International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA)

IVAWA and Haiti

IVAWA has been stalled in Congress as of August 9 due to its failure to reach the floor before the 2010 summer recess. Legislators will have limited time to pass the bill before the 111th Congress ends in December 2010. Should IVAWA pass, however, it would greatly aid Haiti’s long-term recovery by elevated the status of women worldwide.



IVAWA was first introduced in 2007 by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Dick Lugar (R-IN) following President George W. Bush’s passage of the domestic Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2005. It’s purpose to:

…systematically integrate and coordinate efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls internationally into US foreign policy and foreign assistance programs, and to expand implementation of effective practices and program. (IVAWA, lines 15-20)

While the bill failed to reach the floor in 2007, it has since been reintroduced as of February 4, 2010. Its current sponsors are Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Its co-sponsors consist of over 120 House members and over one third of the Senate.

House and Senate Support for IVAWA

Drafted with the input of over 150 organizations, including 40 women’s groups worldwide, IVAWA has unprecedented support in both the government and non-government sectors.

Defining Violence Against Women (VAW)

According to the bill, VAW is defined as:

…any act of violence against women or girls that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life (IVAWA, lines 5-11)

Office for Global Women’s Issues

Should IVAWA pass, a Office for Global Women’s Issues would be created and housed under the Office of the Secretary of the Department of State. It’s purpose would be to coordinate the efforts of  US development agencies working to integrate and empower women abroad. These would include USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator.

Ambassador at Large

IVAWA calls for the appointment of an Ambassador-at-Large who will “coordinate all USG policies regarding gender integration and empowerment of women in US foreign policy.” This individual is to be be appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate and head the new Office for Global Women’s Issues.

While IVAWA has yet to reach the Congressional floor, President Barack Obama already  appointed Melanne Verveer as the first-ever Ambassador-at-Large on March 6, 2009. Ambassador Verveer has since served as the United States’ advocate for women’s empowerment, endorsing such initiatives as clean cook stoves and United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Source: Flickr. Ambassador Verveer speaks to women's groups in China on May 24, 2010.

Office for Women’s Global Development

USAID is currently home to the Office for Women in Development (WID). Should IVAWA pass, however, WID will be replaced with a new Office for Women’s Global Development. The bill does not indicate any reason for replacing WID, though NGO affiliates say that the change of face may be an attempt to reinvigorate the institution.

Director of Women’s Global Development

The Office for Women’s Global Development would be headed by an appointed Director of Women’s Global Development. This individual will serve as an assistant administrator to the Raj Shah, the head of USAID, and will coordinate with the Ambassador-at-Large to ensure that USAID programs adhere to State Department foreign policy objectives.

The Director will also review reports submitted by each USAID mission head regarding  progress in integrating and empowering women in USG programs around the world. Similar reports must also be submitted by all contractors and subcontractors receiving funds from IVAWA through USAID. These reports will be made available to Congress and the Director must similarly report on a semi-annual basis concerning USAID’s efforts to protect women.

Comprehensive International Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls

One year after the passage of IVAWA, the Secretary of State and USAID Administrator will, with the assistance of the Ambassador-at-Large and Director of Women’s Global Development, draft a five-year strategy pertaining to violence against women. This plan will be known as the International Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls.

This strategy will be submitted to both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Committee on Foreign Affairs. It will be prepared with the consultation of various USG departments and agencies, including: (1) the Department of Justice, (2) the Department of Health and Human Services, and (3) the Office of Global AIDS Coordination. It must also include the input of civil society, NGOs, experts, and female victims of violence.

Strategy Content

In order to receive IVAWA funding, USAID and State officials must develop a global strategy that focuses on 5-20 eligible countries. “Eligible” is defined as those countries classified as low income in the most recent edition of the World Development Report for Reconstruction and Development published by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Countries must also have the government and NGO capacity to carry out USAID missions.

The report must also include an outline of the risk violence poses to women in each country, as well as how violence is a specific threat to USG development and security interests in the region. It must then describe how funds from IVAWA may be used to address violence, including how capacity may be built up within local women’s groups. It is required that 10% of all IVAWA funds given to a country go directly to community-based women’s organizations.


The act will fund strategies that fall into two or more of the following categories:

  1. Health programs and survivor services
  2. Civil, criminal, legal, and judicial protection
  3. Public attitude campaigns
  4. Economic opportunity projects
  5. Education

Between 2011 and 2015:

The President will receive $175 million per year to coordinate and enhance existing efforts to prevent violence against women and girls.

The Secretary of State will receive $20 million per year for research, monitoring and evaluation, and Congressional oversight reports.

The Dep. of State and USAID will recieve $40 million per year for programs that respond to violence against women and girls in humanitarian, conflict, and post-conflict scenarios.

A total of $10 mill will be appropriated to the International Organizations and Programs Account to support the UN Development Trust Fund for Women.

An unspecified amount will also be appropriated to train US and foreign police and troops on how best to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.

TOTAL SPENDING: Approximately $1.2 billion over five years