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Women empowerment and countering gender-based violence

Countering gender-based violence, addressing vulnerability factors and empowering women have always been at the forefront of UNICRI work. Over the last 50 years the Institute has centered its crime prevention, justice and human rights protection programmes on gender issues and reducing the factors of vulnerability of women and girls.

In the past, UNICRI carried out the International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS), a unique research tool that has been considered for years as a primary source for informed policies and actions. UNICRI then worked on the first EU-wide survey on violence against women, aiming at addressing the lack of comparable and comprehensive data on violence against women in the EU countries (2010-2011). A research project, aiming at assessing the consequences of the economic crisis in the Mediterranean Basin on women’s rights and gender inequality, with a focus on domestic violence, discrimination, access to justice and welfare service was implemented by the Institute (2013-2014).

Over the past decade, several applied-research and technical assistance projects to counter and prevent the trafficking of women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation were implemented in the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Poland, Thailand, the Philippines and Ukraine. The Institute shed light on voodoo practices as a way of coercion over women, and on trafficking in persons in peace support operations (2002).

In 2016 UNICRI conducted an assessment of local and international initiatives to counter trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in North Africa (with a focus on Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt). The results showed that whilst significant resources are invested on control, too little is being done to provide effective protection for potential victims and unaccompanied or separated minors.

UNICRI is promoting gender mainstreaming in the strategies to prevent and counter the appeal of violent extremism and terrorism. As a member of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the Institute contributes to the implementation of coordinated and coherent efforts across the United Nations system to prevent and counter terrorism. The integration of a gender dimension is a crucial component in the fight against violent extremism. In this framework, UNICRI is conducting a project with local communities in the Sahel Maghreb Region that is also aimed at empowering women, protecting their rights and making them agents of change.

Strengthening the role of women in law enforcement is an additional area of work of UNICRI as well as promoting gender-responsive policies and interventions in crime and drug prevention and recovery.

Outcomes (generated and expected)

  • Increased effectiveness of legislation, policies, national action plans and operational systems to enhance women equality, political participation and empowerment aimed at ending gender-based violence and supporting development.
  • Reducing victimization, supporting reforms to strengthen the rule of law and promoting access to justice for the most marginalized.
  • Support proveded to Member States in preventing and prosecuting trafficking and smuggling related crimes; identifying and supporting victims and reducing the vulnerability of at risk populations.
  • Enhanced access of women and girls, especially in more vulnerable contexts, to protection and essential, safe and adequate health, education and social services.
  • Reduced gender discrimination in the workplace and advanced gender equality at any level.
  • More effective prevention of violence against women and girls, though behavioral change and practices.
  • Support provided to governments in mainstreaming gender issues to address violent extremism.
  • Enhanced policies and practices in drug addition and treatment.
  • Enhanced knowledge on patients’ access to services; and increased capacity of national drug control systems.


Action oriented research: collection of valid, reliable and comparable data on vulnerability factors, policies, legal frameworks and operational procedures for the eradication of barriers to the empowerment and political representation of women and for the elimination of gender based discrimination and violence.Analyses of gaps and needs to address trafficking of women.

Training and capacity building: tailor-made in country medium-long term programmes to enhance the capacities of relevant actors, including policy makers, judicial personnel, law enforcement officers, medical staff, religious and lay members.

Advanced education: designing and delivery of professional and education programmes able to promote, among the others, sustainable development, human rights, gender equality and a culture of peace and non-violence ensuring equal access to men and women also through scholarships.

Knowledge diffusion and awareness-raising: dissemination of guidelines and studies; raising awareness campaigns and advocacy.


Photo credits @ UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

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