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Design training content based on best practice

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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  • Training should start with issues that personnel may be more comfortable discussing (how to identify security priorities, the health and working conditions of personnel, legal obligations of police related to human rights and violence against women, etc) and gradually introduce more sensitive subjects such as gender inequality and violence perpetrated by personnel). This can help build trust between participants and trainers, which is critical for effectively engaging security personnel in discussing taboo and controversial issues and challenging their own attitudes and practices (Rozan, 2011; UNFPA, 2009). See examples of how this was done in Pakistan and India. To date, most training with security personnel has been focused broadly on gender or women’s human rights rather than specifically addressing violence against them. More recently, there have been a growing number of courses and modules specific to violence against women, and at least 89 countries have conducted training with police on the issue (Secretary-General’s Database, 2011).

  • Existing materials should be reviewed and adapted where possible to maximize time and resources and build on best practice. A wide range of relevant training curricula and materials have been developed in different countries by police and military academies, gender units and ministries supported by non-governmental organizations and donor agencies. In some countries, there are efforts underway to consolidate these materials and form a repository of resources and best practices for both general training on gender and human rights and more specific training in areas like investigation and interviewing survivors. These should be reviewed as a first step in developing any training curricula. See training materials for police; and country-specific information on training initiatives may be found through the Secretary-General’s Database (filter for training).

  • Violence against women should be addressed within a standard curriculum for all police and army personnel and be given to both new recruits and as part of in-service training, with relevant topics including (Tõnisson Kleppe, 2008; Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006; Bastick, M. and Valasek, K., 2008):

    • General gender equality and diversity awareness (e.g. meaning of gender vs. sex, masculinities/femininities, gender mainstreaming, equal participation)

    • Respect for and promotion of human rights, including the human rights of women and girls

    • How the security needs and perceptions of women, men, girls and boys differ / are alike

    • The types, causes and consequences of gender inequality and violence against women, including risk and protective factors for individuals, relationships communities and society

    • Relevant national/local statistics on violence against women and girls (e.g the extent and forms of violence experienced by women and girls in the community, with examples of the context in which they occur – respecting confidentiality and anonymity of survivors)

    • National, regional and international legislation and conventions related to violence against women and women’s human rights and the responsibilities of security actors established by legal frameworks

    • Institutional policies and codes of conduct on domestic violence, discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse (definitions, prohibitions, complaint procedure, disciplinary procedures)

  • For staff who respond to incidents of violence and directly work with survivors, more specific training should be provided to increase their knowledge, skills and capacities in the following areas:

    • Response protocols and practices fordifferent forms of violence (domestic violence, rape/ sexual assault, trafficking, etc.).

    • Techniques and ethical guidelines for the protection and treatment of survivors.

    • Techniques for interviewing survivors, ensuring the rights of women and girls are protected and she does not suffer revictimization, monitoring for signs of trauma, etc.

    • Statement writing and report writing.

    • Violence prevention, which can help police to promote zero tolerance of abuses against women and engage communities to demonstrate their commitment to ending impunity and eliminating violence.

    • Training on the referral network and coordinating with other service providers to ensure survivors get the medical, legal, psychosocial and other support they need.

Example: Gender-based Violence Module for Police Training Curriculum, Uganda

In 2009, a training module was developed for the Ugandan Police Force in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development to help develop officer skills to respond to cases of violence against women reported at police stations. The module requires 26 hours or approximately 6 hours per day conducted over 4 days, with topics tailored to increase officers’ knowledge, address negative attitudes and belief systems regarding gender-based violence to enable officers to develop necessary skills to effectively respond to violence cases. The module comprises 2 parts:

