Project report: the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on domestic violence levels
Grantee: Centre for Women and the Modern World (CWMW), Azerbaijan
Project: training for doctors, police, youth activists and NGO leaders to promote awareness of domestic violence and the relevant laws in Shirvan’s rural districts.
Covid-19 & the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
Last summer, we received the news that The BEARR Trust would fund our project, “the Covid-19 pandemic and an integrated response to violence against women and girls in Shirvan’s rural districts”. We were delighted. The project was all the more important given the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic just a few months earlier, which had caused levels of domestic violence in Azerbaijan to grow.
The pandemic changed our lives overnight. As we have seen, the virus does not recognise borders or socio-economic status; we all live with the risk of infection, without knowing when the pandemic will end. Rural, remote parts of Azerbaijan lack access to reliable information about the development or the seriousness of the virus.
We adjusted our project proposal to address the pandemic’s spread and its impact on rates of domestic violence in the region. However, we could not have anticipated the other developments which would affect our work. Administrative hoops further delayed the start of our project and, by the time we received our funds in the autumn, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had started.
Domestic violence in Azerbaijan
Domestic violence is generally acknowledged to be a widespread problem in Azerbaijan and one of the most common types of violence against women. Any family member can become a victim of domestic violence, but women are disproportionately affected by such violence. Despite this, it remains a taboo subject in Azerbaijan’s patriarchal society and is rarely reported about publicly. Instead, it continues to be regarded as a private matter and any discussion of domestic violence tends to be seen as disruptive of the family unit and values, subjecting the man, traditionally the head of the household, to pressure and criticism and jeopardising the position of the woman herself as well as her children.
As such, women often lack access to any support against such violence, particularly those women living in rural areas. The lack of public discussion means that a woman who is subjected to domestic violence is more likely to try and cope with the problem on her own and will often refrain from telling even her own family.
The project was implemented in four rural districts in the Shirvan region: Agsu, Shamakhin, Gobustan, and Ismailli. It gradually evolved in response to both the pandemic and the unfolding Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. For instance, we held training programmes and meetings in small groups and, as far as possible, outdoors.
We have witnessed a sharp rise in levels of domestic violence over the past year because of the financial difficulty and social isolation that many have experienced due to Covid-19. When confined to their homes, people are more likely to become aggressive and family relations to deteriorate, especially when their stresses are aggravated by financial pressures. Therefore, we also ensured that the information provided to domestic violence victims as part of our project included details about the pandemic’s impact in this regard.
Additionally, we worked with families who had lost family members because of both the pandemic and the war. It was urgent, but very difficult work; every day brought news of the deaths of more loved ones in the local area. Our role became one of emergency response. It was crucial that the project was implemented in a timely fashion.
No one can be certain who long the Covid-19 pandemic will last. In the meantime, we will continue to ensure that reliable information about the pandemic reaches rural, remote populations where people often receive little or conflicting advice.
Director Center Women and Modern World
Mobile: +994 50332 26 18