WI-HER and ASSIST to Participate in 16 Days of Activism Tweet Chat Relay
The USAID ASSIST Project and WI-HER are working together in this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign by participating in a Tweet Chat Relay on Thursday, December 10th. Focusing on “Promising Approaches to Respond to Gender-Based Violence,” WI-HER staff will tweet from 10-11am about gender-based violence as an unintended negative consequence of economic strengthening programs. Specifically, we will focus on a project in Uganda aimed at increasing income for women to improve outcomes among orphans and vulnerable children that saw increased violence against those women.
The 16 Days Campaign is dedicated to ending gender-based violence at individual, community, national, and global levels. What started as an effort of 23 individuals in 1991 has grown into a UN recognized campaign of more than 5,000 organizations in approximately 187 countries. For all 25 years of the campaign, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University has been the coordinator and served as a hub for information and networking. The campaign is not an individual effort of CWGL, rather it “takes shape from local, national, regional and international initiatives around the world.”
This year, the campaign’s focus is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All! Looking at the relationship between militarism and the right to education, the campaign examines patriarchal systems of discrimination and inequality founded in power differentials. This year is no different from other years, broadly aiming to raise awareness about violence against women, strengthen activism against violence against women, and provide a forum for activists to engage in dialogue and strategy-sharing. ASSIST and WI-HER support this work through Thursday’s Tweet Chat Relay by raising awareness about violence against women while engaging in dialogue and strategy-sharing about violence against women in economic strengthening programs.
In a savings program in Uganda, we identified women who were subjected to violence because of their participation in the program. The savings program aimed to improve economic, health, and education outcomes of orphaned boys, girls, and their families, and it “worked” in that women increased their income and OVC outcomes improved. But we saw low retention rates in the program, and later identified the unintended program effect of increasing violence against women. Similarly, a study of vulnerable adolescent girls in Uganda found that increased financial assets without simultaneous strengthening of social assets and reproductive health knowledge actually led to an increased risk of sexual violence.
This highlights the importance of integrating gender concerns into improvement efforts during project design, implementation, and evaluation. WI-HER developed an innovative approach to integrate gender in the science of improvement through which we work to ensure equal and successful opportunities for women, men, girls, and boys. This includes identifying unintended results and their effects on women, men, girls, and boys, as well as developing solutions to unintended problems. It also includes anticipating problems that a program may cause for a group of people and being able to link them to resources right away. We must be proactive instead of reactive, and continuously monitor and evaluate programs to identify unintended results.
Due to close monitoring of the Uganda savings program, we were able to identify the low retention rates, and then held one-on-one sessions with women in two communities and identified GBV as key to the low retention rates. The women told us that they were dropping out of the program because of the violence they experienced and the lack of discussion around GBV in their communities. So, we worked to generate discussion around GBV at the community level and raise awareness about the negative impacts of GBV, as well as help the women access support services by linking the implementing partner with a local NGO that addressed GBV.
We believe it is always important to be context specific and culturally sensitive in improvement efforts, and this is especially true with GBV. Together, ASSIST and WI-HER developed an age-disaggregated data collection tool and an improvement method toolkit to help do so and identify unintended results and gaps in results by age and gender. We also developed a guide for responding to GBV in improvement efforts, but more resources are needed, especially to document and share learning about GBV in economic strengthening programs.
Many programs, including ours, aim to use economic strengthening to make vulnerable people (in this case OVCs and their families) more independent and financially secure, which some theories say mitigates risk of GBV and exploitation. However, in Uganda we saw that it can also lead to an increase in GBV in some instances. Evidence and research on GBV in economic strengthening programs is scarce. More research, discussion, and resources are necessary to combat GBV in economic strengthening and other types of programs. For that, we need sex- and age-disaggregated data, gender- sensitive indicators, and gender integration in project design, implementation, and evaluation.