If you, like me, are someone who conducts work on sexual or reproductive health there is no way that you can ignore sexual violence issues. Having conducted qualitative research on HIV and reproductive health for over a decade, I have heard many stories of women’s experiences and their fears of gender-based violence.
I’ll never forget the young woman who at fourteen was raped repeatedly by 3 young men she passed that night on her way home,
or the woman who was raped in the first week after giving birth by a co-worker who offered her a ride home;
the woman who told me she was late to our meeting because she had taken a friend to the police to report being threatened at gunpoint by her boyfriend;
the men who told me how they found a safe house for a girl in their community whose father was sexually abusing her;
the men and women who feared rejection and abuse if they informed their partner that they had HIV;
or the healthcare providers who told me how they helped HIV positive women bring in their partners so they could test together and receive support to disclose their HIV status.
Most of us, researchers and health care providers alike, are ill equipped to address the challenges these women (and men) face. The Sexual Violence Research Initiative, founded in the early 2000s, is a network of researchers and practitioners who have collectively been working to assess what kinds of interventions work, what makes them work, and how successful interventions can be implemented in varied settings to facilitate the kinds of gender transformative interventions needed to prevent and reduce gender-based violence (GBV).
Violence against women and girls is preventable.
Promoting gender equity is critical to preventing GBV. This requires working with men and boys as well as women and girls to develop greater understanding of gender inequalities in their communities. This means focusing on existing gender norms, gender discrimination, educational opportunities, and economic inequalities. Developing an understanding of these gender inequities, educational and economic challenges should form the foundation for working with community leaders, men, women, and children to identify the changes that need to be made to ensure gender equity and prevent violence. Everyone stands to win when we engage all sectors of the community to promote gender equity.
We need interventions in schools that help children identify gender discrimination and abuse as well as empowering them to be agents of change in their communities.
- Interventions with children should teach them to identify abusive behavior among friends as well as in intimate relationships;
- should help boys and girls develop the skills to appropriately express themselves;
- empower children to address abusive behaviors;
- and provide them with knowledge of resources at school and in the community that provide support to children and youth.
Media interventions are a powerful tool for promoting gender equality and preventing violence by:
- challenging gender stereotypes and norms;
- providing examples of gender equitable behavior;
- and providing information on resources in the community to those experiencing abuse.
Community based interventions are important for promoting changes in gender norms.
- Community interventions should promote educational and economic opportunities for men and women in poverty.
- Addressing poverty is a key component of addressing gender-based violence.
Engaging men is vital to successfully preventing gender -based violence.
- We need to pay attention not just to the ways in which women and girls are disadvantaged but also to the challenges men and boys face.
- At times it is appropriate to work with single sex groups but research shows the greatest success is achieved when we also work with couples.
- Making change in relationships requires working with men and women.
Efforts to address GBV need to be inclusive.
We need to address the varied forms of violence experienced by women, girls, boys, men, disabled community, and LGBTQI.