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Violence Against Women & Girls -- Resource Guide


Guiding Principles for VAWG Programming

When undertaking VAWG prevention or response activities, it is important to work closely with key stakeholders, including organizations and local agencies that have expertise in these interventions.

Important note

  • As noted earlier, this resource guide is intended to serve as a starting point for IDB and WB sectoral specialists. Any data collection activities on the topic of VAWG, irrespective of whether women are being directly asked about their personal experiences or not, should not be undertaken without the guidance of an expert in VAWG. Failing to observe strict ethical guidelines may compromise the safety of the beneficiary and/or researcher.

Put mechanisms in place to monitor both intended and unintended consequences of the intervention. Consider whether the intervention may increase VAWG. Examine pre-existing gender vulnerabilities such as gender discrimination, gender-based exclusion, unequal gender norms or institutional weakness. Assess how the interaction of these factors, in combination with the intervention, may contribute to increased VAWG. Identify and add elements to prevent or mitigate this risk. Include a monitoring mechanism that will alert you to unintended consequences of the project that are exacerbating VAWG.

Employ rigorous evaluation of VAWG-specific projects and include VAWG indicators within broader programs.  Collaborating with academic/research organizations and other evaluation experts is essential for producing more rigorous project designs and evaluations, especially in the area of prevention, where there is a paucity of data. Similarly, it is vital to employ existing, agreed-upon VAWG indicators to ensure comparability, contribute to the body of evidence on effective VAWG prevention measures, and subsequently, assist policy makers and program managers to make informed decisions.  In 2013 the UN Statistics Division published the Guidelines for Producing Statistics on VAW, which includes internationally agreed indicators in 4 core topics (physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence) and 3 optional topics (FGM/C, attitudes towards VAW, reporting to authorities/seeking help). In addition, the global compendium, developed by MEASURE Evaluation, includes a set of monitoring and evaluation indicators for use at the programmatic, policy, and institutional level across all sectors. For illustrative examples of indicators, please see Annex 3.

Support multi-sectoral approaches and interventions. Complex, multi-faceted issues such as VAWG require a comprehensive response.  Findings across all sectors have identified the need for collaboration between law enforcement, legal aid services, health care organizations, public health programs, educational institutions, and agencies devoted to social services and economic development. For example, identifying women suffering from VAWG at a health clinic requires a host of ensuing responses from the judicial sector (if she is to request a protection order) and social services (such as a shelter).  Collaboration across sectors is essential for both providing effective services to survivors of violence as well as for preventing violence against women.

Promising practices: Peru’s National Action Plan

  • Peru’s National Action Plan Against Violence Against Women (2009–2015) strives to guarantee access to quality counseling and support, justice, health and other related services to all survivors of VAWG. This comprehensive plan involves actions to improve all areas of the response system, and includes a commitment to ensuring universal coverage of the system through a staged approach. There are detailed expected results for each two-year period, with percentages for regional areas, commissariats or organizations for meeting targets across various indicators of quality response to survivors, and a 100% goal for each indicator by 2015.
  • Many governments, particularly in Latin America, have also established national commissions to improve inter-sectoral coordination and monitor progress in developing national plans and policies on violence. Qualitative reports suggest that the existence of a national plan on violence against women creates commitment and political space for dialogue between civil society and the state. (UN Women. Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence Against Women, 2012.)

  • Integrated multi-sectoral services under one roof for women: If feasible, programs that integrate services for women’s empowerment or/and for VAWG survivors under one roof are promising practices that may reduce violence and increase survivors’ ability to leave their perpetrator. By meeting the multiple needs of survivors in one location, these programs prevent women from spending additional time and resources seeking help at different institutions. Women are also spared from repeating their testimonies each time. These integrated programs include psychological and legal support for survivors of violence, sexual and reproductive health services, as well as economic empowerment activities, including vocational training, labor market intermediation, business development services, and microcredit.

