When over 500 minds converge to prevent gender-based violence
09 Oct 2017
A women receives counseling at a centre which provides support against gender based violence at the Gihundwe hospital in Rusizi district in Rwanda.
Late last month, over 500 researchers, policymakers, donors and activists descended on the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 5th bi-annual Sexual Violence Research Initiative Forum, the largest global gathering focusing on gender-based violence (GBV) in low- and middle-income countries. The forum has become the venue to connect with others working to prevent and respond to GBV, hear the newest research and evidence, network and collaborate. The theme of this year’s forum, “Partnerships for Policy Action,” is apt given the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for the first time, include targets to eliminate violence along with tracking and accountability mechanisms for national governments. Dr. Claudia Garcia Moreno of the World Health Organization opened the Forum by reflecting on the great progress made and long road still ahead. She stressed the need for partnerships and a multi-sectoral, participatory approach to tackle the complex forces that drive violence, particularly involving youth, who will determine the landscape of the future. Dr. Garcia Moreno re-emphasized attention to vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities, and the need to move from intervention testing to effective scale-up of programs that “work.”
Although progress has been made in establishing that violence against children is a problem in every country, data alone is not sufficient without processes to contextualize it and use it actively to inform programming, direct policy, and monitor achievementThis years’ forum was the largest to date, with over 350 presentations, workshops and satellite meetings attended by 535 participants, an increase from Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2015 (129 presentations among the 398 attendees) and Bangkok, Thailand in 2013 (105 presentations among the 180 attendees). The Forum’s rapid growth reflects how gender based violence is increasingly recognized as a key global issue and connected to other forms of interpersonal and structural violence. The commitment to end violence is also growing among activists, practitioners, researchers and policymakers.
A social worker consults a family in Kandal province, Cambodia. The family has been severely affected by gender-based violence and is in need for social protection and support.For a comprehensive summary of new research and evidence presented at the forum, see its website (where presentations will be posted). The following summaries reflect UNICEF’s contributions, as well as four priority areas of focus.
How do we leverage global data on violence affecting children and use it for policy action?This was the topic of an inter-agency panel organized by UNICEF Innocenti, which began with the first ever presentation of global age-, sex-, and perpetrator-specific estimates of childhood violence from a systematic review led by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s (LSHTM) Karen Devries. These results were also recently released as part of the Know Violence in Childhood Initiative, suggesting that a larger number of children are subject to violence than previously estimated. Audrey Pereira (Innocenti) then presented joint ongoing work estimating the percentage and determinants of disclosure and help-seeking among childhood violence survivors across six countries, suggesting the rates of formal help seeking are extremely low, with implications for reducing barriers children face. Innocenti’s Alina Potts and UNICEF Philippines’ Faye Balanon presented work from the Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children, detailing how nationally-led research processes can drive country-level policy change. Although progress has been made in establishing that violence against children is a problem in every country, data alone is not sufficient without processes to contextualize it and use it actively to inform programming, direct policy, and monitor achievement in these areas as well as toward the global SDGs.
The understudied linkages between economic empowerment and violence reductionThere is increasing evidence that economic empowerment interventions have potential to decrease violence, a potential explored in a recently published Innocenti review of social safety nets and violence against children. At the Forum, Innocenti’s Amber Peterman presented joint work exploring the intersection of cash transfers and intimate partner violence, reviewing mixed methods studies indicating that the majority of rigorous work to date shows cash can decrease violence through a variety of mechanisms. In the same session, Shalini Roy of the International Food Policy Research Institute presented new work from Bangladesh showing that cash plus behavior change communication reduced intimate partner violence six months after the intervention ended. The Forum also featured alternative economic interventions, such as ongoing work on a youth-parent livestock asset transfers also in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Nancy Glass of John Hopkins University). We look forward to the forum spurring more cross-disciplinary work on economic empowerment and structural interventions to reduce violence between specialists on violence against women and girls and development economists (among others).
UNICEF scholarship recipient Joyce sits outside her home in Ndirande township in Blantyre with UNICEF Malawi’s Doreen Matonga. An outstanding student and talented poet, Joyce is top of her class which has a total of 122 children.