The Shadow Pandemic | Spotlight On: Violence Against Women and Girls

What Can We Do’s Spotlight series shines a light on the issues the UK is facing. Presented in bitesize, easily digestible facts to help you feel more informed and empowered to make change. These quick reads will direct you to specialist resources and groups for more information, and highlight ways you can get involved to make a difference.

Each week we will be looking at a different topic, kicking off with some key facts on our social media, followed by an article with direct links to ways you can do your bit.

This week we are taking a look at Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). We will direct you to some helpful links so you can learn more about this vast and sadly prevalent issue. We will also signpost ways you can help and support women and girls. 

'Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions'

Dr Margaret Chan, World Health Organisation Director-General

"With 90 countries in lockdown, four billion people are now sheltering at home from the global contagion of COVID-19. It’s a protective measure, but it brings another deadly danger. We see a shadow pandemic growing, of violence against women."

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women

What is Violence Against Women and Girls?

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 1993, defines it as:

(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation; 

(b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution; 

(c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs

Or more simply put VAWG is "violence which is directed at women and girls because they are women and girls”. Therefore VAWG encapsulates all violence against women and is one type of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). However, GBV cannot be used interchangeably with VAWG as it also includes violence against men, boys, and those with gender-nonconforming identities. 

Sadly, VAWG is prevalent around the world including the UK and incidents especially domestic violence have been on the increase due to the COVID-19 lockdown, with reports of domestic violence killings doubling during lockdown

In the UK, the number of women killed by men over the first three weeks of the UK lockdown was the highest it has been for at least 11 years.

Karen Ingala Smith, founder of Counting Dead Women

Check out our Spotlight post outlining some key facts and figures about VAWG.

This is a systemic issue, however, there are some concrete ways that you can support women and girls and advocate for their rights. Read on below.

Get Informed 

Facts, facts, facts. Know them. Share them.

The best way to start supporting women and girls and tackle VAWG is to be informed of the facts. There are a lot of resources out there, with many charities working in this area providing helpful guides and covering all the different aspects of VAWG.

1 in 3 women will experience violence in her lifetime.
In the UK, a woman is killed by a man every 3 days, 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse and 1 in 4 experience sexual assault.

To start you off we have collated some guides to help you begin your research and become a better ally. 

The Women and Girls Network’s myth busting guide on violence against women have debunked common myths about violence against women and have instead highlighted the facts. 

The British Institute of Human Rights work on violence against women in the UK highlights some of the UK’s failures to enacting women’s rights and how women’s rights are present in all facets of human rights. 

Some useful resources to learn about VAWG and the facts and figures are Amnesty International and End Violence Against Women’s articles and for more of an international perspective also see UN Women

If you need some guidance to help a loved one have a look at End violence Against Women’s helpful guides for the community to help family, neighbours and friends respond to forms of GBV and domestic violence.

Know the terminology. Those who have experienced violence are survivors of violence and should be recognised as such. If you are a survivor you can also read End Violence Against Women’s A Safety and wellbeing advice guide for survivors and their get help section. You can also visit Women and Girls Network Self help resource guide.

For some more COVID-19 related help WHO has some helpful resources including some infographics on COVID-19 and violence against women and a Q&A

Another great resource you can use is UN Women’s Unpack the Everyday with some small steps you can do to support women and girls facing violence. There is an interactive guide with actions we can all take to be better allies. Also see Women’s Resource Centre’s list of small acts of resistance to help you be a women’s rights defender. 

Get Involved 


Savera UK is currently running their #IMSPEAKINGOUT campaign to raise awareness on ‘Honour’-based abuse and other harmful cultural traditions such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation in the UK. So get your selfie stick ready. 

Become a Women’s Aid Campaign Champion and never miss an opportunity to support women’s rights. 

Every 25th November UN Women kicks off the international campaign 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. So mark it in your calendar! 

Sign Step Up Migrant Women’s open letter to protect migrant women from abuse and domestic violence. 

Is there a particular issue on VAWG that you are passionate about? Can’t find the right campaign? No problem, with Women’s Aids Campaign Toolkit you can start your own campaign.


We love signing petitions because they are a quick and easy way to advocate for your chosen issue and that is no exception when it comes to supporting women and girls. Need some convincing? Read our ‘Why you should sign that petition’ resource and our ‘Why Sign That Petition’ blog.

Sign London Black Women’s Project petition calling on the government to not remove vital funding to their refuge in Newham Council which helps BME women suffering domestic abuse. 

With domestic violence killings doubling since lockdown, sign this petition to ensure that the government protects victims of domestic abuse and violence during and after COVID-19. 

