The new challenges presented by COVID-19 in relation to domestic violence has led to the Spotlight Initiative having to reprogramme some of its funding towards supporting national efforts to respond to gender-based violence.

Since the SOE lockdown, the latest figures from the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) and Fa’ataua le Ola (FLO) helplines reflect many women, children and men reaching out for counseling/psycho-social, safety, protection and welfare assistance. The data shows more than 100 calls combined that the two organizations responded to, with nine intimate partner violence-related matters reported within one week of lockdown. The scope of support services by SVSG has extended beyond mobile support to connecting clients to health, safe accommodation and services including case management with the Ministry of Police and access to protection orders.

The State of Emergency has resulted in the demand for supporting the innovative use of safe digital platforms to connect with vulnerable populations, which has been the focus of the support by UNDP to the SVSG and FLO to run free helplines.

“The main objective of the Spotlight Initiative is to eliminate violence against women and girls, in particular intimate partner violence and domestic violence. We have not deviated from that goal even during these challenging times. COVID-19 is a global pandemic, Spotlight being a global programme is providing a global response that is being filtered at national level,” said Jorn Sorensen, UNDP’s Resident Representative.

The Spotlight Initiative is a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. It represents an unprecedented global effort backed by €500 million of funding to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment as a driver for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). €3 million (USD 4 million) of these funds have been allocated for UN programs in Samoa.

The UN agencies involved in the implementation of the Spotlight Initiative include the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, UNESCO, UNFPA and UNICEF.

As part of the EU’s strong commitment to combating COVID-19 and the evidence worldwide that instances of intimate partner violence and domestic violence have jumped in connection with the quarantine, they have encouraged the UN to reprogramme a portion of the Spotlight funding to the COVID-19 response.  

“Thus under UNDP support, SI have moved very quickly to engage with key civil society partners in using the digital platforms to their full capacity, to respond to gender-based violence whilst recognizing the restrictions imposed by the SOE lockdown to ensure the safety and protection of women, children and families during these times and ensure the service is still accessible post COVID-19,” said Mr Sorensen.  
 
Only two anti-domestic violence free helplines existed before COVID-19 (apart from the Samoa Police’s 911), managed by two qualified CSOs who have worked in this space for over 10 years. SVSG and FLO have for many years partnered and supported Government’s efforts to better address violence against women, children and vulnerable groups from a prevention, early detection and response lens. The helplines go beyond just reaching out via a phone call, Facebook and email, but also to ensure access to protective services by the many women, children, persons with disabilities, including vulnerable men and young boys.

Since the beginning of the SOE lockdown, UNDP Spotlight has worked in partnership with SVSG and FLO to ensure help is available 24/7 through initial funding support of $10,000USD with an additional $30,000USD earmarked to scale up advocacy and response implementation. These two organizations are part of a holistic GBV responsive service mechanism, working closing with the Ministry of Police to intervene as quickly as possible and as necessary.  They have also made urgent referrals to the police in high risk cases.

UNDP’s contribution is part of a bigger support package delivered by the UN Agencies – UNICEF, UN Women, UNFPA, and UNESCO that forms the One UN Spotlight assistance that will be directed to the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development and other key line Ministries that are operating at national level for COVID-19.
 
While current priority is centered on COVID, it does not take away the focus of the programme from the rest of its objectives where the rest of the lead implementing Government agencies are working in specific areas, beyond COVID-19.

-ENDS-

For media queries, please contact:
Laufaleaina Lesa, UNDP Multi Country Office, Samoa|Tel. +685 23670|E: laufaleaina.lesa@undp.org

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UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. The UNDP Multi-Country Office in Samoa provides country and regional support to 4 countries in the Pacific, as part of the 177-country office UNDP network, and offers global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. Facebook: @UNDP in Samoa, Cook Islands, Tokelau & Niue. Twitter: @undpsamoa

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