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Create inter-sectoral networks or commissions to design/oversee national policies on violence against women

Last edited: February 26, 2019

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Governments should establish or support existing networks with responsibilities for improving inter-sectoral coordination, and monitoring progress on the development and implementation of national/federal plans and policies on violence against women.  These networks should include, at a minimum, representatives of the ministries of education, health, home affairs/interior, justice, women and children’s affairs, as well as national/federal institutions such as police and prosecutors and women’s NGOs that work on violence. 

The heads of these networks/commissions will vary in different contexts.  In some countries, a well-established and adequately resourced national women’s machinery (such as a Ministry of Women’s Affairs or other type of agency tasked with promoting gender equality and women’s rights), can ensure national policies are implemented locally (Franceschet, 2008). However, this type of organisation may not exist in all contexts, or may need improved resources and/or status to become more effective. In such cases, it may necessitate having another Ministry charged with coordination, such as Justice or Interior, while the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is being strengthened and given the authority to coordinate other Ministries.

These bodies should carry out a range of functions to help achieve more coordinated responses, including:

  • Informing national and local cross-sectoral policy development;
  • Coordinating and informing cross-government action on violence against women;
  • Acting as an intermediary between state and civil society;
  • Overseeing and monitoring implementation of coordinated responses at national and sub-national levels;
  • Conducting research and evaluation; and
  • Capacity building across their own networks, including organising training and disseminating knowledge, guidance, tools and promising practices relating to coordination.

In many parts of the world, governments’ commitment to address violence against women or to ensure implementation of laws and national action plans has been weak.  As a result, there has been a tendency towards poor coordination among different sectors and between local, national and regional strategies.  To address this, many governments have established mechanisms (e.g. National Commissions for women’s rights in Latin America) to ensure implementation.  In order for any mechanism to be successful, however, the entity must have political clout (Contreras et al., 2010).  This can include, for example directors who hold ministerial rank, a substantial administrative staff and the ability to negotiate their own budgets – see the National Women’s Service (SERNAM) in Chile example below (Franceschet, 2008) (in Spanish).

Example: National Women’s Service (Chile)

The National Women’s Service (SERNAM) was set up in Chile in 1991.  The head of SERNAM has the rank of Minister of State, and this role as part of the executive and legislator has meant it has contributed to relative stability and success, as well as ensuring external organisations have been bound to work with it.  It has offices in all 13 regions of the country.

SERNAM’s mission is to design, propose and coordinate policies, plans, measures and legal reforms that promote equal rights and opportunities between men and women.  A key area of work is violence against women, primarily domestic violence.  SERNAM has contributed to the development of networks of over 90 women’s centres, which provide comprehensive care to women experiencing domestic violence, and 24 shelters providing emergency accommodation.  SERNAM was also central to the development of the 1994 and 2005 domestic violence laws.

A key objective is coordination with various sectors of public administration at central, regional and local levels, to ensure that gender equality measures, including violence against women, are incorporated in their policies, plans and programmes.  This involves:

  •  Developing technical and methodological guidance for implementation at central, regional and local levels.
  • Managing and tracking and agreements between SERNAM and other government agencies.
  • Coordinating with other State entities to design, develop and implement public policies, plans and programmes.
  • Advising the Regional Directors in Regional Strategic Management Plans and transferring skills to regional teams for gender mainstreaming in planning, management and investment of local and regional governments.
  • Advising the Service in all matters relating to programming at national and measures for the realisation of its policies to be taken at regional level.
  • Coordinating with other entities of state administration with regard to programmes, plans and actions in line with SERNAM’s aims and objectives.

Source: SERNAM website

The Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women undertaken by the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh involves ten ministries and a multi-sectoral management set-up.  The following diagram shows the multi-sectoral management structure, explaining the roles of each ministry in the project's components.  Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women, Bangladesh, 2015.

Example: National Gender-Based Violence Task Force (Liberia)

Liberia suffered many years of internal conflict, with high rates of sexual violence and torture, with sexual violence continuing after the peace process.  In 2006, the Liberian Government developed a National Action Plan on Preventing and Managing Gender-Based Violence (updated by a follow-up plan 2011-2015) and established the National Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Task Force, as well as a Gender-Based Violence Unit to serve as a Secretariat.  Coordination is one of five key pillars of the action plan and a Joint Programme objective; the others are psychosocial support, health, legal reform and security/protection.

The Ministry of Gender and Development has overall responsibility for coordination and chairs the GBV Task Force.  The primary role of the Task Force is to coordinate and monitor implementation of the National Action Plan and to ensure inter-organisational cooperation.  The Task Force includes representatives of national and international NGOs, UN agencies and government.  The government’s efforts to address violence against women are supported by the UN Joint Programme on Gender-Based Violence, which provides technical assistance and financial support.  National Standard Operating Procedures have been agreed between all agencies, which endorse a collaborative, inter-agency, community-based approach.

A similar regional coordination structure was established in all the fifteen counties.  County Gender Coordinators represent the Ministry of Gender and Development at the county level and are responsible for building alliances with women and children’s organisations, mainstreaming gender and protection in local plans and programmes. The county gender coordinators chair the GBV Task Force meetings in the counties and are the main point of coordination at county level.

Sources:

PSEA Taskforce (2008) Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Liberia: A Case Study, Monrovia: PSEA In Country Network – Liberia, available in English.