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Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • Any programming aimed at ending violence against women and girls must begin with an assessment that allows the organization to understand the specific factors affecting VAWG in a given context, such as:
    • the predominant types of VAWG
    • risk and protective factors associated with victimization
    • risk and protective factors associated with perpetration
    • how the types of violence and their causes and consequences are perceived by survivors and their family and community members
    • existing available services, and any barriers or challenges to accessing those services
    • settings/locations of types of VAWG
    • help-seeking behaviours
    • a breakdown of the range of women and girls seeking support
    • particular vulnerabilities faced by marginalized populations of women and girls, such as women with disabilities, LBTI, ethnic/religious minorities, female youth, elderly women, etc.
    • current and potential service providers, donors.
  • In conflict/post-conflict settings, designing and carrying-out assessments can be prioritized to include the following essential steps, allowing for a more rapid assessment of needs, and which can be summarized as a process of determining “what we already know, what we need to know and how we get this information” (IRC, 2012, pg. 28):
    • Identify existing VAWG information and other (planned or completed) assessments by coordinating with other VAWG actors and humanitarian agencies.
    • Determine what the objectives, parameters and scope of the assessment will be, including the target population and community.
    • Determine the available human and financial resources and establish the time-line required for conducting the assessment.
    • Establish the methodology to be used, whether qualitative, quantitative or both.
  • All actors must take careful consideration in deciding whether or not to include children in information-gathering activities. There must be a strong case for initiating information-gathering activities, given children’s vulnerability. The risks of harm for children are greater than for adults, particularly in the immediate onset of an emergency. Initial information-gathering activities with children and adolescents require an extremely strong justification. This can be assessed based on the following criteria, which must also be upheld throughout the information-gathering process:
    • We have determined that the benefits to gathering information outweigh the risks.
    • We have put in place sufficient human and financial resources to conduct information gathering in an ethical manner.
    • We know the information needed cannot be gathered elsewhere. In other words, it does not already exist in older assessments and cannot be gathered accurately by older informants (adults).
    • We can uphold specific procedures for ensuring children’s support and safety throughout the interview process (e.g., consideration of where to interview, what ages are appropriate to interview, appropriate questions to use, etc.).
    • We can guarantee basic support and care services if a child is found to be in need.
    • We have considered and sufficiently safeguarded against adverse consequences. We have consulted with community members and parents, guardians or caregivers to anticipate all possible consequences for children involved in the information gathering process.
    • We have actively sought community and stakeholder concerns, and have consulted community leaders for permission to interview community members about children’s protection concerns (Source: IRC GBV Emergency Response and Preparedness Participant Handbook).
  • Conducting assessments on VAWG creates a unique set of challenges that must be considered and addressed prior to the commencement of any data collection and according to ethical and safety standards. These include:
    • Identifying safe and accessible local services for survivors before carrying out the assessment so that any assessment participants requiring immediate health, psychosocial, or protection assistance can be provided safe and active referrals.
    • Working in close partnership with local VAWG actors, adapt assessment templates or generic tools to the local context, while ensuring compliance with international standards for research on VAWG. Information collected before the assessment from partners, project records, other staff and public sources of information can help contextualize assessment tools.
    • Obtain proper permissions and respect any protocols with regard to the collection of information from emergency-affected communities. This may include meeting with and receiving permission from government or local authorities, camp management, and/or cluster leads, including those from the protection cluster and the GBV sub-cluster.
    • Provide relevant and sufficient training and ongoing support to the data collection team. This includes briefing them on relevant security protocols. The environments in which organizations operate can be volatile, and the presence of armed actors can increase the likelihood of sporadic fighting. Staff must understand how to react and protect themselves and those they are interviewing.  The priority should always be to ensure the safety and well-being of interviewers and interviewees.
    • Staff conducting assessments should properly identify themselves in the settings where they are conducting research; communities and respondents should be clear about who researchers are, who they work with, and what the focus of the research is, so that the potential interviewees can make an informed decision about their consent to participating. 
    • Get informed consent from anyone providing information and ensure that respondents know that they are under no obligation to share personal information or participate in focus groups or interviews; that any information collected will not be attributable; and names of all participants will be kept confidential.
    • Establish an environment of trust and equality with women and girls in the targeted community and promote a safe and secure environment.
    • Put additional safeguards in place if children (i.e., those under 18 years) are to be the subject of information gathering (adapted or excerpted from IRC, 2012 and WHO, 2007), and consult with child protection actors to determine the most appropriate age range for each context.
  • Assessments and assessment teams must not perpetuate stigma by actively and visibly associating GBV with individuals or groups with whom they meet. All assessment team members must understand fully the ways in which assessments can increase violence against women and girls and must not purposefully target survivors when collecting information from community members
  • In many emergencies, ethical and safety considerations may be overlooked when conducting assessments, particularly by agencies or actors who are unfamiliar with GBV programming. This inconsistency often puts women and girls and GBV staff at risk; the safety and security of women and girls should never be trumped by the need to collect and analyse information (Source: IRC GBV ERP Participant Handbook).
  • The WHO recommendations are the starting point for any assessment that includes GBV components, and especially for those that are conducted as part of the initial emergency response. They are:

Source: WHO. 2007. Ethical and safety recommendations for researching, documenting and monitoring sexual violence in emergencies. Geneva, World Health Organization, pg. 9.  

UN Action. 2008. “Reporting and Interpreting Data on Sexual Violence From Conflict-Affected Countries – “Do’s and Don’ts”.