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Systems-based Approach

System-wide approaches transform the structure and operational aspects of any particular sector to better prevent and respond to violence against women and girls by integrating actions and responsibilities across the sector and its personnel.

System-wide approaches are critical to implement in the ‘frontline’ health, security (police) and judicial sectors, particularly since effective services for survivors depend on collaboration between actors in different roles and require interaction with various processes within any one sector. For each sector, this involves policy-makers, service providers, technical and administrative personnel, and includes the policy framework and infrastructure (training and service protocols, facilities and processes) that can facilitate or create barriers to survivors seeking assistance. (Heise, Ellsberg, and Gottemoeller, 1999)

Key opportunities to support system-wide approaches include:

  • Multi-faceted interventions that support individual, organizational, institutional and broader societal change.
  • Consideration of processes, relationships and incentives for performance toward improving effective service delivery (and of sanctions for failure to comply with established human rights obligations and protocols).
  • Programming that engages all relevant stakeholders, from policy-makers to community-level service providers from different sectors and that integrates broader efforts to address violence against women, involving diverse groups and institutions (including community networks and non-governmental organizations), drawing upon existing policy frameworks and other resources committed to ending the problem.
  • Acknowledging and investing in demand-based interventions in order to empower women and girls and maximize the utility of services provided, since  supply-based interventions (e.g. improving standards and extent of services for violence survivors) may be underutilized by those most in need. Demand can be increased by:
  • Widely disseminating information on the services available (through electronic and print media and through women’s networks).
  • Raising awareness on legal rights, the recourse available to women and the penalties that perpetrators may face.
  • Working with communities to reduce stigma and promote zero tolerance.
  • Improving the quality of care provided by health practitioners and the police through standards of practice/protocols, pre-service and on-the-job training.
  • Considering the practical and logistical challenges women face (transportation, user fees, hours of operation for services, etc.)
  • Within a given sector, a system-wide approach normally entails: training for all staff on gender and violence against women (ideally before service begins and on the job); skill-building with staff on their specific roles and other programmatic elements (such as management information systems and monitoring and evaluation processes); institutionalization of protocols and policies; and improved equipment and infrastructure.

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