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Engage institutional sectors

Last edited: February 26, 2019

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One of the challenges in developing multi-sectoral responses to violence against women is engaging the full range of relevant sectors, especially those that have not traditionally seen their roles as being connected to the issue of violence against women.  Health, law enforcement/criminal justice, education and social welfare agencies are all clearly identifiable as having policy relevance, but sectors such as labour, transport and foreign affairs, for example, are also important for addressing harassment in the workplace, creating safe public transport and ensuring appropriate conduct in peacekeeping/overseas missions.

Determining when it is strategic to engage various sectors depends on the local context.  For example, where one or more sectors are already committed to improving responses to violence against women, it may be beneficial to engage these sectors from the outset to ensure buy-in to the coordinated response.  If national institutions or government departments are resistant to change or to prioritising addressing violence against women, it may be more effective to establish local partnerships first with those already working on the issues and use successes brought by this coordination as leverage with national organisations.  Whether they are engaged at an initial or later stage, it is essential to secure the support of senior government stakeholders to ensure the long-term sustainability of the coordinated response, for instance, through drafting of laws, national action plans and provision of funding.

It may be helpful to hold an initial workshop, seminar or roundtable with key representatives from government and other sectors in order to gauge the stakeholder landscape, assess gaps in the response at the national level, identify links with existing efforts and determine future roles and opportunities).

Additional strategies for mobilising political will within key sectors include the following:

  • Develop a concept note or briefing document on the value of a multi-sectoral coordinated approach to addressing violence against women, highlighting its relevance and importance for achieving a range of national/sectoral goals, and outlining methods for achieving such an approach;
  • Hold consultations with government, policy departments and institutional heads/senior representatives;
  • Ensure that organisations working on women’s issues, specialist violence against women support services, and women generally, are mobilised to engage directly with political leadership.  Advocacy is most effective and sustainable when it is done directly by those affected rather than done on their behalf;
  • Make it easy for the relevant government institutions to understand what exactly is expected of them.  Be ready to show which concrete actions can be taken to develop a more coordinated approach; and
  • Link government’s delivery on violence against women to legal and policy commitments, including international treaties, showing how coordinated action on violence against women can satisfy these obligations.

Case study: End Violence Against Women campaignfor an integrated VAW strategy (UK)

Background

Despite being a signatory of CEDAW, the UK, until very recently, had no coordinated national policy framework or action plan for addressing all forms of violence against women.  During the 1990s and 2000s, several separate action plans or policy approaches were introduced on domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, forced marriage and prostitution, but these were not linked by an overarching definition or brought together within a broader national strategy.  There were also different initiatives within the regions of the UK, with Scotland, which has its own parliament, working towards a strategy on violence against women, Northern Ireland and Wales, which also have some self-governing powers, focusing primarily on measures to tackle domestic violence, and the Westminster government, based in England (with some powers over the regions), adopting separate measures to address forms of violence against women.

Details of the campaign

Over a period of five years, End Violence Against Women, a coalition of women’s organisations, activists, researchers and trade unions lobbied the government (and opposition parties) to develop a strategy that would coordinate the work already being conducted in several key directions:

  • Across the range of forms of violence against women
  • Across national government departments
  • Across the nations and regions of the UK

One method used was to show how working to eliminate violence against women was linked to the main areas of work of each of the national government departments.  Members of End Violence Against Women conducted three annual assessments of departmental performance in relation to addressing violence against women, giving overall scores out of 10 and publishing them in reports called Making the Grade 2005, 2006 and 2007.  These scores became the basis for discussion with the departments about how they could enhance their work on violence against women issues.  Alongside these reports, the campaign analysed literature about each department’s strategic priorities and objectives to show how they were linked to violence against women, and whether or not these links were or were not being made. A visual map of the relevance of violence against women across sectors was also produced (see image below).

Outcomes

Lessons learned

  • Persistence and creativity are needed to engage diverse sectors.
  • Producing a shadow report to CEDAW on responses to violence against women brought NGOs together and ensured the CEDAW committee asked searching questions, including why there was no national action plan, which leveraged national advocacy efforts to develop one.

More information

End Violence Against Women Coalition website

(Adapted from Butegwa & Awori, 2010).

 

An example of how to engage with national legal and policy frameworks comes from the End Violence Against Women campaign in the UK (shown as a case study below).  The campaign brought together numerous NGOs from the specialist violence against women sector, together with academics, activists and some national organisations, such as the Trades Union Congress, which established consensus on the need for a coordinated government-led response to violence against women. The campaign organized an institutional advocacy initiative, involving an assessment process of the work by all government departments on addressing violence against women and an analysis of how strategic objectives of government were connected to violence against women, even where this did not seem obvious.