Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV)26 is a common manifestation of gender inequality across all contexts. Save the Children uses the internationally recognised definition to speak define SGBV as an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females. It includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such actions, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.”27 Common forms of SGBV in our programming contexts include: sexual and general violence/abuse/harassment; intimate partner violence; deprivation of resources; trafficking in persons/slavery/sexual exploitation; harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C); and psychological violence.


Save the Children works diligently across the three pillars of interventions related to the prevention, mitigation, and response to SGBV. For instance, in a project on Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM)28 in Somaliland, we worked holistically with adolescent boys and girls, parents, religious leaders and at the legislative level to speak about gender equality and the importance of the rights of boys and girls not to be married. This is an essential pillar to prevent CEFM from happening in the first place. In order to mitigate instances of SGBV, we mainstream specific actions in all of our projects. One example is where we ensure Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) items are distributed to women and girls in health and WASH interventions alongside education for women, girls, boys and men about MHM because we know that there is often stigma and shame associated with menstruation, forcing many women and girls to manage their menstruation in an unhealthy and unsanitary manner, and to resort to cleaning themselves and their supplies/materials in dangerous locations after dark to avoid the stigma and shame. In responding to SGBV, we take a survivor centred approach and follow the leading international standards. Where we cannot provide services through our own programming, we refer to other specialists depending on the need. These services can include: mental/psychological; legal; criminal; socio/economic. In humanitarian settings, we often provide clinical care for survivors of SGBV, whereas in more stable contexts, we may provide socio/economic services such as vocational training to help survivors generate an income.


However, SGBV remains a core piece of humanitarian programming as it always increases in humanitarian settings. As humanitarian practitioners, we have a mandate and obligation to prevent, mitigate and respond to SGBV as per a corpus of instruments such as the humanitarian principles, international humanitarian programming guidelines and standards, UN Security Council resolutions and international and national laws. The IASC highlights that it is essential to recall “that GBV is happening everywhere. It is under-reported worldwide, due to fears of stigma or retaliation, limited availability or accessibility of trusted serviced providers, impunity for perpetrators and lack of awareness of the benefits of seeking care”.29


The Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA)30 is also an important component of integrating measures to prevent, mitigate and respond to SGBV in programming as it is one form of SGBV. PSEA refers to acts against adult members of the recipient population, or against other staff.31 Save the Children has a constellation of policies in place to protect staff, partners, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders, that provide opportunities for the prevention and reporting of abuses of power such as PSEA. We remain committed to fostering a zero-tolerance environment towards sexual exploitation and abuse, and are continually taking measures to support this end.

26 – Save the Children Canada uses SGBV instead of GBV to highlight the fact that not gender-based violence is not synonymous with sexual violence as is often thought. Instead, the term SGBV allows us the space to reflect on the different types of gender-based violence, of which sexual violence is one type.
27 – IASC Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action
28 – Save the Children Canada uses CEFM instead of child marriage, or early marriage because, despite international recognition that anyone under 18 is considered a child as per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, some contexts consider children adults once they hit puberty, or at age 16, or once they pass through any number of other rights of passage. As such, we include the word ‘early’ to denote that marriage before 18 is too early, and we include the word ‘forced’ to emphasise that children under 18 do not have the cognitive capacities to give informed consent to certain actions such as marriage and sexual acts. As such, all child and early marriage is, in effect, forced.
29 – (p. 2)
30 – The term “sexual exploitation” means any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.” (UN Secretary-General’s Bulletin on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) (ST/SGB/2003/13)).  The term “sexual abuse” means the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions.” (UN Secretary-General’s Bulletin on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) (ST/SGB/2003/13)) 
31 – See our Child Safeguarding page for more information on acts of exploitation and abuse targeting children.