Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) | ActionAid UK

Violence against women and girls (VAWG)

Areas we focus on:

Stand with Women

Women’s rights are still in lockdown.

Right now, millions of women and girls around the world are fighting for their freedom, their futures and even their lives.

Covid-19 has made a bad situation worse, deepening inequalities and exposing a hidden pandemic of violence and poverty.   

But in communities large and small, away from the spotlight, women and girls are leading the change.  

ActionAid stands with women. Will you stand with women too?

Learn more about the campaign


1 in 3
women worldwide will experience violence in their lifetime, most likely at the hands of someone they know1

5 women
are killed every hour by their partner or family member2

15 million
girls are married before the age of 18, every year3

  • 1. World Health Organisation, Violence against women, intimate partner and sexual violence against women:
  • 2. ActionAid (2016) Fearless: Fearless women and girls leading the way, transforming lives: _leading_the_way_transforming_lives.pdf/
  • 3. WHO: Adolescent pregnancy: ↩

Violence in a global problem, but women and girls living in poverty are even more at risk. Often, survivors can’t get medical support because they can’t afford it or because they are too far away from a hospital.

Many can’t or don’t want to go to the police, sometimes due to fear of retribution or because of an acceptance of violence in their society. Girls may drop out of school and end up being forced to marry early. Many are left dealing with the emotional and physical impacts of the abuse on their own.


How is ActionAid ending violence against women and girls?

ActionAid works with communities to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls and create long-term change for good. We fund women's groups and networks across the world, who train parents, teachers, local police and legal advisers to recognise the signs of violence and to report it.

Our Girls' Clubs are run by local women and teach girls about their rights and help them build confidence. We support women and girls to earn sustainable livelihoods, so they can afford life's necessities without being exploited. Because when women and girls know and claim their rights, their courage and resilience is astonishing. We have successfully campaigned to change laws around FGM, women’s reproductive rights, child marriage and domestic violence.

Our dedicated local staff are ending violence against women and girls and helping change lives, for good. We won’t stop until women and girls are out of danger, out of poverty and on track to create the future they want.



Economic inequality makes women more vulnerable to violence

On almost every measure, women are economically worse off than men.4 Poverty and economic inequality increase a woman’s risk of being subjected to violence. They undermine her voice and bargaining power at home, work and in wider society.

Women and girls living in poverty are less able to leave abusive partners as they are more reliant on them, they are more likely to live in areas which are unsafe and they are less likely to have access to education.

  • 4. ActionAid UK 'Close the gap! The cost of inequality in women's work':

Gender-based violence at work

Abuses faced by women at work could include anything from sexual, physical and psychological harassment to bullying by managers and supervisors, body searches, beatings, forced pregnancy tests, dismissal when pregnant and violations of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Appalling neglect of workplace safety standards, along with pressure to work long hours in toxic conditions, cause physical and psychological harm, injury and even death. Women workers courageously seek ways to come together to challenge work-based violence and exploitation. However, they are frequently met with threats and further violence by employers.

Schoolgirls at risk of gender-based violence 

The World Health Organisation estimates that 150 million girls are sexually assaulted every year, with many of these attacks occurring on the way to school or at school.5

ActionAid creates safe spaces like girls’ clubs within schools. Here, girls can discuss their needs and take concrete action to raise awareness of girls’ rights to education and to a life free from violence. We support women and girls with education and vocational skills so that they can earn a living and afford life’s necessities without being exploited.

  • 5. WHO ‘Global estimates of health consequences due to violence against children’

Violence and girls' sexual and reproductive health and rights

Girls who marry as children face a higher risk of domestic violence than women who marry freely as adults.6 Around the world, we have seen young survivors married off as children to their attackers or rapists. Child marriage robs them of their childhoods, education, health and freedom, and subjects girls to rape and abuse for the rest of their lives.7

Girls are often physically and emotionally unprepared for sexual activity, pregnancy and childbirth. Every year, one million girls under the age of 15 give birth.8 Complications during pregnancy and childbirth is the second highest cause of death for girls aged 15–19 worldwide.9

Reducing child marriage and the adolescent birth rate is necessary to not only improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls, but also to reduce domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.

  • 6. Spencer, D. (2015). “TO PROTECT HER HONOUR” Child marriage in emergencies – the fatal confusion between protecting girls and sexual violence. 1st ed. [ebook] London: CARE. Available at: [Accessed 4 Jun. 2017]
  • 7. UNICEF (2015), ‘A profile of child marriage in Africa’:
  • 8. World Health Organisation (n.d.). Adolescent pregnancy. [online] World Health Organization. Available at: factsheets/fs364/en/ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2017]
  • 9. World Health Organisation (n.d.). Adolescent pregnancy. [online] World Health Organization. Available at: factsheets/fs364/en/ [Accessed 4 Jun. 2017]. Cited in: Spencer, D. (2015). “TO PROTECT HER HONOUR” Child marriage in emergencies – the fatal confusion between protecting girls and sexual violence. 1st ed. [ebook] London: CARE. p.3. Available at: http://insights. 2015.pdf [Accessed 4 Jun. 2017].

Women's rights organisations lead the way 

Local women’s groups are the strongest advocates against all forms of violence. They are part of a growing, worldwide movement to stop women and girls being abused by men. These courageous women are standing up and helping other women, often at risk to themselves.

ActionAid supports local women's groups and networks to recognise the signs of violence and report it, help girls get back to school and raise awareness across the community. With ActionAid's support, local women and teachers are setting up and expanding Girls' Clubs across the world, which provide safe spaces for girls to share their experiences, learn about their rights and build confidence to report abuse.

Our local staff on the ground help change attitudes by working alongside men and boys and traditional and religious leaders, and by working with women and girls themselves to change their acceptance of violence, discrimination and abuse.

Learn more about women's rights organisations challenging violence


Page updated 8 October 2020