17 DECEMBER 2020, MANILA— UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund in the Philippines, and the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) recently launched digital training modules on Gender and Development that support the capacity building of the government and non-government organizations in responding to gender rights issues.

In a webinar hosted by UNFPA and PDRF last December 9, six (6) digital training modules were launched in PDRF’s e-learning platform—iADAPT (Innovations Academy for Disaster Awareness, Preparedness, and Training) as part of the annual 18-Day Campaign Against Violence Against Women (VAW).

The study of UNFPA and the University of the Philippines Population Institute projects an additional 12,000 women who will suffer intimate partner violence, every month, under quarantine restrictions and service disruptions necessitating a much greater response from national and local government agencies. Globally, the UN agency predicts a 20% increase in gender-based violence (GBV) because of the coronavirus.

Supporting the Philippine Government’s campaign with the theme “A VAW-Free Community Begins with Me,” UNFPA spearheaded a series of educational activities to raise awareness and to enhance capacity building on the issues of gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response. Quarantine measures have compelled educators to explore digital alternatives to traditional teaching. Service providers and GBV practitioners have had to convert their training material into online formats to be able to continue delivering updated information and strategies to combat gender-based violence.

“In the Philippines, 1 in 4 ever-married women experiences sexual, physical, or emotional violence and during the pandemic, it has grown worse…We see women whose abusers have taken advantage of the quarantine. They refuse to drive them to work, they keep them locked down in their homes, they stop them from talking to their family and friends,” said UNFPA Gender Unit National Programme Officer Aimee Santos.

“Violence against women is one of the unspoken secrets of the Philippine society and if we can help protect the vulnerable against the powerful and criminal-minded, we should do it. The partnership between PDRF, UNFPA, and CATW-AP is a step in the right direction,” PDRF President Rene Meily said.

Developed by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), the modules cover topics on Gender Sensitivity, Gender in Islam, Laws on Women’s Rights and GBV, Establishment of VAW desk and their referral pathways, Psychological First Aid, and Gender-Responsive Case Management and Community-based Solutions to VAW.  As participants complete the e-learning course on iADAPT, they will receive certificates of completion for each module.

“The passion for learning prevails. Despite all odds, what triumphs is our collective desire to be able to open hearts and minds, to nourish them on women’s rights issues, how to skillfully assist in VAW desks, in Women Friendly Spaces, in GBV watch groups, as social welfare aides,” CATW-AP Executive Director Jean Enriquez said.

The launch was attended by over 200 participants from various government and non-government organizations. Selected representatives from the following national government agencies were also invited to share their impressions on each module: Office of Civil Defense, Magungaya Mindanao, Inc., Philippine Commission on Women, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and United Youth of the Philippines Women.

The road to a world free from violence against women is long and difficult but also necessary and urgent. Through organizational partnerships utilizing innovative digital solutions, crucial campaigns can continue to shed light on vital issues in gender and development and more and more people can be better equipped to respond to this ongoing crisis. Ultimately, all these efforts aim to ensure that every survivor will be met with a competent, compassionate, and courageous GBV service provider who can help them get to safety and healing.