Core resources support survivors of gender-based violence in the Comoros

19 Jan 2023

Mariama* confides in a social worker: She was raped at a neighbour’s home when she was just 13 years old and forced into early motherhood. The Comoros already has high rates of gender-based violence, but many more women and girls don’t report being assaulted or abused for fear of social stigma, discrimination and even financial destitution. © UNFPA Comoros/Melvis Kimbi

MORONI, The Comoros – At just 13 years old, when she returned from school, Mariama* was sexually assaulted by a neighbour. Forced into early motherhood, she told UNFPA, “At 16, I have a daughter who is almost one and a half years old.”

In the Comoros, some 17 per cent of women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence in their lives, and more than 30 per cent of girls are married while they are still children. Most cases of violence were reported by young girls, explained Said Ahamed Said, from the Ministry of Health: “Last year we received 173 reports of sexual violence, of which 162 were against young girls under age 17.”

Mariama turned to the UNFPA-supported Listening and Protection Service for Children and Women Victims of Violence in the capital city Moroni, for guidance. With core resources, and additional support from Japan, UNFPA supports the centre by providing midwifery, contraceptive services, post-rape care and screenings for sexually-transmitted infections, as well as referrals to hospitals. Since 2021 a psychologist has also been deployed to help women and girls who have been left to take care of their families alone. The centre provided Mariama with medical and legal assistance, and followed up on the case in the courts after the man’s arrest.

UNFPA uses flexible resources across the country to strengthen essential sexual and reproductive health support, such as the Listening Service. These resources are also used to monitor and end all forms of violence against women and girls, through capacity strengthening programmes for partners medical and legal assistance, and the establishment of a toll-free hotline that survivors can call for help.

Core resources are critical in countries like the Comoros, where three quarters of all programme activities supported by UNFPA are funded with core resources. Many countries around the world depend heavily on core resources to achieve their sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Flexible resources can be allocated to the most urgent needs of women and girls, as well as to areas that are out of the public spotlight and do not usually attract urgent attention.

Changing social and gender norms can take a long time and requires long-term, sustained investments. Working towards ending gender-based violence in the Comoros, and anywhere, will only show results over time. In the 17 years since the Listening Service has been in existence, change has started to happen after progressive awareness was reached among communities: . “People are becoming more conscious now and they can denounce violence, compared to how things were before," explained Mr. Said.

That is what UNFPA core resources are all about: Laying a strong foundation for ending gender-based violence, once and for all. In the Comoros, core resources support setting up social services and amenities where survivors can access appropriate protection services that help them rebuild their lives, and also contribute to  the transformation of social norms, together with partners and local communities on the ground.

“I want my daughter to be able to better defend herself and other young girls who may suffer any form of abuse,” said Mariana. By committing to long-term, flexible resources, partners and  donors can help UNFPA make this hope a reality, and put an end  to the global emergency of sexual violence, in the Comoros and everywhere.

*Name changed for privacy and protection


In 2021, UNFPA's top five core contributors were Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland. Learn more

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