Zero Violence

Two women in Kenya walking and laughing together Frontline AIDS/Corrie Wingate/2017 Violence against working women, especially those in the informal sector such as sex work, has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zero Violence supported civil society to address, report and seek justice against violence towards women and girls, and LGBT people.

Why we ran Zero Violence

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on marginalised women and girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

As a result of the pandemic, UNFPA has predicted an additional 31 million cases of gender-based violence in 2020, ILO has reported almost 50% of working women face occupational violence – especially those in the informal sector such as sex work, and LGBT people are being targeted under the guise of COVID-19 restrictions.

States are ultimately responsible for advancing human rights and maintaining rule of law and must be held accountable. However, gaps in national legislation and biased implementation of existing laws weaken protection for citizens, particularly those who have been marginalised.

Legislation in some countries continues to criminalise LGBT people because it draws on laws inherited from Colonial rule, as well as discriminatory socio-cultural and religious values. For example, in KenyaNigeria, and Uganda intimate partner violence legislation excludes same-sex couples, despite evidence of its need.

Some studies have found a correlation between gender-based violence and HIV acquisition. Zero Violence sought to strengthen links to legal aid, improved enforcement agencies and the referral pathways between gender-based violence, HIV and other sexual and reproductive health and rights services to bring better post-violence services to people experiencing it.

What Zero Violence did

Zero Violence spoke out against violence and supported communities to hold their governments to account, so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.

We supported civil society to improve the response to violence and uptake of support services. This ensured marginalised women and girls, and LGBT people were able to address, report and seek justice against violence and discrimination in their households, communities and workplace. We achieved this via four outputs:

  1. Awareness of legislation: Governments, lawmakers, employers, CSOs/CBOs, women and girls and LGBT people have increased awareness of existing legislation to protect marginalised women and girls and LGBT people through civic education activities, bilateral meetings on legislation, dissemination of simplified materials on violence and linkages to helplines and online forums.
  2. Improved services: CBOs/CSOs have improved capacity to respond to violence and provide access to justice for vulnerable women and girls and LGBT people, through activities to strengthen links to legal aid, improved enforcement agencies and strengthened referral pathways between gender-based violence (GBV), HIV and other sexual and reproductive health and rights services.
  3. Building a movement for change: Championing the enforcement of existing protective legislation and seek to end punitive laws and criminalisation.
  4. Research addressing violence: Partners are supported to contribute to a strengthened evidence base on approaches to address violence against women and girls (VAWG) and LGBT people through action research e.g., intersectionality of gender and sexuality and documentation and learning activities within and across countries.

Where Zero Violence worked

We worked with partners in nine countries to achieve the outcomes of this programme:

stories from Zero Violence


Strengthening access to justice to tackle gender-based violence


Reducing gender-based violence


Breaking the silence on gender-based violence


Transforming access to justice for marginalised communities facing domestic violence


Programme details: The full title of this programme was Zero Violence: building and strengthening sustainable legal capacity to address and reduce violence and discrimination against women and girls (WAG) and LGBT people across the Commonwealth. It was a joint partnership between Frontline AIDS and ActionAid, and was a six-month project (October 2020 to March 2021) under the UK Government Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF), funded by The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Further Reading