Following the news that Turkey is threatening to leave the Istanbul Convention, it's time that the UK finally ratifies their signature. Sign IC Change’s petition to help end violence against women by ratifying the Istanbul Convention in the UK.

UK Law must protect survivors of domestic abuse. Sign this petition so no woman is refused help because of her immigration status.  


Join Women’s Aid and write to your MP to ensure the domestic abuse bill provides support and protection for migrant women

Are you passionate about VAWG issues and supporting women and girls?  Why not take the initiative and write to your MP yourself and send them Women’s Aid’s Toolkit for your local MP. Want some help drafting your letter? Have a look at our guide ‘Why you should write to your MP’ on our Spotlight Series page


Have more time to spare? Many charities rely on volunteers to provide their vital services, so why not volunteer today for one of the leading charities dedicated to supporting women and girls and abolishing VAWG. 

Are you a Latin American woman looking for some work experience and want to help your community? Then why not volunteer for Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS), a feminist and human rights organisation focused on supporting the needs of Latin American migrant women. Not a Latin American woman but still want to support LAWRS work? You can, by donating £10 you could pay towards the provision of child-care for a woman coming to receive advice from one of their specialist advisers in domestic violence and gender violence

Rights of Women is a women’s charity that helps women through their law expertise. If you are a qualified solicitor or barrister you can volunteer as a legal aid; otherwise there are other opportunities including volunteering as an office volunteer. All volunteers must be women. If you think this is the role for you then sign up here. Don’t have the time right now but have some money to spare, you can also donate or fundraise for Rights of Women and make sure women get the legal help they need.

Women and Girls Network is a free service run by women, for women in London who have been affected by all forms of violence and abuse. You can volunteer as a helpline volunteer here. You can also donate or fundraise for Women and Girls Network and keep their free services free. 

The Baytree Centre is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers and there are many roles to choose from. The Baytree Centre is a social inclusion charity for women and girls based in the heart of Brixton. For more information lookout for their upcoming Voices of Change blog. If you have £14  to spare you can help The Baytree Centre offer remote information, advice and guidance to 3 families in need, via phone or video call.

Refuge is a charity that works to create a world free of domestic violence. They are not currently looking for new volunteers due to COVID-19 but do keep an eye out for when applications resume. Alternatively, £10 a month to Refuge could give a woman her independence back. You can also help refuge by starting your own fundraiser.

After signing the Istanbul Convention Change petition calling the UK government to ratifying the Istanbul Convention you can also join their campaign by volunteering

Volunteer for Hestia’s Domestic Abuse, Assessment & Referral Service here

Volunteer for Savera UK and help them tackle ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices across the UK. If you have £5 to spare you could help Savera Uk buy tea and biscuits for one of their clients when their support workers meet them for the first time.

Want to do more for the women and girls in your community? Sign up and Become a community Ambassador with Women’s Aids ‘Change That Lasts Ask Me’ scheme. 


VAWG charities not only rely on volunteers but also donations from generous members of the public. With the surge of domestic violence cases and killings due to the Covid-19 lockdown refuges and women's charities are in need of help more than ever. So if you have a few quids to spare why not help protect women and girls from VAWG. And if you are not able to donate yourself you can always fundraise for your chosen charity. 

Donate to End Violence against Women - As the leading UK coalition campaigning to end violence against all women and girls your donation can go a long way in ending VAWG in the UK.  

Imkaan is a black feminist organisation dedicated to addressing violence against women and girls. Support their work and donate here.  

2 women are killed every week by a partner.

Support Southall Black Sisters, a charity run by black and minority women working for women’s human rights in the UK. You can donate or buy greeting cards or books with proceeds going to Southall Black Sisters. 

Women's Resource Centre is the leading national umbrella organisation for the women’s sector. Stand up for all women’s human rights by donating to the WRC

The Maya Centre is committed to providing free counselling for women without access to mainstream therapy options. Support their work by donating or fundraising.

Donate or fundraise for one of the leading charities working to eradicate domestic abuse in the UK, Women’s Aid

VAWG is such a vast topic and comprises so many issues that cannot be addressed in a single blog post but hopefully the resources you see here will help you in supporting women and girls and advocating for their rights.

If you would like to add anything or have something to say then do contact us, we love to hear from you. 

For more ways you can help visit our Donations page and our Actions page.

Have some more time to give? Find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and go through our website for more inspiration. 

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How signing petitions can make a difference

Each week we publish more ideas on how you can get involved. If you know of any initiatives in your community that you think we should promote get in touch.

Do you want to write a Spotlight blog or be our next guest blogger for our Voices of Change blog series? Then please get in touch.

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