The Impact

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Programme Partner MIFUMI (Uganda)

While working with women and girls suffering from GBV, it is not unusual for women to deny or attempt to minimise the severity of their injury. For example, girls/women saying 'I knocked myself against a wall in the dark' when, in actuality, she was beaten. MIFUMI has taken a key role in sensitising the community through the radio. They stress the need to be open about violence because such candidness can reduce the stigma. In addition, the 'Sure Start' project run by MIFUMI trains the teachers, medical personnel and other district leaders such as probation officers to identify and address problems of GBV even when the victim is hiding the reality. Success has also been achieved in having a referral network through the Tororo district Child Actors Network and the MIFUMI-specific advice centres for women and girls.

When a woman experiences gender-based violence, the physical and emotional impact is lasting and seeps into every sphere of a woman’s life. Sexual abuse and rape survivors exhibit a variety of trauma-induced symptoms including sleep and eating disturbances, depression, feelings of humiliation, anger and self blame, fear of sex, and an inability to concentrate. 7

Beyond the emotional trauma, GBV can result in physical injuries, contraction of sexual transmitted infections, including HIV, interruptions to sexual health and reproductive abilities, unwanted pregnancies and even death.

Due to the sensitivity of the subject, violence against women is universally under-reported. 8  Compounding the personal devastation, is the reality that this type of violence is often shrouded in secrecy, prohibiting women from accessing the legal and medical resources they need to cope.Survivors of GBV often feel shame, an instinct to protect the family unit and conflicting allegiances, which makes discussing the problem difficult. It is not uncommon for women to be blamed for their own rape and to be considered as bringing dishonour to their families. Beyond this reluctance, in many regions of the world, reporting violence can lead to more violence for women, at the hands of police, officials and perpetrators. The fear of retribution further inhibits women in seeking needed legal help, medical services and counselling, thereby continuing a cycle of devastation. Honour killings are also quite common. In some countries family honour is dependent on the behaviour of women.

The Cost

Consider the negative impact GBV has on the individual and her family, and multiply it by a billion. The result is catastrophic across global and regional sectors and a major inhibitor to global development.  By sapping women's energy, undermining their confidence, and compromising their health, gender-based violence deprives society of women's full participation. As the U.N. Women (formerly UNIFEM) observed, "Women cannot lend their labour or creative ideas fully if they are burdened with the physical and psychological scars of abuse". 9

Public Health and Economics

Gender-based violence poses significant costs for the economies of developing countries and the individual, including lower worker productivity and incomes, lower rates of accumulation of human and social capital, and the generation of other forms of violence both now and in the future. GBV also puts an undue burden on public health. Women who experience GBV are likely to have an increased need for health services dealing with physical and emotional treatment. 10 They are also more inclined to experience maternal mortality, unwanted pregnancies and more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Through its impact on future sexual and drug using behaviour, sexual abuse in childhood also appears to 11 increase an individual's risk of contracting STDs and HIV in adulthood. 12

The economic impact of GBV can be understood both in terms of money spent on services, as well as a loss in productivity by women and their family members who have been impacted. Money spent on medical, legal and social services is money not being spent elsewhere in national economies – including food and education – critical components to alleviation of poverty. Compromises to individual economic contributions due to GBV often come in the form of job loss, lost productivity of the abuser due to incarceration, and loss of tax revenues due to death and incarceration.

For survivors, the physical injury and psychological trauma has long-term consequences on education. Acute depression, stigma and isolation often have a negative impact on educational performance or lead to girls dropping out of school all together.  In cases of community and state violence, the threat posed by violence in public space can make parents unwilling to allow girls to make the journey to school.


7 . Koss, M. (1990).The women's mental health research agenda: violence against women. American Psychologist, 45: 374-380 Retrieved from

8 . Koss, MP, The under-detection of rape: methodological choices influence incidence estimates, J. Soc. Issues, 1992, Vol. 48, p61-75

9 . Bunch, C. and Carrillo, R. (1992). Gender Violence: A Development and Human Rights Issue, Atti Press, Dublin.

10 . Retrieved from

11 . Bensley LS, Van Eenwyk J, Simmons KW, “Self-reported childhood sexual and physical abuse and adult HIV risk behaviours and heavy drinking”, Am J. Prev. Med. 2000, 18(2), 151-8. The report concluded that “one third to one half of those reporting HIV-risk behaviours in a general-population survey also reported childhood abuse”.

12 . Boyer & Fine, 1992; Zierler et al., 1991; Finkelhor, 1987; Cassese, 1993; Paone & Chavkin, 1993

13 . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Costs of intimate partner violence against women in the United States. Atlanta (GA): CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2003. Retrieved from