Over the past year, DRC worked together with communities affected by conflict and displacement and partners to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.
The stories of women and men involved in this work are inspiring and encouraging DRC to continue the joint fight against gender-based violence.
DRC’s funding is increasingly channelled to community-driven initiatives, such as in South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya, where DRC funds community-led activist groups tackling root causes of gender-based violence, through the SASA! initiative. This initiative is created by the Ugandan NGO Raising Voices and provides local activists fighting violence against women and girls with the tools and resources to make change in their communities.
DRC works with conflict-affected communities, adapting the four-year SASA! methodology to oftentimes volatile and insecure environments. In the words of a male community leader and SASA! activist in a refugee camp in South Sudan:
“Sexual and gender-based violence is a real community issue. Women and girls suffer different types of gender-based violence ranging from rape, physical violence, denial of resources and opportunities and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriages. As a leader, I used to receive several of such cases from community members prior to the introduction of SASA! activities in the community but when SASA! activities started I have received fewer cases.”
DRC is providing community members with the tools and resources to conduct local awareness raising and advocacy, leading to more context-appropriate and effective initiatives organised by communities to reduce gender inequalities and violence against women and girls.
In Colombia, Venezuelan refugees, migrant women, Colombian returnees and host community members are too often affected by gender-based violence. DRC responds to the needs of survivors by ensuring they have a safe space to stay, have access to psycho-social support and recover at their own pace.
Women who decide to use the services say they feel empowered. One woman describes herself as a “phoenix, raised from the ashes, emotionally recovered, and empowered”. Another woman said she is now better able to contribute to her community, both as a leader and reference person for more migrant and refugee women who face gender-based violence.
Timely and appropriate individual responses to gender-based violence are key to enhancing people’s wellbeing and generating space for women to lead and support each other. When physical meetings and access became complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic, several gender-based violence hotlines were created to ensure survivors can still report and seek help. Remote psycho-social support sessions were also organised in countries such as Myanmar.
Gender-based violence initiatives would be incomplete and ineffective if not accompanied with prevention activities. Our preventative actions range from awareness raising about what gender-based violence is and what people’s rights are, to supporting community-led initiatives and women’s rights groups in their efforts to reduce gender-based violence.
DRC supports bottom-up initiatives, such as the SASA! initiative in East Africa. A male community leader and SASA! activist in a refugee camp in South Sudan mentions that through the awareness activities organised by the local activists “men are also becoming aware that they can do something to end violence and talk to other men and boys to stop using violence and rather have dialogue”.
These types of prevention activities are of course not a one-off solution but focus on the long-term systemic changes required to end gender-based violence. The interventions contribute to increased awareness of the power dynamics and social norms that lead to gender-based violence and finding local and contextual solutions for more positive relations between men and women.
Gender-based violence prevention and response, as any response, should be evidence-driven. In the case of gender-based violence, collecting evidence can be both difficult and controversial, due to the sensitivities of the data that is being collected and the fact that the data collected is generally not representative of the scope of the issues.
More often than not gender-based violence goes underreported. It is therefore key to not only rely on numbers, but collect qualitative data and information, leading to more comprehensive analyses of the situations leading to gender-based violence. This includes working with communities to better understand the gender dynamics, threats and hone in on other drivers of vulnerability for women and girls, including age, ethnicity, displacement, etc.
In Myanmar, DRC has recently enhanced its protection monitoring methods by adding more gender-focused questions. This has improved the understanding of gender dynamics in communities around access to employment opportunities, equal pay for men and women, access to hygiene items and other basic rights, such as education. The report also includes questions around safety and security, which can be correlated with other data on gender-based violence and helps to better adjust programmes to the needs of women and girls.
To learn more about the global 16 Days of Activism Campaign, please visit UN Women.