• Indicators are signposts of change which help to understand where an initiative is going and how far it is from achieving its objectives. For example, if an objective of an initiative is reduced tolerance of gender-based violence by police in a particular district, an indicator to measure progress might include: the number of reported cases of rape properly recorded by police per year in the particular district. Data collected on this indicator would include the number of cases of rape reported and documented annually at the start of the programme (baseline) and the number of rape cases reported and documented annually at the end of the programme (end line).

  • When designing initiatives, it is important to distinguish between indicators and targets (which are the change(s) that a programme seeks to achieve, usually expressed with reference to the situation at the programme onset or baseline. Indicators do not automatically need to be linked to specific targets and in some cases, it may not be appropriate for a programme to set a specific target during programme design (e.g. if further information needs to be gathered, such as baseline data, or if it is not feasible to set a specific target until the programme has begun implementation). In such circumstances, it is possible to identify the indicator, and possibly also a direction of change (e.g. increase in number of cases reported, greater survivor satisfaction with police response), without setting precise targets.

  • Steps to define and develop good indicators and targets for security sector initiatives to improve violence prevention and response include: (adapted from Measure Evaluation, 2008):

    • Select an appropriate indicator (using existing resources and examples, or creating new ones as relevant).

    • Decide on what should be measured (e.g. total number of police stations surveyed, number of trained police officers and knowledge gained) and how it will be disaggregated (e.g. region, number of female police officers).

    • Decide how the indicator will be measured and the tools required (e.g. police records on incidents of violence against women and girls; surveys on police knowledge, attitudes and practices).

    • Consider any further issues which will affect the ability to collect and analyze data (confidentiality of files, missing records, etc.).


Indicator Definition and Development: Proportion of law enforcement units following a nationally established protocol for VAW/G complaints  

Indicator: Proportion of law enforcement units following a nationally established protocol for VAW/G complaints

Definition: The proportion of law enforcement units that adhere to nationally established protocols pertaining to the management of VAW/G complaints.

Numerator: Number of law enforcement units in a region or country that follow a nationally established VAW/G protocol when handling complaints. If there is no national protocol pertaining to the management of VAW/G cases, this indicator cannot be measured. The protocol should cover the following areas:

  • How and where VAW/G survivors should be interviewed

  • How confidentiality is ensured

  • Type of investigation and follow-up that should take place following a report

  • How women and girls are protected following a complaint

Denominator: Total number of law enforcement units surveyed

Disaggregate by: area in city, region; province, depending on how large an area is being surveyed.

What It Measures: This indicator measures the number of law enforcement units that handle VAW/G complaints using a protocol which is in compliance with nationally established standards.

Measurement Tool: A survey of law enforcement units.

How to Measure It: There must be a national set of standards established for the management of VAW/G complaints within the security sector in order for this indicator to be measured. Police stations and other law enforcement units at the local, district and regional levels should have a protocol documented that outlines how VAW/G complaints are handled. This protocol should be in alignment with a national standard which has information on the above four criteria in the indicator definition. A checklist or outline detailing key steps in adhering to the national protocol guidelines should be part of the documentation available at the unit. Police and other law enforcement units are selected into a probability (ideally) or other sample that may cover one or more urban areas, regions, or the entire country. Units are then surveyed to investigate whether or not the unit has the described documentation affirming that they follow a standard protocol in managing their VAW/G complaints. Only units who can show this documentation are counted in the numerator. This number is then divided by the denominator, which includes all units surveyed.

Considerations: The area being surveyed needs to be taken into account when interpreting this indicator. For example, the results of a survey in the capital city in which large police units are selected into the sample will and should differ from a survey in a rural area  which goes to small outposts, since the resources available in each of these situations differs considerably. This indicator measures the standards set for dealing with VAW/G complaints on local levels and will yield a snapshot of whether or not the security sectors in a given area are maintaining a standard protocol. However, this does not ensure the proper management of VAW/G complaints. Even though a protocol exists, individual law enforcement personnel or units themselves may not actually follow it. Also, this indicator cannot be measured if there is no nationally established protocol. Despite these limitations, this indicator can be used to monitor progress within the security sector because proper management of complaints is very unlikely if no protocol exists in a law enforcement unit. 