Promising practices: Integrated Services for VAWG Survivors

  • Women’s City: An Innovative Approach for VAWG Services and Response -- Created by the Secretariat of Social Inclusion (SIS) in El Salvador, Women’s City is a unique model for empowering women by offering them with integrated services under one roof (Women’s City Centers). Those services are provided by different public institutions (service providers) under the leadership of the SIS. The services in the Women’s City Centers include: [1.] Prevention and response to violence against women; [2.] Sexual and reproductive health services; [3.] Support for establishing economic autonomy; [4.] Group education to promote women’s rights and prevent of VAWG; and [5.] Childcare for children under 12 years of age while women use services at the Center. By combining several services in the same location, the model reduces the time and resources women expend in seeking widely dispersed public services. The Women’s City approach provides a customized and coordinated package of VAWG response services targeted exclusively to each woman. The approach also allows for greater quality and delivery of services, as these follow a chain of service provision that is coordinated throughout the institution. In addition to receiving response services (such as treatment for physical injuries, psychosocial support, etc.), women also participate in activities to gain economic independence, thus increasing their options for leaving situations of violence. The inter-institutional coordination among the service providers in the centers also increases opportunities for identifying and referring women affected by violence by serving as an entry point for those seeking services not related to VAWG.

Design interventions to target VAWG at multiple levels simultaneouslyEffective interventions require operating across all levels: individual, interpersonal, community, institutional, policy and laws. For example, if a country decides to recognize marital rape as a crime1, such a change in the penal code may have limited effects at a population level if law enforcement institutions remain weak, communities fail to acknowledge women’s right to consensual sex within marriage, and if individual women are unaware of such a law.

Promising practices: Sri Lanka’s Plan of Action

  • One of the objectives of Sri Lanka’s Plan of Action Supporting the Domestic Violence Act (2005) is to establish local-level working groups comprised of government organizations, as well as to strengthen support structures for community-based organizations to participate in these working groups. In the United Kingdom, the cross-governmental strategy, Together We Can End Violence against Women and Girls, launched in 2009, outlines a series of actions for the police, local government and National Health System (NHS) in three main areas: prevention, protection, and provision. The strategy also notes the crucial role of non-governmental organizations in the plan’s implementation, and pledges to strengthen funding arrangements to support them in their activities. (UN Women. Handbook for National Action Plans on Violence Against Women, 2012.)

Establish partnerships between government and multiple stakeholdersThere is ample value-added and benefits to be derived from collaborating with multiple stakeholders with expertise and experience in their given area, including specialized agencies, multilateral/bilateral donors, NGOs, faith-based institutions, academic/research organizations, the private sector, and government ministries dedicated to women and gender issues. All of these groups have essential roles to play, and harnessing their strengths can facilitate a multi-sectoral and comprehensive approach.

Highlight the development and human rights impact of VAWG. Emphasize that VAWG is a socio-economic development issue as well as a violation of fundamental human rights for which policy makers, communities, and societies should be held accountableThe view that violence is acceptable or a private matter cannot be justified on the grounds of “culture” or “tradition.” Continuing to document the prevalence and impact of VAWG on health and socio-economic development will certainly assist with increasing the issue’s visibility, although, women’s universal right to live free of violence under all circumstances should form a substantive part of the argument.

Include behavior change and community mobilization interventions to address harmful gender norms, attitudes and beliefs at all levels of society.  Attitudes that condone violence against women are deeply imbedded, to varying degrees, throughout most societies in the world, and are predictive of actual violence perpetration.2 Ensuring successful project buy-in at all levels, from communities, to service providers and institutions, requires a fundamental shift in attitudes and beliefs regarding violence against women. While this is a challenging, long-term process, projects should include a behavior change component targeting men, diverse members of the population, different age groups and the communities at large, as well as service providers at all levels (e.g., judges as well as law clerks).

Promising practices: Behavior Change through the Tostan Project, Senegal

  • One of the most successful community-based models of VAWG prevention to date is the approach developed by Tostan, an NGO in Thies, Senegal. The intervention sought to reduce female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) via a community-based education program and has been replicated in several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The topics addressed include health, literacy, and human rights, while participatory methods allowed community members to select issues considered to be a priority in their village. FGM/C and intimate partner violence both emerged as key issues. In many cases, villages took pledges to renounce FGM/C and to encourage neighboring villages to do the same. A quasi-experimental evaluation of the program in Senegal found that women in the intervention villages reported significantly less violence in the last 12 months than women in the comparison villages. Mothers of girls aged 0-10 also reported less FGM/C in the intervention villages. It is particularly noteworthy that women in the intervention villages who were not directly involved in the Tostan education program also reported lower levels of violence and FGM/C, indicating successful diffusion of program impact. (Diop, N. J., Faye, M. M., Moreau, A., Cabral, J., & Benga, H. (2004). The TOSTAN Program. Evaluation of a community based education program in Senegal. New York: Population Council.)

