Gender Links GBV Indicators project

Date: October 7, 2011
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The Southern African Protocol on Gender and Development sets a target to reduce by half current levels of gender based violence (GBV) by 2015. The question that arises is how governments will know if this target has been achieved in the absence of baseline information.

The GBV Indicators Project is a regional research study being piloted in the South African provinces of: Gauteng, Kwazulu Natal, Western Cape and Limpopo; as well as Botswana and Mauritius. The aim of the project is to provide baseline data of the cause, extent, effect, cost of and efforts to end GBV. These will be used to monitor and evaluate the efforts of governments and civil society to halve the current levels of gender-based violence by 2015.

In 2008 a team of experts from Gender Links, the SADC Gender Unit and African Centre for Women at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) developed a comprehensive set of tools to measure the extent, effects and support of and responses to prevention campaigns. After a series of consultations, supported by UNIFEM (now UN Women), the expert group came up with a set of indicators that could be used to collect uniform administrative and survey data across all SADC countries.

The pilot study emerged as a research project involving government departments and civil society organisations responding to GBV. The research findings are intended to lead to policy changes especially in the area of resource allocation and priorities for responding to GBV. The findings will also be used to strengthen the National Action Plans to End Gender-based Violence (NAPs) in the countries where the project is being implemented.

Article 25 of the SADC Protocol says: “state parties shall adopt integrated approaches, including institutional cross sector structures, with the aim of reducing current levels of GBV by half, by 2015.” The research answers to this provision because it employs a combination of methodologies to test the comprehensive set of indicators and establish a baseline of GBV in every country targeted with the study. Methods employed are:

  • The prevalence, attitudes and costing household survey which is the main research component. It involves collecting data from a representative sample of women and men through electronic questionnaires loaded onto palm held computers (PDA’s). Two survey questionnaires, one for women’s experience and the other for men’s perpetration of GBV, were designed to capture data on extent, effect, response and prevention. All the other research components are used to compliment the survey and for triangulation purposes.
  • Interrogation of administrative data is conducted to document the extent of GBV as recorded in public services namely, the criminal justice system (police, courts), health services and shelters. This data is intended to provide a basis for assessing the costs of GBV and most importantly, information on the use of services by victims as well as the areas in need of improvement.
  • Official written speeches or records of Parliament debates issued within a period of one calendar year that corresponds to when the household survey was administered are collected and analysed for GBV related content. Political discourse analysis methodology is then used to gauge the merits of politician speeches about or against GBV.
  • Qualitative research of men’s experiences of intimate partner violence and first-hand accounts of women’s and men’s experiences, or I Stories are documented and analysed to establish forms/ types and patterns of GBV.
  • GBV content in the media is analysed by measuring coverage of the issues in the news. This exercise is conducted as part of the Gender Links Gender and Media Progress study (GMPS). This method assesses whether GBV is a prominent topic; where it is located in the newspapers; depiction of victims; sources of GBV stories and their gender; whether the voice of victims is heard; gender of the reporter; and other important elements related to news reporting which have bearing on the manner and extent of GBV coverage.

One of the major challenges to the GBV Indicators Project is that it requires a high level of financial, human resources and buy-in from governments. In Botswana this has been mitigated by signing a memorandum of understanding with the Women’s Affairs Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs (WAD) for the implementation of the household survey. WAD has pledged to provide the research fieldworkers and cover logistical costs including transport and subsistence for the fieldworkers. WAD will also provide computers at the district offices which will be used for data downloads from the digital equipment used in the survey. This resource sharing arrangement will go a long way in managing resource constraints.

Both the methodology and findings of the Indicators Project have outputs that support and strengthen the mechanisms and systems of data collection used by various service providers in GBV. They also provide pointers in terms of state responses to GBV. Although GBV data is routinely collected by police, courts, health services and support organisations, the community based survey methodology used in this research makes it possible to report more accurately on previously undocumented prevalence of GBV in the study sites. The prevalence of GBV obtained through the population based survey is exceptionally high compared to the routinely collected statistics from police and other GBV support organisations. The findings are evidence that governments must acknowledge GBV as a social problem that should be prioritised in all relevant state programming.

The research findings from administrative data analysis and stakeholder engagement point to key gaps in GBV service provision. One major gap identified is the poor data management systems in place in both government and civil society support organisations. Again recommendations to improve coverage and quality of GBV response and support services emerge from research findings. An example is the engagement with the South African Police Services (SAPS) which led to the consensus to add a relationship tick box specifying the connection between victim/survivor and perpetrator when domestic violence is reported or registered at police station level. This move will help to elucidate the actual levels of intimate partner violence reported to police which are currently masked within “domestic violence”.

As such the most significant outcome of the research is a baseline which will be useful in monitoring efforts made by governments and civil society to end GBV. Evidence from the research is valuable in holding governments accountable to addressing gender violence. The research will also contribute to the improvement of the quality of GBV services offered to survivors.

In order to achieve this continual effort to secure political buy and commitments from governments is necessary. States must be encouraged to adopt the indicators developed by GL and partner organisations as well as to take responsibility for conducting further GBV research. The WAD partnership where the Botswana government has committed to covering up to 80% of the implementation costs of the project is an example of successful lobbying. It is an illustration of good practise that can be replicated elsewhere.

More attempts to secure similar agreements with other southern African governments continue. Opportunities of adoption of the indicators and potential research funding by state entities in other countries were discussed at a regional meeting to review the implementation of NAPs in February 2011. The WAD partnership was showcased as an ideal model of civil society and government partnership. The outcomes from the meeting pointed to the need for an advocacy campaign to lobby governments to adopt the indicators and fund periodic research.

The GBV Indicators Project is an initiative that moves the region further towards the target of halving GBV by 2015. It provides those working in the area of GBV with the tools to accurately measure the desired decrease (and other movements) as well as monitor and evaluate successful attainment of this target. However, more energy and commitment has to be put towards raising resources for undertaking the research and training relevant state bodies and individuals to conduct the studies. Relevant methodologies must be applied to existent data collection efforts and systems and most importantly the findings emerging from the research must be applied. Overall this project represents an excellent opportunity for the southern African region to contribute to knowledge production on a global phenomenon with primary research derived from the region itself.


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