 Part A: Increasing knowledge

  • What is gender-based violence (GBV)?
  • Overview of GBV

  • Myths and stereotypes about GBV

  • GBV as a human rights issue

  • Overview of domestic violence

  • Cause and consequences of domestic violence

  • Cycle of domestic violence

  • Characteristics of offenders

  • Understanding HIV PEP for survivors of sexual assault

  • Understanding sexual assault

  • Victim blame

Part B: Skills building topics

  • Procedures of handling survivors of GBV

  • Understanding the Domestic Violence Act and the police’s role to enforce it

  • Guiding principles of handling cases of GBV

  • Interviewing cases of GBV

  • Risk assessment and safety planning

  • Determining the predominant aggressor

  • Giving options to survivors of GBV

Source: Alal, Y. 2009. Responding to Violence Against Women: A Training Manual for Uganda Police Force. Kampala: Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention.


Example: Training module on dealing with witness and victims of war-related crimes

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe - Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has formulated a training module on International Criminal and Humanitarian Law for prosecutors, investigators/police, judges and Defense counsel dealing with witnesses and victims of war-related crimes.

Participants are taught techniques for appropriately questioning traumatized witnesses and victims, and have opportunities to practice them through simulated exercises in a controlled environment. Specific training topics include:

1. General interviewing approaches and best practices

2. Protection of witnesses:

  1. a. Assessment of protection needs
  2. b. Legal framework
  3. c. Accessing protective measures (e.g. voice distortion, pseudonyms)

3. Scope of direct examination, cross-examination and redirect, where applicable

4. Types of questions and when to employ them (open, closed, leading)

5. Techniques for questioning eyewitnesses, experts and hostile witnesses

6. Appropriately and effectively questioning traumatized witnesses

7. Witness support and how to access it

8. Recognizing and dealing with secondary trauma

Sources: OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2009) Supporting the Transition Process: Lessons Learned and Best Practices in Knowledge Transfer Final Report; Bastick, M. and de Torres, D. (2010), ‘Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Resolutions in Security Sector Reform – Tool 13’, Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit., Geneva: DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN-INSTRAW.


Key Tools: Training Manuals and Resources

Gender Training for the Security Sector: Lessons identified and practical resources (Analee Pepper for the  Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces – DCAF, 2013). This publication is for practitioners involved in gender training with security sector actors. Based on experiences of gender trainers across regions, the report includes lessons learned, tips for addressing common training challenges as well as a collection of vetted gender training exercises and list of additional training materials. Available in English.

Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (DPKO, 2011). As part of its Specialized Training Materials on Protection of Civilians, this module is for trainers of senior military officers in United Nations peacekeeping units. The module aims to familiarize peacekeeping personnel with: an understanding of the nature of sexual violence in armed conflict, and enable them to consider and implement strategic, operational, and tactical protection measures; the Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice on Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence; and military command measures associated with the protection of civilians under threat of violence, particularly sexual violence. The module includes detailed facilitation guidance and material for delivering a training presentation and facilitating scenario-based exercises for responding to conflict-related sexual violence. Available in English.

Training curriculum on effective police responses to violence against women, Criminal Justice Handbook Series (UNODC, 2010).This training curriculum is for trainers working with police. The curriculum accompanies a UNODC Handbook and is designed to help local and national police develop the knowledge and skills required to prevent, respond to and investigate acts of intimate partner violence against women. The curriculum contains seven modules, which include distinct learning objectives, a bullet-point summary of the content found in the accompanying Handbook and suggested learning activities, with participant handouts and a Training of Trainers background note to support the training process. Available in English.

Protection from sexual violence, exploitation and abuses (UNITAR). This online course is for students, researchers, academics and individuals from governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as national and regional military and police personnel of every rank and function. The course aims to introduce the main concepts, normative frameworks and laws related to sexual behaviour in settings where peace operations are deployed. It builds on real life situations to reflect on the nature, implications and ways to prevent such violations from occurring. Applications and course is available in English. 

Police Response to Violence against Women (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2010). Provides training materials and other tools to improve law enforcement personnel’s ability to respond effectively to human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence by police officers and domestic violence and all other crimes against women. Available in English. 