Promising practices: Ethiopian Male Norms Initiative

  • The Ethiopian Male Norms Initiative, a group education and community engagement intervention designed to reduce violence and HIV risk, found that participants reported less violence at the end of the six-month intervention, a change that did not occur in the comparison group. Participants included 729 young men aged 15-24 who were members of youth groups in three Ethiopian sub cities. Community engagement activities included community workshops, music, skits, monthly newsletter and leaflets, and condom distribution. (Heise, Lori L. What works to prevent partner violence: An evidence overview. STRIVE Research Consortium, 2011.)

Consider women’s safety when designing and distributing materials: Remember that women living in situations of violence may be at risk of further violence if the partner finds the pamphlet or card with information about services. Additionally, women may come to the clinic with their partners, and may not feel free to pick up materials in waiting rooms. One strategy is to develop small cards that women can hide in their clothing. Sometimes it is helpful to put only the address and phone number of referral services on a card, so that a perpetrator will not realize what it is if it is found. Other health programs have found that it can be helpful to place information (whether cards, pamphlets, or posters) in bathrooms, where women can look at them without being observed by a male partner.

Adapt evidence-based interventions or promising practices when possible, ensuring that interventions are culturally appropriate before transferring interventions from one country or region to another While sharing promising practices and lessons learned is a valuable strategy for ensuring effective interventions are designed and implemented, program managers must exercise caution and take cultural differences into consideration before transferring an intervention from one country or region to another. Conditional cash transfers, for example, can be empowering for women in certain contexts and can contribute to increases in intimate partner violence in others.

Work with government partners and key stakeholders to include data on physical and sexual violence disaggregated by sex and age group in the routine data collection of the national health information system. A good example of an integrated data collection system is the web-based version of the GBVIMS currently used in Colombia that collects data from all service providers and integrates into one system. This system is currently being implemented in 14 countries.

Promising practices: Monitoring VAWG Data through the GBVIMS

  • "The Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS) is an inter-agency initiative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The GBVIMS enables actors responding to incidents of VAWG in the areas of health, justice and psycho-social assistance, to effectively and safely collect, store, and analyze VAWG incidents reported by survivors. GBVIMS uses standardized tools and definitions in order to allow for information sharing related to VAWG incidents in an ethical, secure and anonymous manner.”
  • The main purpose of the GBVIMS is for service providers to use service level data, gathered in the context of quality service provision, to inform, shape and monitor their services and those of the complete referral pathway. In the Colombian municipality of Barrancabermeja, for example, the GBVIMS system assisted with identifying gaps in the VAWG referral pathways. This has resulted in local State institutions recognizing the need to urgently address all gaps. (GBVIMS Colombia: Implementation of the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System, UNFPA/UNHCR.)

Support impact evaluations and the dissemination of evidence of effectiveness of VAWG-specific projects/initiatives. The project or program should contribute to the body of evidence on promising (or harmful) practices by disseminating impact evaluation results to key stakeholders and policy makers.

  • 1 An analysis of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) indicates that national laws are an important protective factor: women who live in countries with domestic violence legislations have 7% lower odds of experiencing violence compared with women in countries without such laws, as well as a reduced prevalence of approximately 2% for every year the law has been in place. However, no country has been able to reduce the prevalence of VAWG to zero, irrespective of how long the law has been in place—as such, multi-sectoral approaches that include behavior change/social norms initiatives are essential for catalyzing long-term change. (Klugman et al., 2014.)
  • 2 More than 35 population-based studies from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East have shown that attitudes condoning partner violence, by both men and women, were highly predictive of rates of violence perpetration (Heise, 2011).
  • 3 A systematic review of literature on effective interventions conducted by the World Bank and the Global Women’s Institute found that training is only effective when prolonged with follow up activities for over a three month period. A good model of a primary prevention strategy shown to reduce IPV is SASA!