WAVE statement on the Commission on the Status of Women – Sixty-eighth session’s Priority Theme

This sixty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) taking place in New York from March 11th to 22nd 2024 will tackle the priority theme “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective”. Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited NGOs from all regions of the world will contribute to the session, including WAVE member representatives.

As highlighted in the report of the UN Secretary-General on the CSW68 priority theme, women living in poverty face a disproportionately high risk of violence. Poverty not only increases the impact of domestic violence for women, but violence against women and girls (VAWG) also heightens the risk of poverty. The Domestic Abuse Report 2019: The Economics of Abuse by WAVE Member Women’s Aid Federation England found that almost one third of women who left their abusive partner had to turn to credit to do so, and one third of women had to give up their home as a result of leaving their abusive partner. In addition to this, over two thirds of survivors reported that they had experienced economic abuse, meaning many of them did not have enough money to pay for essentials, like food and bills, while they were with their abusive partner. Other financial implications for survivors seeking to escape violence include loss of employment, loss of savings or access to bank accounts, and loss of social safety nets. The link between poverty and VAWG is also highlighted in the WAVE Country Report 2023, where 14 (out of 46) countries reported that economic violence was one of the main forms of violence reported to the national women’s helpline, and in 17 (out of 46) countries, economic violence was one of the main forms of violence reported to women-only shelters.

In light of the CSW68 priority theme, the WAVE Network reaffirms the importance of women’s specialist services (WSS) as essential in breaking the cycle of violence, specifically providing women with the information, support and care needed for them to become economically independent. WSS put women and girls’ safety and needs at the centre of all their interventions, providing holistic services in the short and long term. The range of services provided by WSS which enable survivors to be financially independent from their abusive partner and rebuild their lives after violence has occurred include: training and empowerment programmes to facilitate employment and economic independence, practical advice such as opening a bank account, accessing food banks, managing finances and debt, provision of essential services such as clothes, hygiene products, and basic necessities, as well as access to safe housing and move-on accommodation.

In countries facing a housing crisis/shortage, such as the Republic of Ireland, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom, women’s shelters have mobilised to provide safe housing for survivors longer than the allowed maximum length of stay (according to the WAVE Country Report 2023, the average length of stay in most shelters is between three and six months, but can be up to a year or more) while waiting to find a permanent move-on accommodation. This has helped ensure that survivors and their children do not risk homelessness upon leaving a shelter. Furthermore, women’s shelters in Northern Ireland try to cover the shelter costs for survivors without access to public benefits (such as undocumented women) through emergency funding or absorb the cost of their stay in the shelter, in order to enable all survivors, regardless of legal status, to access safe housing. In most countries, WAVE Members have reported that even the most basic shelters provide some financial assistance and financial planning for survivors.

Unfortunately, WSS in Europe are operating in an increasingly difficult and often even hostile political climate through an intensifying backlash against women’s rights, leading to the shrinking of public space for feminist civil society. This leads not only to a stalling in the advancement of women’s and girls’ economic empowerment, but also to reversing the many gains the women’s movement has made over decades, in particular in the areas of fundamental rights and protection of women. This situation leads to a serious deterioration of appropriate service provision to women survivors and their children, putting them at further risk of violence and poverty. The funding climate WSS currently operate in is increasingly difficult as short-term project funding and increasingly complex public procurement processes make it harder for WSS to apply for funding or exclude them completely. As highlighted in the WAVE Gender Neutrality Handbook (2020), 47% of women’s specialist services lost funding in the last 5 years, 72% lost funding due to increased competition, and 66% said that gender-neutral organisations were the main competitors for government funding (which is highly problematic considering these organisations ignore the impact of structural oppression on women, including LGBT women, and that women are disproportionately impacted by VAWG). Furthermore, the WAVE Country Report 2023 found that only half of national women’s helplines and women-only shelters across Europe are funded by the state, while one third of women’s centres receive state funding. In the absence of state support, WSS, wherever possible, fill the gap to be able to support survivors seeking to escape violence and rebuild their lives.

In preparation for the CSW68, the WAVE office and member representatives joined a Regional Consultation for civil society organisations organised by UN Women for Europe and Central Asia in January 2024. This resulted in a common advocacy position and policy recommendations that will be used to advocate with governments prior to and during CSW68. In line with this document and WAVE’s priorities, the WAVE Network calls for the following recommendations to be included in agreed conclusions for the CSW68 on the priority theme:

  • Advocate for women’s economic empowerment as a condition of economic security, including prevention of VAWG and specialist support services for women, as key elements for their economic well-being.
  • Address the root causes of VAWG by strengthening protection systems and legislation to eliminate VAWG in line with relevant international law.
  • Address the issue of economic violence as a type of domestic violence as outlined in the Istanbul Convention and increase support for vocational training and employment opportunities for VAWG survivors.
  • Increase the role and capacity of women’s civil society organisations, both at local and international levels, to advocate for legal amendments and policy improvement.
  • Ensure robust, flexible, and multi-year funding for women’s specialist services and civil society organisations supporting survivors of VAWG.
  • Review and revise national and multilateral internal financial management systems to ensure gender-responsive budgeting across all sectors, based on civil society recommendations.

The WAVE Network calls on feminist civil society organisations to support this statement and help spread the above outlined recommendations on the CSW68 priority theme, to help ensure the specific needs of survivors of violence against women and their children are taken into consideration in the final agreed conclusions.

We also warmly welcome all those attending the CSW68 in person in New York to join the parallel event organised by the Global Network of Women’s Shelters (GNWS) titled “Breaking the chain of violence through economic empowerment”, which will be taking place March 15th, 14:30-16:00 at the CCUN Building (777 United Nations Plaza, New York). WAVE’s Project and Network Coordinator, Léa Dudouet, will be speaking at the parallel event to share the importance of women’s specialist services in enabling survivors’ economic independence through examples from the WAVE Network.

The WAVE Network