Gender Based Violence Programming in Contexts Affected by Violence and Conflict

Posted by Maria Codina on August 6, 2018 at 3:44 pm



This paper is intended as a resource for programme staff, in Christian Aid and elsewhere, who are designing and implementing interventions to address Gender Based Violence (GBV) in contexts affected by violence and conflict. It draws on analysis of existing policies, a review of relevant global programming approaches and an examination of case studies from five countries affected by violence and conflict – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe. Based on this analysis, the paper offers recommendations for programming and policy.

In this paper, GBV is understood to be any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships. It includes physical, emotional/psychological, and sexual violence, violence on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGIE), as well as denial of resources or access to services. This includes threats of violence and coercion. GBV inflicts harm on women, girls, men, boys, transgender, intersex and non-binary individuals and is a severe violation of several human rights. In contexts affected by violence and conflict, GBV can increase and take on different forms owing to an array of factors including, but not limited to: the use of GBV as a tactic of war, increased militarisation, limited mobility and access to services, and the breakdown of law and order. These different forms often emanate from existing and deep-rooted gender inequalities that prevail throughout different levels of society, which are present before, during and after periods of conflict or widespread social violence. GBV disproportionately affects women and marginalised groups such as people with disabilities and diverse sexual and gender identities.1

Understanding the root causes and drivers of GBV, as well as the nuanced factors that contribute to GBV in contexts affected by violence and conflict, is a fundamental aspect of designing and implementing effective programmes. Christian Aid’s global strategy on violence and peace building, led by Christian Aid Ireland, highlights the dynamic relationship between destructive violent conflict, human security, development and sustaining peace. The strategy aims to reduce the risk of GBV, ensure that survivors receive adequate support, and empower women, men, sexual and gender minorities to change the conditions that lead to GBV.

Our review of existing external policies and programme approaches found that they are ever evolving and becoming more focused on the root causes and drivers of GBV. Long-established global agendas like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and emerging frameworks like the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Sustaining Peace resolutions, recognise the links between gender equality, non-discrimination, and inclusive and participatory decision making to reducing violence and building peace. NGO programming approaches are also supporting this focus through guidance like ‘the ecological framework.’ This paper focuses on the ecological framework as a key guide to understanding the contexts where violence occurs, the risks that exist in these contexts and how they interrelate with each other. The framework identifies factors at different levels of an individual’s life – from the personal, to the family, community and society – and analyses how they interact to contribute to the likelihood of becoming a victim or perpetrator of GBV. As the ecological framework supports the analysis of root causes and drivers, it is complemented by global standards and principles to guide the design and implementation of programmes trying to address them. These principles include, but are not limited to: ensuring a survivor-centred approach, ‘do no harm’, designing a multi-sectoral response, as well as being inclusive and engaging with a range of community actors.

Some of the case studies examined in this paper show key examples of how the ecological framework and the principles are applied in design and implementation, and how it is supporting progress towards sustainable outcomes. For example, using the ecological framework as an analytical tool for understanding the drivers of GBV at the community and societal level in Colombia helped to design interventions that support women survivors of GBV to pursue justice, as well as push for policy and legal change at the national level to guarantee no amnesty for victims of sexual abuse. The work in Colombia rests on certain principles, such as survivors deciding the best approach at every step of the response. Other main learnings from the case studies included: the potential value in working with faithbased actors to change gender norms and behaviours that perpetuate GBV, and the successful prioritisation of economic assistance as an additional pillar to the multi-sectoral approach principle. For example, in DRC, it was found that through the programme’s provision of psychological and medical support (two out of the four pillars of the multi-sectoral approach, the other being legal and security), it was flexible enough to respond to unforeseen needs of the survivors and provide cash vouchers to empower survivors through income generation as well as enhance their personal and family relationships. A few limitations were also found through the examination of the case studies including: the continued marginalisation of people with diverse sexual and gender identities despite programmes aspiring to be inclusive, and the lack of conflict sensitivity which inhibits an understanding of additional risks associated with situations of conflict and violence, and ultimately undermines particular programming principles such as ‘do no harm’ and inclusion for ensuring sustainable and transformative change.

To learn from these findings and support more effective GBV programming in contexts affected by violence and conflict, this paper has recommendations for those designing and managing programmes.

To programme managers:

  • Apply the ecological framework as an analytical tool to understand the drivers of GBV at the different levels and design interventions accordingly.
  • Apply a conflict sensitive approach, through 1) conflict analysis and 2) understanding how interventions affect the conflict and in turn the drivers of GBV and vice versa.
  • Include economic support, in a conflict sensitive manner, as an additional and priority pillar of the multi-sectoral approach.
  • Ensure a community-based approach includes sustained engagement with a variety of community actors, with particular attention to the role of faith actors when appropriate.
  • Improve data collection on GBV, taking an intersectional approach, which recognises the interaction of gender with other forms of social oppression, such as ethnicity or sexuality.

To advocacy teams to focus on:

  • Advocating for states to develop progressive tax systems that are equitable, prioritise public services and enhance the health, legal, security, psychosocial and material needs of survivors.
  • Advocating for States to ensure a robust monitoring and reporting system to record progress of implementation under the SDGs.
  • Advocating for the new UN OHCHR Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to 1) ensure a wider interpretation of gender to include people with diverse sexual and gender identities is integrated into key human rights instruments and 2) increase data collection on the levels of GBV against people with diverse sexual and gender identities worldwide.