any point of the life cycle, ranging from infanticide, child sexual abuse, date rape, sexual trafficking, intimate partner violence, and elder abuse.

IFSW believes in the promotion of human rights for all people. They can only be achieved by the recognition of the concept of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual (IFSW, 2012). Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the human rights’ objectives of equality, development and peace, because violence against women both violates and nullifies the benefit for women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse across all income, class, national, and cultural lines (United Nations Women, 2012).

The forms and manifestations of violence against women may differ depending on the specific social, economic, cultural and political context (UN Secretary General’s Study on All Forms of Violence against Women, 2006).  Violence against women implies not only a violation of women’s rights, but also has consequences for the healthy development of all people.

IFSW agrees with the General Assembly’s resolutions (2006–2009) that States should work toward eliminating all forms of violence against women (Fergus, 2012).  These resolutions are based under the premise that the State is responsible for ensuring that victims of human rights violations achieve an individual right to “reparation”. in the form of  restitution (restore the victim to his/her original situation before the violation); compensation (for economic damage); rehabilitation (including medical and psychological care as well as legal and social services); measures of satisfaction (the verification of the facts and full and public disclosure of the truth (Fergus, 2012).  IFSW (2012) considers this process of reparation fundamental for the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women, as this process supports the pursuit of social justice, human rights and social development for women.

2. Education

In 2010 there were currently an estimated 61 million primary school-age children and 71 million children of lower secondary school age out of school. Of these children, girls accounted for more than half of the primary school-age children out of school. One example is the Arab States where 61 percent of the out-of-school population is girls (UNICEF, 2010). With limited education women have less opportunity than men to develop abilities to support themselves and their families. For these reasons IFSW supports the campaigns of the United Nations Girls Educational Initiatives (UNGEI) to raise gender equality in education because as the UNGEI (2012) states girls and boys must have equitable educational opportunities.  Policymakers and practitioners around the world have an obligation to address gender inequality as articulated in the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Education for All (EFA) goals (UNGEI, 2012).

Gender equality has not been achieved in schools because of multiple cultural, societal and physical barriers girls face in attending school.  Additionally as the UN Girls Educational Initiatives (2012) states schools are institutions founded on a dominant male culture. Thus they can purposely or inadvertently perpetuate societal gender inequalities through power relations within schools, pedagogy and portrayal of male and female roles in textbook and learning materials.

Gender inequality in education is a form of psychological abuse towards girls, represents a latent form of violence against women and is a violation of article 26 in the Human Rights Declaration. Violence diminishes women’s and girls’ ability to gain an education, earn a living and participate in public life (Fergus, 2012). Gender inequality in education is an obstacle to the healthy development of individuals (girls, boys, women, and men), families, governments, countries, and global society.


3. Health

Violence against women and girls causes a range of health problems, including poor mental health, physical injuries, sexual/reproductive health and death (Fergus, 2012).  Conditions frequently thought to be “male” problems such as heart attacks and strokes are currently the two leading killers of women.  HIV, pregnancy-related conditions and tuberculosis continue to be major killers of women aged 15 to 45 globally (World Health Organization (WHO), 2009).

Violence is one of the causes of HIV/AIDS exposure, because it restricts women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights (Fergus, 2012). Every day in 2010, about 800 women died because of the complications of pregnancy and childbirth.  The United Nations Population Fund (2012) is promoting campaigns around the world for the use of contraceptives to reduce the risk of maternal mortality. Women around the world often face many barriers in accessing preventive, pre-natal and post natal care. Few services are available for marginalized groups of women such as unmarried women, adolescents, sex workers, intravenous drug users, ethnic minorities and rural women (WHO, 2009).

IFSW is particularly concerned about the influence of violence against women in mental health along with physical, social, sexual and reproductive health (IFSW, 2012).

4. Economic Empowerment

Women’s economic empowerment is a potential solution to prevent violence against women.  Of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor, most of whom live in developing countries. While poverty affects all households, women bear a disproportionate burden due to the gender division of labor and responsibilities for household welfare (UN Women, 2012). Economic empowerment of women serves to eliminate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The UN Global Poverty Project provides economic and political empowerment by offering micro credit loans to increase women’s mobility, ability to make financial decisions and develop political and legal awareness (Global Poverty Project, 2012; UN Women, 2012).

IFSW believes that promoting the economic well-being of women and girls helps to eliminate violence against women, as well as contributes to global social and economic development (IFSW, 2012).


The International Federation of Social Workers makes the following recommendations:

Violence against women and girls should be addressed through collaborative partnerships between governments, communities and civil society. Advocacy is needed within sovereign states to ratify CEDAW and other UN Conventions which oppose violence against women.

Since international mandates are often not implemented, even within signatory countries, national laws need to be passed and enforced that promote women’s rights and protect them against violence.

The international community should work toward increased education and skills training for women and girls, as well as accessible enhanced health care.

Social development advocates must be culturally competent when addressing gender inequality and promoting human rights for women around the world.


Fergus, L. (2012).  Prevention of violence against women.   Retrieved from http://www.unwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/cs557-EGM-prevention-background-paper.pdf

Global Poverty Project (2012). Retrieved http://www.globalpovertyproject.com/

IASSW, ICSW & IFSW (2012). The global agenda for social work and social development: Empowerment to action. Retrieved from: http://cdn.ifsw.org/assets/globalagenda2012.pdf

IFSW (2012). Women: policy statement. Retrieved from: http://ifsw.org/policies/women/

IFSW (2012). Statement of ethical principles. Retrieved from: