Measuring GBV in SADC important

Measuring GBV in SADC important

Date: November 25, 2017
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By Kevin Chiramba

Johannesburg, 23 November: When Thuto was 17 years old she ran away from home. Every day before she went to school her uncle performed certain rituals; he would fondle her breasts, ask about her periods and send her for virginity tests. Despite his wealth, her uncle often delayed in paying her school fees. Her uncle stood by the cultural belief that one’s niece may be taken as a wife or a servant and as a result, she did not enjoy her childhood. Thuto started living with a boyfriend and his family but her uncle followed her there because he had promised his friend that he could take her as a wife.  This is a violation that many women and girls continue to experience in silence until they begin to speak out.

Gender based violence (GBV) continues to be one of the worst human rights violations the world has ever experienced and still continues to endure in the 21st century. The WHO multi-country report (2005) estimates that 1 in 3 (35%) women have experienced some form of violence whether physical, sexual, economic or emotional in their lifetime. Sadly, research shows that most of the violence occurs within intimate relationships and that GBV is embedded in patriarchal social systems that perpetuate the subordinate status of women both in physical and the increasingly active virtual communities.

This year, as we commemorate the 16 days of no violence against women across the globe running under the theme, “Together we can end violence in Education”. It is critical to note that many GBV cases that occur in both private and public spheres including schools and tertiary institutions where dating relationships often begin, go unreported and a significant number are often withdrawn.

Despite the efforts and commitments made by governments to end GBV, prevalence remains excessively high. This accentuates the need to emphasise evidence based planning towards prevention. Indeed, one of the many initiatives that informs efforts to end this pervasive phenomenon is measuring comprehensive indicators on the extent, drivers, effects, costs, and prevention of GBV in its ugly forms.

In line with the United Nations’ commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls through its UNiTe campaign as well as the revised SADC Protocol on Gender and Development target to end GBV by 2030, Gender Links (GL) has for the past six years spearheaded the regional Violence against Women (VAW) baseline studies in seven countries namely Mauritius, Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe, the four provinces of South Africa (Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape), and Seychelles. While the initial studies focused at VAW, the 2016 Seychelles study is the first comprehensive GBV study that included a module on men and women’s experiences and perpetration of GBV. Likewise, Botswana recently completed a follow up GBV study in 2017.

Using data collected from household surveys, speeches from political figures, media content analysis, administrative data from police, courts, health, and civil society, as well as personal hand accounts of experiences of survivors of violence, the studies produce most accurate estimates of the prevalence of GBV. The studies also measures the prevalence of sexual harassment in schools, workplaces, and public spaces.

In most instances, GL has learnt that GBV also negatively affects women’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health, and may increase their vulnerability to HIV. In addition, the household surveys show that emotional violence within intimate relationships is consistently high across countries yet it is the least reported in police statistics. However, in some instances there is a high degree of corroboration between data obtained from the household surveys and what is obtained from the police and courts data.

The mixed method approach adopted by GL in measuring GBV across the SADC region has helped to triangulate, interrogate and interpret the data in ways that strengthen policy making and action planning. The overwhelming data has contributed immensely to the knowledge on GBV in SADC and effectively reduced the dearth of nationally representative data on GBV in most SADC countries.

GL also uses results from the baseline studies, together with the periodic gender attitude surveys, and the annual SADC gender protocol barometer, to provide technical support to governments in developing 365 Day Action Plans as well as localised GBV action plans. This is aimed at putting prevention at the core and targeting zero tolerance to GBV in communities. However, the crosscutting challenge has been the inadequate resourcing for the implementation of the plans and the lack of dedicated budgetary allocations for multi-sectoral structures that are mandated to deal with and track progress on ending GBV.

Going further, the measurement of GBV should be an ongoing process as a monitoring tool for all governments regionally and globally. GL strongly advocates for the utilisation of the empirical data and transforming it into GBV prevention models that can prevent the perpetration of GBV at individual, relationship, community and societal levels. Thus, only when factors that influence violence are understood can interventions for safe schools, homes and public spheres be successful. GL continues to promote cutting edge research to bolster its campaign to End Violence Empower Women by 2030!


Kevin Chiramba is the Gender Justice Coordinator at Gender Links. This article is written as part of the 16 Days campaign of no violence against women.

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