Southern Sudan Gender Based Violence Prevention and Response Training Manual (American Refugee Committee, 2010). This training manual, based on the context of Southern Sudan, includes three modules for community activists and peer educators, the five day Caring for Survivors Training and a module for the Southern Sudan Police Special Protection Unit. The module includes detailed facilitation notes as well as pre- and post-test assessment forms. Available in English.

Gender and Security Sector Reform Training Resource Package (Bastick, M. and Valasek, K. DCAF, , 2009). Designed as a companion to the Gender and SSR Toolkit, the Gender and SSR Training Resource Package is designed to provide a wide range of exercises, discussion topics and examples from the ground that can be adapted and integrated into SSR training. This guide is explicitly designed for security sector trainers and educators and includes eleven modules relating to different parts of the security sector. The first module consists of a guide to integrating gender into SSR Training. Available in English and French.

Child Domestic and Gender Based Violence and Related Abuses Training Manual (Rwandan National Police Criminal Investigation Department, 2008).This manual is a resource for law enforcement officers and trainers to improve police interview techniques in gender-based violence, including sexual abuse cases. The tool provides detailed guidance on the process and manner for interviewing survivors, including child victims of sexual abuse, as well as taking statements from witnesses and interviewing alleged perpetrators. Available in English; 32 pages.

‘Gender Training for Security Sector Personnel’ Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit (Bastick, M. and Valasek, K., DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR and UN-INSTRAW, 2010). Designed to provide a practical introduction to gender issues for security sector reform practitioners and policy-makers, the Toolkit includes 13 Tools and Practice Notes. Practice Note 9 is based on the longer Tool 9 and provides a short introduction to the benefits of conducting gender training, as well as practical information on doing so. Available in Arabic, English, French, Indonesian, Montenegrin and Russian. Select tools are also available in Dari (Tool 2), Albanian (Tool 7), Georgian (Tool 9) and Spanish (Tool 13).


‘Gender Training for Security Sector Personnel: Good Practices and Lessons Learned Tool 12’, Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit (Kleppe, T., 2008). Part of a larger toolkit for security sector reform practitioners and policy-makers, Tool 12 is a practical guide for staff of security institutions, international and regional organizations, and civil society that plan, conduct or evaluate gender training for security personnel. It covers preparing, implementing, and evaluating gender training for security personnel. Available in Arabic; English; French; and Indonesian.

India Manual for Training Police on Anti Human Trafficking (UNODC, 2008). This resource is for training police and is a part of UNODC's series of anti-human trafficking tools. It provides guidance on working with police to understand their role to address the issue using a human-rights based framework. Organized into 4 modules, the manual covers: an overview of trafficking and related concepts; police responses to trafficking cases, including a list of do's and don’ts; police conduct, such as behavior, attitude, and communication; and detailed guidance on training and facilitation. The modules and suggested agendas and activities may be used together or as separate training pieces. Available in English.

Responding to Domestic Violence: A Handbook for the Uganda Police Force (Turyasingura for Center for Domestic Violence Prevention, 2007). This Handbook provides background information on the problem of domestic violence as an abuse of human rights and provides guidelines on how to interview the victims, children who are affected by domestic violence as both victims and witnesses, and the perpetuators of domestic violence. Available in English.

Commonwealth Manual on Human Rights Training for Police (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006). This training manual provides a ready-to-use resource for police and law enforcement trainers in Commonwealth countries, enabling them to build human rights standards, principles and approaches directly into the ordinary, existing curriculum of their training institutions. The manual includes a specific chapter on Women’s Rights, which covers domestic violence, international standards and practices applicable when dealing with violence against women, trafficking and exploitation of women, as well as women police officers. Available in English.

Police Response to Crimes of Sexual Assault: A Training Curriculum 2nd Edition (Hunter, 2006).The curriculum is designed for law enforcement professionals dealing with sexual assault and is divided into six modules: overview of sexual assault, definitions and related statutes, procedures for police investigations including collection of evidence, services available to victims, information for sex offenders and legal issues. Based on the context in the United States, the curriculum may be adapted to various settings. Available in English.

