Risks Rural Women and Girls Face

April 2, 2018

During this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, UNICEF USA and Dining for Women came together to host a panel discussion featuring Women’s Justice Initiative, and UNICEF.

Today, about 120 million girls have experienced forced sexual acts. 200 girls and women have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), and some 700 million women have been married before the age of 18.

Social inequities and harmful social norms condone violence. Without effective social protection and evidence-based policies to protect women and girls, harmful practices proliferate. Today, women and girls especially in rural areas are at higher risk of exposure to gender-based violence.

During this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, Dining for Women partnered with UNICEF USA to host a panel discussion on achieving gender parity through combatting gender-based violence. The panelists included, Kate Flately, Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI), Viviana Patal, Attorney and Legal Services Program Co-ordinator, WJI, and Catherine Leila Poulton, Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies Specialist, UNICEF.

Dining for Women is a global giving circle dedicated to transforming lives and eradicating poverty among women and girls in the developing world. Through member education and engagement, as well as the power of collective giving, Dining for Women funds grassroots organizations that empower women and girls and promote gender equity.


(Left to right): Kate Flately, Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI); Dr. Veena Khandke, DFW Director of Grants and Partnerships; Viviana Patal, Attorney and Legal Services Program Co-ordinator, WJI; Catherine Leila Poulton, Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies Specialist, UNICEF; Mansi Mehta, Global Cause Partnerships, UNICEF USA.

Kate Flately kicked off the panel discussion by speaking about the Women’s Justice Initiative and how over 5,000 women and girls have benefited from their programs, allowing them to be agents of change in their communities. Through workshops, women are learning and being provided with tools to protect them against violence. They are then sharing what they have learned with their families, cultivating new ideas and changing lives. 


Kate Flately speaking on the challenges of combating gender-based violence ©UNICEF USA/Procida

“We can involve women and girls in the conversion” mentioned Catherine Leila Poulton, speaking on the work UNICEF is doing in the field working with women very actively to promote gender parity. Not only is it up to organizations like UNICEF and Women’s Justice Initiative, but it is up to everyone to be addressing these issues and working to end gender-based violence.


Catherine Leila speaking on UNICEF's work to promote gender parity. ©UNICEF USA/Procida

A large part of combatting gender-based violence is working with various stakeholders (religious leaders, community leaders, governments) to overcome societal norms and barriers and working together to create sustainable change. When asked about how their organizations are addressing such challenges, Catherine spoke on the idea that “we need to stop saying there is a problem; we have the figures – 1 billion women are affected by violence.”

Kate Flately added, “There is a need for financial investment and push from national governments to implement laws.” Civil society organizations and governments need to have more inclusive viewpoints.


Viviana Patal telling the audience a story of a women that inspires her every day to continue doing the work she is doing to combat gender-based violence ©UNICEF USA/Procida

“By bringing in new perspectives, many voices together, we can be better heard.” Viviana Patal expressed that by raising our voices to raise awareness in achieving gender-based violence we can achieve gender equity.