How to integrate gender-based violence in development programs

Lola Koloa'Matangi, a counselor at Tonga National Centre for Women and Children talks with a woman who has been the victim of abuse by her partner. How could addressing gender-based violence be integrated in development programs? Photo by: Connor Ashleigh / AusAID / DfAT / CC BY

In recent years, questions from colleagues working in agriculture, water and sanitation, economic empowerment, livelihoods, nutrition and various other development sectors were gradually shifting from “What does gender-based violence have to do with my work?” to “Can you please tell me how to handle GBV as it inevitably comes up in my work?”

This is no surprise, and if anything a positive indication of how across different development sectors, many programs are taking gender integration seriously. This heightened focus on gender inequalities and the linkage to sectoral outcomes has meant that implementers in all kinds of projects are also increasingly becoming aware of GBV as a critical issue affecting their target populations and thus their program implementation and results.

CARE International developed its “Guidance for GBV Monitoring and Mitigation within Non-GBV Focused Sectoral Programming” to provide some initial ideas to colleagues on how to tackle this throughout a project cycle. The document is designed for those who are involved in the design and implementation of different sectoral programs not focused on GBV, and provides some simple recommendations that any project can integrate into their plans ideally during the planning phase, but can also consider even after a project is up and running. Here are a few of the suggested actions:

1. Learn about GBV and gender norms related to GBV as part of your gender analysis activities. Ensure that the data are collected, analyzed and reported separately for different age groups and for women and men, girls and boys. This approach of stratifying sex and age will allow you to explore specific inequities based on gender in the community and understand what existing gender-related hierarchies your program might be challenging. This can be done by looking at existing data on GBV as well as by reaching out to existing women’s organizations and key informants that work in the target communities, and building in questions about norms, available resources during other planned community assessments.

2. Create or find a referral list. When reaching out women’s organizations and key informants, find out from them if a referral list exists, and if not get their assistance to create one. You can also use already planned resource mapping exercises to collect information for the reference list.

3. Engage men and gatekeepers in the community. For programs that plan to engage women and/or girls for example to attend meeting or groups, men can often become suspicious. A proactive way to reduce the risk of violence in those circumstances, from the outset you can plan to engage the men and gatekeepers of the community regarding the goals of the project and the expectations for the participation of women and/or girls.

4. Do a basic GBV training for all staff. Build into your training and capacity building resources to provide staff with basic GBV training. Equip them with the minimum ethical ways in which to respond when GBV might be disclosed to them in the course of a project by a participant.

As implementers in sectoral programs, while the idea of handling GBV ethically and appropriately can feel intimidating, it is encouraging to see how development organizations are increasingly starting to mainstream GBV across sectoral programs. These include USAID’s “Toolkit for Integrating GBV Prevention and Response Into Economic Growth Projects,” WaterAid’s “Violence, Gender & WASH: A Practitioner’s Toolkit” and the “Violence Against Women and Girls Resource Guide“ developed by the Global Women’s Institute at George Washington University, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

So as we head into 2015, I would encourage each one of us to think about how our work across every sector has a role to play in preventing and mitigating GBV.

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About the author

  • Nidal karim

    Nidal Karim

    Nidal Karim is senior adviser for gender and empowerment impact measurement at CARE USA. She has been working on gender, gender-based violence, and monitoring and evaluation in the United States and abroad for over a decade.