Excerpt: Bloom, S., 2008 Violence against Women and Girls: A compendium of monitoring and evaluation indicators, USAID – East Africa, IGWG, Measure Evaluation

  • Initiatives may include process indicators to track implementation of specific activities (e.g. number of trainings with police personnel) as well as outcome indicators, which are more commonly used to measure progress on the medium to longer-term results of an initiative (e.g. increased reporting of abuse to police by women; greater number of perpetrators prosecuted).

  • Both quantitative indicators (Number of specialized units developed) as well as qualitative indicators (capacity of personnel to implement domestic violence response protocols) should be included for comprehensive monitoring of programmes.

  • The table below provides examples of indicators (primarily output level) which have been used by United Nations agencies and national governments to track the performance of the security sector in addressing violence against women and girls. These can be used in conflict, post-conflict and peacetime contexts, although where data systems are undeveloped or data is unavailable (e.g. conflict/ post-conflict; resource-constrained settings), some indicators may not be appropriate or possible to measure due to constraints in security or ethical considerations in engaging survivors (e.g. level of women’s satisfaction with treatment by police). In these situations, proxy indicators may be used to measure progress (e.g. no. and % of police stations with specialized units established).

Examples of indicators to track the performance of the security sector

Establishing gender-responsive oversight and accountability of the security sector

Women’s leadership and representation

1. No./ % women on government decision-making committees related to peace and security

2. No. of gender advisers working in government agencies (ministry of interior, Defense)

Oversight mechanisms

3. Frequency and impact of actions taken by national parliament to hold security sector to account for VAW/G prevention and response

4. Existence of internal oversight mechanisms/ bodies such as boards of inquiry or a conduct and discipline unit with a mandate to investigate gender issues within the police service such as discrimination, harassment and gender-based violence

5. Existence of external oversight mechanisms/ bodies (such as ombudsoffices or human rights commissions) with a mandate to investigate gender issues within the police/military service such as discrimination, harassment and gender-based violence

6. No. reports to internal and/or external oversight mechanisms of discrimination, sexual harassment or other gender-based violence in the last year/most recent data available

7. Existence of formal mechanisms for involvement of civil society organizations in oversight such as a local police board or community security committees

Policies, protocols and standard operating procedures for security institutions

Policies, strategies and plans

1. Extent of inclusion of violence against women and girl measures to protect women and girls in national security policy frameworks*

2. Existence of security sector measures within a national plan of action addressing violence against women and girls

Preventing and addressing abuse by security personnel

3. Existence of a sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and/ or sexual exploitation and abuse policy for police/armed forces personnel

4. Existence of procedures to report and investigate cases of abuse, discrimination and harassment perpetrated by security personnel

5. No. / % of state security units (army, police) operating under a code of conduct which recognize sexual violence as a violation of conduct**

6. Existence/No. of standard operating procedures and guidelines in police and army for responding to cases of human trafficking, domestic violence or sexual assault/rape that comply with international standards

Increase institutional capacities and human competencies

Recruitment, retention and advancement of women in security institutions

1. No. /% of government agencies (ministry of interior, Defense) with gender focal points

2. Level of women’s participation in security institutions (numbers, %, rank)*

3. Number and percentage of male and female senior-level vs. entry-level staff, including rank and unit if possible

4. Rates of attrition (drop out) for male vs. female personnel

5.  Existence of numerical or percentage recruitment targets for women

6. Level, types of remuneration and benefits (e.g. maternity leave) provided to male/ female staff in state security institutions

7. Existence of vetting procedure that includes vetting for past perpetration of human rights violations against women, such as domestic violence or sexual assault

8. Existence of specific measures in place to increase the recruitment, retention and advancement of women including pre-recruitment sensitization

9. Existence of a female staff association or a women’s section of a staff association

10.  Existence of different infrastructure and facilities for female and male staff such as separate bathrooms, different uniforms or separate lodgings

Training and capacity development for security personnel

11.  No. / % of security sector/law enforcement personnel trained in preventing and responding to VAW (according to established protocols)**

12.  Level of institutionalization of gender training in security institutions (e.g. GBV training curriculum developed and in use; existence of gender training, such as specific training sessions on gender-awareness, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking)

13.  Level of awareness of gender-based violence prevention and response among male/ female national security forces (police, military)

