Women and Girls First (Phase 2):a new edition of a flagship program in Myanmar for promoting the advancement of women’s rights

On July 31st 2020 the Italian Development Cooperation Joint Committee approved a 400,000 Euro contribution to Phase II of the Women & Girls First programme (WGF), reaffirming its commitment to ensuring access to sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls in Myanmar. The initiative is executed by UNFPA with oversight and governance from a multi-donor trust fund.

The main goal of the WGF project is to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health rights for marginalized women and girls in Rakhine, Kachin and Northern Shan states.

The programme commenced in 2015 with pledges from several donors and an overall budget of 12 million dollars. Italy has funded the project since its start with two contributions of 400,000 Euro each in 2015 and 2017.

“Italy has supported this initiative since the beginning and significant results have already been achieved, specifically, the creation of standard operational procedures for GBV case management and the enhancement of sexual and reproductive health services for women victims of violence. This have paved the way for a second phase that will definitely contribute to improved gender equality in Myanmar” said Mr. Walter Zucconi, Head of Office of Italian Development Agency in Yangon, commenting on the renewed Italian pledge and contribution for WGF Phase II.

The initiative is fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda SDGs, especially with Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions. While enhancing the sustainability of previous activities, the program aims to reinforce the peacebuilding component in the humanitarian and development nexus, thus ensuring comprehensive relief for women and girls living in conflict areas. In the states of Rakhine, Kachin and Northern Shan women do not fully enjoy their rights and are more likely to be affected by high poverty and low literacy rates in the context of continuous fighting. These dynamics reinforce cultural stereotypes of women, and GBV rates are higher in these areas compared to the rest of the country.

Assistance and support to women survivors of violence in conflict zones represents one of the specific objectives of the initiative through Centers for Women (WGF Centers), mental health and psycho-social support and dignity kits in IDPs camps.

In addition, the second phase of the programme will continue to support the Government of Myanmar and its commitment to fully implement the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (NSPAW) and to advocate for the adoption of a Law on Prevention of Violence Against Women (PoVAW) that complies with international human rights standards and protocols.

Thanks to the positive results obtained during the first phase, Women & Girls First has become one of the flagship programs in Myanmar for promoting the advancement of women’s rights. On this solid foundation, the second phase of the initiative will reach more beneficiaries in more townships and have a total budget of 22 million dollars thanks to new donors such as the European Union.

The initiative is part of the #TeamEurope Covid-19 response, as it is aimed at mitigating some of the effects of the pandemic. The project is an important measure to respond to the current health crisis, which is one more hazard for women in vulnerable situations, especially for those living in IDPs camps that lack basic sanitation.

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