At a WHO-sponsored event in Kathmandu organized as a part of ‘16 days of activism against gender based violence’ (GBV) from 25 November to 10 December, WHO Nepal’s Dr Akjemal Magtymova emphasized the public health dimensions of GBV and reiterated WHO’s commitment to help end the problem.
“Violence against women is not only a societal problem, it is a public health problem too as it can have lasting physical and psychological effects. Strengthening health systems to address GBV is an important part of WHO’s support to its member states,” she said.
According to Dr Magtymova, the problem of GBV – both at a global and local level – is significant. “While every third woman experiences physical or sexual violence globally, the burden in WHO’s South-East Asia Region is almost 38%, higher than the world average. In Nepal, as per 2011 data, 22% of women of reproductive age had experienced physical violence at least once since the age of 15, and 12% had experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. The majority of victims never sought help,” she said.
While Dr Magtymova stressed the importance of high-level tools to help stem GBV – including World Health Assembly Resolution WHA67.15, which urges states to strengthen the role of the health system in addressing violence, in particular against women, girls and children – she said awareness-raising and advocacy efforts are needed to convert these into systemic and behavioral change. “Advocacy events such as this are crucial in disseminating positive messages to the youth, as well as sensitizing policymakers to the ways in which public health institutions can help end GBV,” she said. “As public health advocates we have a duty to effect change. We take that duty seriously.”