The Partnership Approach to Achieving Results for Women and Girls
Civil society organizations are a fundamental part of the work UNICEF carries out on behalf of children globally. Civil society groups – at the international, national and grassroots level – have been indispensable partners. They contribute not only to implementing UNICEF programmes locally, but also help advocate for better national policies and to elevate children – and girls, particularly – to the top of the global development agenda.
In the dawn of the SDG era, civil society partnerships are more important than ever. National and grassroots groups, for example, have the trust and access to reach into underserved communities. By pooling our resources and playing to our strengths, we have made progress for families everywhere, particularly mothers and children.
The CSOs that partner with UNICEF are extremely diverse, offering a broad range of expertise in child health, well-being and protection. They can also be on the ground quickly in emergencies. For example, when severe floods displaced many children and families in Pakistan, UNICEF worked closely with local NGOs to set up child and women-friendly spaces in affected areas, allowing children and women to come together and access basic services.
Other examples of our partnerships that target women and girls specifically include:
In Senegal, UNICEF has been working with the NGO Tostan for nearly 20 years to reduce the incidence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). This partnership supports the implementation of Community Empowerment Programmes (CEP) to teach communities about democracy, human rights, accountability, problem-solving, health and hygiene, and conflict management. As part of this process, communities learn about the harmful effects of FGM/C. These efforts have led to a movement calling for abandonment of the practice in thousands of communities. An evaluation studying the impact of the initiative after ten years found that the prevalence of FGM/C had fallen by more than half in the participating villages – 30 per cent of girls had been cut compared to 69 per cent in comparison villages. Though the practice had not fully disappeared, its frequency – and social acceptance of it –declined sharply in the villages that had declared abandonment. Communities also reap other benefits from their participation in the community empowerment process – such as learning about the need for health-promoting behaviours, hygiene, clean water and sanitation.
UNICEF is a member of Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 700 civil society organizations from over 85 countries committed to ending child marriage and achieving a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for all. At the country level, UNICEF engages with many national and local groups. India, for example, is one of several countries selected to be a part of UNICEF and UNFPA’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. Although the legal age for marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men, it has the highest number of child brides in the world. Nearly half of all girls are married before their 18th This partnership in India involves the participation of nearly 70 civil society groups – many of which are based in the country. To combat early marriage, the partnership pursues five action points:
- increasing agency and resources for adolescents – especially girls – at risk of and affected by child marriage;
- enhancing legal and development policy frameworks for an enabling environment that protects the rights of adolescent girls and boys;
- increasing the generation and use of a robust evidence base for advocacy, programming, learning and tracking progress;
- enhancing systems and services that respond to the needs of adolescents at risk of or affected by child marriage; and
- increasing social action, acceptance, and visibility around investing in and supporting girls, and shifting social expectations relating to girls, including by engaging boys and men.
Led by UNICEF, the global End Violence against Children campaign engages governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations, academics, business leaders and a range of other stakeholders, and seeks to strengthen collaboration across sectors and borders. Campaign partners are encouraged to confront shared threats and develop shared solutions, acknowledging that violence against children is not separate from the broader context of violence. One of the initiatives under the umbrella of the End Violence campaign is Together for Girls – a global public-private partnership dedicated to ending violence against children, with a focus on sexual violence against girls. Together for Girls convenes the expertise and resources of many of the strongest organizations around the world working in development, public health, and children and women’s rights.
Collaboration with civil society provide opportunities to harness the strengths of collective organization to achieve maximum results for women and girls. They build a stronger knowledge base and inspire innovative approaches to tackling the roadblocks preventing girls and women from achieving their full potential.