Gender and Citizen Security Regional Training Manual (GTZ. 2005). This training manual, developed within the framework of the regional project with the Nicaraguan police. It comprises background text, guidance for trainers working with law enforcement personnel and supplemental material to support the training and programming efforts to improve the responsiveness of security institutions and personnel. Available in English.

VIP Guide: Vision, Innovation and Professionalism in Policing Violence Against Women and Children (L. Kelly for The Council of Europe, 2003) This guide, developed by the Council of Europe, is a guide for police officers, managers and trainers to promote awareness of the different forms of violence against women and children, including trafficking. The guide is part of a larger training package from the Council of Europe Police and Human Rights Programme and may be used as a self-study or targeted training on individual topics, and is accompanied by a website and CD-Rom. The guide is organized into 15 chapters that provide background on issues of violence, including definitions, research findings, common misunderstandings, and good practice on addressing the different forms of violence.  Available for purchase in English, 208 pages.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Course (Pearson Peacekeeping Centre). This course, initially developed for the UNAMID mission in Darfur and later used to train Sudanese National Police, is now available as a core module for institutions to enhance the operational skills of personnel in a UN or regional/hybrid mission. The training reinforces key skills such as interviewing victims, witnesses and suspects, problem-solving, communication and mentoring. Available through the Centre in English, French and Spanish.

Guidelines for Police Training on Violence against women and child sexual abuse (2nd edition) (Commonwealth Secretariat, 1999). These guidelines cover eight specific issues: Gender, human rights and the law; Police attitudes and sensitization; Crime prevention approaches to repeat victimization; Perspectives on offender profiling; Evidence and investigation techniques; Medical and forensic evidence and investigation procedures; Liaison with non-police organizations; and Statistics, data collection and case management. Training modules on rape, other sexual offences, domestic violence, child abuse and protection are also noted as models of good practice from select Commonwealth countries. Available in English.

The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center undertakes and delivers research and training programmes that contribute to global peacekeeping operations. The Centre provides a range of courses for international peacekeepers, including on the rule of law and sexual exploitation and abuse. Available in English.

Women’s Human Rights Training (Advocates for Human Rights, 2003). This resource provides guidance for conducting awareness-raising training with institutions, services providers, including law enforcement, or community organizations on various forms of violence. The site includes guidance for facilitators on developing training methodologies as well as sample training materials, including evaluation forms. Available in English.

Successfully Investigating Acquaintance Sexual Assault: A National Training Manual for Law Enforcement (National Center for Women and Policing and U.S. Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office, 2001). This set of training materials is a manual for police investigating acquaintance sexual assault. The module is designed for police and examines the various issues relevant in cases involving false allegations, including indicators and investigation of such cases. Available in English; 22 pages.

Training and Awareness-Raising for Professionals (WAVE, 2000). This training manual contains basic information and training material relating to the issue of violence against women in intimate relationships, based on the context across Europe. It is designed for use in training and advancing training courses for professionals in various fields, with specific modules and handouts for training law enforcement. Available in English.

The Violence Against Women Training Materials (Soul City: Institute of Health and Development Communication, 1999). The package includes materials for trainers working with the police, health workers, court clerks, and service providers for abused women. The resource comprises posters, a comic book, video, handbook and training courses, with material developed from Matlakala's Story in Soul City's fourth series as a separate training. Available by purchase in Afrikaans, English, SeSotho, Xhosa and Zulu (select materials); various lengths.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Website (US Department of Defense). This website is a resource for military personnel, advocates, trainers and the general public to better understand the United States military’s policies and practices in addressing sexual assault by military personnel. The site features policy and research publications, audio-visual training resources, public information materials and links to support services for affected military personnel and civilians. Available in English