Addressing Gender-Based Violence at the Local Level

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08:00 pm





Gender-based violence (GBV) has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic began. When stay-at-home orders were enforced earlier this year, it was to better protect ourselves and our families from contracting and spreading COVID-19. But these mandates also trapped millions of girls and women at home with their abusers, resulting in an alarming surge of GBV, including here in the U.S.

In this program, a United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Sarah Craven will provide opening remarks on the state of GBV worldwide and how the agency is continuing to provide critical support for girls and women during the pandemic. Participants will then break out into smaller groups, led by facilitators from national organizations that work on GBV issues, to discuss how they can take action to put an end to GBV in their communities. Participants will also have the opportunity send a message to their elected officials, asking them to support and restore critical U.S. funding to UNFPA.

*Sponsored by UNA Women, this program will recognize 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which runs from November 25 – December 10.

***Earlier this fall, UNA-USA Executive Director Rachel Bowen Pittman moderated a panel discussion with UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, Representative Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania’s 6th District and UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem to call attention to the surge of gender-based violence. Watch the discussion.


Featured Speaker:

Sarah Craven; Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Washington, D.C.

A policy advocate and attorney with experience in global health and human rights, Sarah Craven currently serves as the Director of the Washington Office of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. In this role, Ms. Craven advocates for UNFPA’s mandate which envisions a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person can live to their full potential.

Ms. Craven has worked on advocacy campaigns focused on empowering women and girls and ending harmful traditional practices including child marriage and female genital mutilation. Prior to her work at UNFPA, she held positions at the U.S. Department of State and on the legislative staff to U.S. Senators Tim Wirth of Colorado and Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii. She served as policy advisor to CEDPA during the 1994 International Conference on Population and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. She holds a B.A. from Macalester College, a M.Phil from Cambridge University (UK) and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar. In 2010, she was named one of Macalester College’s Distinguished Citizens.



Erin Kenny; Senior Advisor & Head of Technical Unit, Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women & Girls

Ms. Erin Kenny (MPH) is the Head of the Technical Unit and Senior Adviser to the United Nations-European Union Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls. In this role she provides technical oversight to a 500 million Euro portfolio of programmes worldwide, the largest ever single investment in addressing violence against women. Erin has 25 years of experience addressing violence against women, nearly all of which have focused on humanitarian and fragile contexts. Prior to assuming her current position, Erin was a Team Leader in UNFPA’s Humanitarian Division, overseeing their work on addressing GBV in emergencies. Before joining the UN, Erin worked in East and West Africa, the Former Yugoslavia, and South-East Asia with a number of non-governmental organizations and foundations, including: the International Rescue Committee, Child Fund International, EngenderHealth, Save the Children, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Open Society Foundations.


Jennifer Kim; Director of Programs and Operations, Asian Family Support Services of Austin

Jennifer Kim is a public health and international affairs professional with over two decades of experience focused on gender-based violence, reproductive health, and public health in emergencies. She has lived and worked in West and East Africa, South Asia and the Middle East with non-governmental organizations, research institutions, and UNFPA. She is now based in Austin, TX working with Asian Family Support Services of Austin to break the cycle of violence in Asian and immigrant communities. She holds a Master of Public Health and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University, through the Mailman School of Public Health and the School for International and Public Affairs.


Ilse Knecht; Director, Policy and Advocacy, Joyful Heart Foundation

Ilse has 20 years invested in victim advocacy and is a nationally recognized expert on the rape kit backlog. She leads Joyful Heart’s End The Backlog campaign, which is at the forefront of identifying untested rape kits across the country, appealing for laws and policies to improve criminal justice responses to sexual violence; and working with jurisdictions to assist them to develop and implement survivor-centered reforms. Previously, Ilse spent 16 years at the National Center for Victims of Crime, where she created the DNA Resource Center and led the center’s efforts to reform policies and practices related to testing rape kits. She credits her mother with instilling a duty in her to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


Caitlin Ryan; Accelerator Director, Rise

Caitlin comes to Rise with six years of experience as a strategy consultant, where she focused on social impact issues, namely modern slavery. In 2016 she served as Deputy Director of Operations for the Hillary Clinton campaign in Wisconsin, and went on to become a National Organizer for the Women’s March on Washington. In 2019 she helped stand up the Mayor’s Office of Policy in Washington, DC. Caitlin holds a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. She is originally from Lindstrom, Minnesota.


Q. Olivia Rivers; Deputy Director, The Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Inc.

Olivia Rivers is the Deputy Director at The Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Inc. She completed her Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice and Forensic Anthropology from the University of Central Missouri and a M.S. in Criminology with an emphasis on Human Trafficking and Victimology. Olivia served as a White House intern and was assigned to work with a team of aides which enhanced her interest in public policy and legislative initiatives around gender-based violence.

Her current research initiatives highlights Examining the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking; Online Grooming of Children & Adolescents; and Social Media as a Tool for Recruitment in the Commercial Sex Industry. She serves as the Board President for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and as a member of the Public Policy Committee for the Texas Council on Family Violence.