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16 Ways Health Workers Can Help Stop Gender-Based Violence

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One in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence in her lifetime, most often at the hands of an intimate partner. Psychological abuse is even more widespread. Violence against women is a public health and human rights emergency.

At IntraHealth International, we believe in a world where everyone has access to the health care they need to thrive. Our mission is all about improving the performance of health workers and strengthening the health systems in which they work—and that includes promoting gender equality and providing survivors of violence with safe, effective, and compassionate care.

Health workers are in a unique position to help survivors of gender-based violence. Not only are they the ones who may be called upon to set a broken bone or treat a burn, they also have the opportunity to be advocates, to help and refer survivors of gender-based violence, to speak out against early childhood marriage, and to remove the taboo around talking about violence in the course of providing routine care.

November 25-December 10 marks the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. So here are 16 ways health workers can help end violence against women: 

  1. Ask clients if they are safe in their intimate and family relationships. Listen with compassion and respect.
  2. Treat the injuries and illnesses of violence survivors.
  3. Document injuries and give evidence in court if asked.
  4. Help clients develop a safety plan that includes ways to protect themselves from immediate risks to their safety and the safety of their children.
  5. Help clients understand and protect themselves from health risks associated with violence, including HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies.
  6. Learn about the health and community services available to survivors of violence in their communities, and immediately refer victims to the right places for help.
  7. Build collaborative relationships with social service workers to help survivors access psychosocial, economic, and legal services.
  8. Talk with the local police about ways to increase the safety of survivors of violence.
  9. Talk to pregnant women, their partners, and families about the importance of receiving adequate antenatal, delivery, and postnatal care. Many women are denied access to health care during pregnancy due to cost, traditions around childbirth, or distance to the health center.
  10. Become family planning champions and provide all clients with information about their full range of contraceptive options. This helps clients protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies and empowers women at the same time.
  11. Offer clients counseling and testing services for HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
  12. Stand up for the right of pregnant and laboring women to be free from violence and disrespect during childbirth.
  13. Model respect and provide high-quality care to all clients regardless of gender, race, social standing, sexual orientation, age, or ability to pay. Be aware of their own biases related to gender and violence and provide health care free of judgment to all.
  14. Talk about violence against women with colleagues and clients so the topic loses its taboo and can be more openly addressed.
  15. Advocate for the right of women to live free of violence in their health centers and communities.
  16. Seek support and services for themselves if needed. Many health workers are living with violence in their own lives.

What would you add to this list?Learn more about IntraHealth’s work in gender:

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