Coordinated community response programs work to create a network of support for victims and their families that is both available and accessible. They also use the full extent of the community’s legal system to protect victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and reinforce the community’s intolerance of violence against women.
Inter-agency coordination is a critical component of a coordinated community response response. A single case of domestic or dowry-related violence, for example, may involve multiple laws and regulations, various levels of government and numerous intervening agencies and groups. In the course of a day, that single case may be in the hands of multiple practitioners throughout the civil and criminal justice systems as well as service agencies. Coordination of responses and accountability of those practitioners can significantly increase the effective implementation of new laws created to protect victims, prosecute offenders, and prevent further violence. Interagency coordination involves:
(See: Domestic Violence: Legislation and its Implementation, 40-45, UNIFEM (2009))
Legislation should include the following strategies in order to achieve a coordinated community response:
See: Goals and Strategies of Intervention, Stop VAW, The Advocates for Human Rights; Implementation of Laws on Violence against Women.
Example: Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) initiates coordinated community responses to combat acid based violence in Bangladesh. Victims of acid attacks are referred to the ASF hospital, where they undergo surgery and physical therapy. ASF lawyers are assigned to every new victim brought into the hospital. Lawyers coordinate with police and prosecutors to ensure a thorough and speedy trial. To help survivors reintegrate into society, ASF has partnered with other organizations to help provide job placement and economic independence. On the advocacy level, ASF arranges meetings with local governments to help raise awareness about this form of violence. They also conduct trainings for other doctors and nurses so they can better treat the acid attacked patients.
CASE STUDY: Engaging traditional leaders in combating domestic violence in Cameroon.
Gender-based violence in Cameroon is manifested by sexual violence, harmful practices, and domestic violence. Women in Cameroon experience physical and psychological domestic violence on a regular basis. This violence is the result of a belief in women’s subordinate status, the shame involved in reporting the violence, and the lack of an effective state response to the violence. In 2007, a Cameroonian NGO, The Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy (CHRAPA), sponsored by The Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women, UNIFEM, began a multi-level project to address these concerns. The project consisted of: establishing a program of legal assistance to victims; educating the public and certain target groups such as police, women’s group leaders, and traditional authorities; endeavoring to pass a draft law against gender-based violence; and carrying out a baseline survey in the project area in order to obtain statistics on VAW, including its forms, frequency, and perpetrators.
The project team employed a participatory management system which involved all of the stakeholders in planning their roles to execute the project. This created an informed and vested group of stakeholders who supported the goals of the project. Stakeholder involvement by one group in particular was found to create a positive outcome. A Network of Traditional Authorities, or fons, was formed. These area chiefs determined strategies to end gender-based violence in their area and implemented restitution for victims of gender-based violence. Project managers reported that these traditional authorities, who were once the custodians of violent practices against women, are now calling upon their communities to refrain from these practices. The fons have continued to hold traditional meetings to raise awareness, to monitor achievements, and to deal with cases of abuse. Violence against women is a regular agenda item at these traditional meetings, and CHRAPA keeps the fons up-to-date on issues of violence against women.
(See: Section on Implementation of Laws)
The UNODC Southern Africa and the South Africa Department of Social Development created one-stop service centres for domestic violence victims and their children. These centres integrate government and community services to provide aid to victims and to promote prevention programs, including radio shows, school programs, and work with young male prison inmates. (See: “Project Counters Domestic Violence in South Africa,” UNODC Update No. 4 (2005))