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Despite achieving massive advances in gender equality over the past decades, gender-based violence continues to be a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of women and girls across Bangladesh.  73% of ever-married women in the country report to have experienced some form of violence in their lifetimes and rates of child marriage continue to be the highest in the entire Asian region.

The threat of gender-based violence has become particularly high during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as economic hardships caused by the pandemic cause tensions in households around the country. The mobility restrictions in place to halt the spread of pandemic pose an added challenge to women and girls, as they may not be able to easily access protection services should they be in danger of being subjected to gender-based violence.

To address these issues, France is contributing 200,000€ to support UNFPA’s efforts in improving the availability of mental health and psychosocial support services to survivors of gender-based violence in Bangladesh. The agreement for the project was recently signed by the Ambassador of France to Bangladesh, His Excellency Mr. Jean-Marin Schuh and UNFPA Representative in Bangladesh, Dr. Asa Torkelsson. This marks the first contribution from the Government of France to UNFPA Bangladesh. 

With this new funding, UNFPA will aim to improve the availability of face-to-face mental health and psychosocial support services (MPHSS) at the community level. The project will do this by identifying potential partners in communities across the country, such as midwives, teachers and social workers, and equip them with the skills to provide face-to-face mental health and psychosocial support, as well as to use existing referral systems. 

Furthermore, funding will be used to strengthen virtual support services that are already available for survivors in the country, such as the UNFPA-supported Alapon Helpline, given the need for virtual support services due to mobility restrictions during the pandemic.

“Education, support and legal action are the keys to end the scourge of gender-based violence that is raging around the world. And it requires the commitment of every one of us,” the Ambassador of France to Bangladesh, His Excellency Mr. Jean-Marin Schuh stated after signing the agreement.

“We thank the Government and People of France for supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment in these challenging times. The interventions we will carry out, will help women and girls in Bangladesh to overcome traumatic experiences, pave a better future for themselves with holistic support, and restore hope again. We look forward to the beginning of a long and productive partnership between France and UNFPA in Bangladesh,” UNFPA Representative in Bangladesh, Dr. Asa Torkelsson stated.