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General considerations

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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  • In order to identify the best entry points and strategies to address the issue at a national and/or local level, formative research or situational analyses should be undertaken to better understand the context in which a programme will be implemented. A comprehensive assessment of the current situation with regards to the extent (prevalence and incidence) and forms of violence, the security responses to such violence (from both the legal/policy and operational level), among other factors, can contribute greatly to identifying the opportunities and risks to working with the sector as a whole and specific institutions or actors in particular, and is key for planning and designing effective interventions.

See additional tools for conducting situational analyses.

  • Research may be qualitative and quantitative, and should combine the two approaches, where possible, to give a range of perspectives and enable findings to be triangulated and more robust.

  • Situational analyses should draw upon existing research and documentation (e.g. population-based studies on prevalence, costs and consequences of violence, crime surveys, etc); and much of the initial analysis can be desk-based. Where publicly available, crime and police records may also provide a wealth of information.

  • Data collection should be as participatory as possible in order to gain a multifaceted perspective on the issue. Where there is limited data and more extensive primary research may be needed, the process should involve individual interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders, including survivors, leadership or personnel within the ministry of defense, ministry of interior or national police institutions, service providers, advocates, civil society organizations and perpetrators, among other actors. The perceptions and experiences of stakeholders and how effective they believe institutions and personnel are at addressing the issue are important for understanding how to effectively create the necessary changes.

  • When asking questions about intimate subjects such as domestic and/ or sexual violence, interviews with survivors should always follow ethical guidelines (OECD/ DAC, 2007).


Who conducts Formative Research?

  • Assessments conducted to inform the design of gender-based violence initiatives engaging the police or security sector are usually undertaken by non-governmental organizations, donors, research bodies or independent consultants. Security institutions and leaders are usually consulted as part of the process, where appropriate; and individual personnel may form part of the assessment team (but have not traditionally conducted such assessments on their own).

  • Assessment teams should include both women and men and comprise:

    • National or international experts with specific knowledge both on violence against women and the security sector. Where possible, they should have experience conducting programme or issue-specific assessments. International experts may also be useful in providing comparisons and ideas from other country settings (OECD/ DAC, 2007).

    • National experts with an in-depth understanding of the role and practices of police (and military where relevant) in relation to gender-based violence, who have the communication and facilitation skills  to consult with a wide range of state and civil society stakeholders from both rural and urban contexts, including from different ethnic, national or religious backgrounds.

    • Translators may be required to ensure local language groups are engaged, with consideration given to hiring female translators when discussing issues with survivors.

    • Security personnel with gender expertise, ideally with responsibilities related to addressing violence. Male staff can particularly help strengthen male allies in security institutions, which is crucial to ensuring the success of an initiative (OECD/ DAC, 2009).