Harmonizing data

14.  National VAW/G database established and collecting core data on incidents, victims and perpetrators

Improving service delivery to survivors

Improving responses to incidents of violence

1. No./ % violations perpetrated by police or military that are reported, investigated and prosecuted

2. No. / % violence against women cases reported to local police**

3. % reported violence against women cases investigated*

4. No/ % of state security units (army, police) following a nationally established protocol for handling complaints of violence against women and girls

5. No of referrals made by police stations each month/ year (by agency/service referred to)

6. No. and % of police stations with special (family / women) police units established or centres with integrated services to assist survivors

7. Existence of private interview rooms for receiving survivors and other infrastructure (transportation, temporary accommodation, etc)

8. Existence of a multisectoral coordinated referral system

Strengthening community outreach and engagement

9. Level of satisfaction of local women with their treatment by the police and army

10.  Level of increase of public knowledge on gender-based violence issues and prosecution

11.  Women’s and girls’ perceptions of their level of physical security)*

Sources: ARC International, DCA, DCAF, DPA, MEASURE Evaluation/ USAID, OCHA, OHCHR, PBSO, UN Office for West Africa, DCAF, ECOWAS Gender Development Centre, MARWOPNET, AMLD, 2010, UN Women, UNAMI, UNDP, UNECA, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNIOGBIS, UNIPSIL, UNMIN, UNODC, UNOWA; National Action Plans: Austria, Burundi, Belgium, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nepal, Norway, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Spain Uganda and United Kingdom.

*  =  Indicator currently proposed by UN Secretary General for UN tracking in line with SCR 1889

** = Indicator currently proposed by UN Secretary General for UN tracking in line with SCR 1888


Resources for developing indicators:

Women and Peace and Security: Report of the Secretary-General: UN Security Council Resolution 1325 Indicators for Monitoring Resolution Implementation (United Nations Security Council, 2010).This report is for governments, donors, policy-makers, and others working to support implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325. The report provides a brief history on the development of the indicators; describes each indicator and its relation to specific sections within the resolution; suggests steps for operationalizing the indicators and includes tables to support data collection and monitoring processes. Available in Arabic, English, French, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish.

Annex 4: DCAF Gender survey of security sector institutions in ECOWAS countries Security for All, West Africa’s Good Practice on Gender in the Security Sector(UN Office for West Africa, DCAF, ECOWAS Gender Development Centre, MARWOPNET, AMLD, 2010). The Annex is from a report of initial findings and recommendations from the working-level regional conference “Security for All: West Africa’s Good Practices on Gender in the Security Sector”. A list of gender and violence-related indicators for the sector are included that were used in assessing the security sector institutions and practices in the fifteen ECOWAS countries. Available in English. 

Guidelines for the Collection of Data on Trafficking in Human Beings Including Comparable Indicators (International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Federal Ministry of the Interior of Austria, 2009). Available in English.

Handbook on Performance Indicators for Counter-Trafficking Projects (IOM, 2009). Available in English. 

Violence against Women and Girls: A compendium of monitoring and evaluation indicators(Bloom, S., Measure Evaluation, 2008). This guide was developed for managers, organizations, and policy makers working in the field of violence against women in developing countries, and for practitioners providing technical assistance on the subject. The indicators can be used by programs that may not specifically focus on VAW/G, but include reducing levels of VAW/G as part of their aims. The compendium includes specific sections on security-related indicators as well as trafficking and femicide, which could be relevant to security sector initiatives. Available in English.

Indicadores sobre Violencia contra las Mujeres Sistematización y Evaluación Crítica(Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos, 2008). This resource is for practitioners and policy-makers involved in the implementation and monitoring of the Belem do Para Convention. The resource reviews the most common indicators used with monitoring violence against women, describes indicator systems that integrate VAW and those specific to VAW, and provides recommendations for indicators to support improved implementation framework of Belem do Para. Available in Spanish. 

The PRIME System: Measuring the Success of Post-Conflict Police Reform(Bajraktari, Y. et al., 2006).The resource is a framework for measuring the success of post-conflict police reform developed by Princeton University and field-tested in collaboration with United Nations Police. Specifically targeted at post-conflict police services and their reformers, the system essentially provides a set of generic indicators along four dimensions (pillars) that correspond with commonly accepted good policing practice: Performance Effectiveness; Management and oversight; Community relations; Sustainability. Available in English.