WASHINGTON – One in three women around the world will be beaten or raped in her lifetime,according to the Family Violence Prevention Fund,an organization that works to prevent violence within homes and communities.
Women and young girls hold low status in countries throughout Africa and Latin America and therefore are most at risk to contract HIV,said Kiersten Stuart,the fund's director of public policy.
In sub-Saharan Africa,women make up 59 percent of adults living with HIV and are three times as likely to be infected as males their age.
These statistics and the programs that work to prevent them were the focus Thursday as international outreach groups briefed the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Several bills concerning the issue will come up for votes soon.
The Presidents' Emergency Plan for Aids,or PEPFAR,is expected to come before the House Foreign Affairs Committee for debate and amendments on Feb. 7,said Kathy Selvaggio,senior policy associate at International Center for Research on Women. If the committee approves the bill,it will go to the Senate for a vote. The bill would provide $30 billion to $50 billion for PEPFAR over five years,she said,but the policy that directs the program is the main issue the committee and the Senate are expected to discuss.
“It goes way beyond funding,” Selvaggio said. “It sets priorities … increasing attention to women and girls,including the need to address violence.”
Another bill the women's groups spoke about is the International Violence Against Women Act. In October,the Sens. Joeseph Biden,D-Del.,and Richard Lugar,R-Ind.,introduced the bill,which would lead to the integration of violence-prevention activities in U.S. foreign assistance programs.
“We know there is hope,” Stewart said. “There are things that are working.”
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health has the information and research necessary to move their projects onto the next level and is now waiting on political willingness and funds,said Mary Ellsburg,PATH's senior adviser for gender,violence and human rights. The international non-profit organization,based in Seattle,works in 65 countries to address violence and HIV.
PATH uses a toolkit that includes a film about two African women with AIDS. Through their stories,it engages community members to get involved. One of these is a Latin American-based intervention program,Pan American Health,which targets women and connects them with services through community-based networks and helps them leave abusive relationships.
The International Center for Research on Women,a Washington-based institution,works on gender and economic development in South Africa through several prevention and outreach programs. One uses multimedia presentations,radio programming and prime-time television spots. These presentations have reached large numbers of people,said Nata Duvvury,the group's director of gender,violence and rights.
The number of people reached is important because a change in attitude is one of the program's top goals,she said. Workshops held in Zambia have improved relational and communication skills through role playing and show evidence of improvement in both men and women.
“It brought quietness into their relationships,” Duvvury said,”relationships with their partners and their peers.”
Results showed men had altered behaviors,had fewer sexual partners and used less violence months after these workshops.
“If men and women are brought together to discuss violence,change is possible,” Duvvury said. “It is this change that is our hope.”