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Comprehensive situational assessments

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • A comprehensive situational analysis combines a variety of assessment tools and techniques –review of existing assessments/studies, key information interviews, focus groups, site observation—in order to obtain a wide-ranging understanding of VAWG issues, needs, programmes, and programming gaps. It is used to collect and analyze both quantitative and qualitative information to develop effective action plans. It can provide a deeper understanding of the underlying factors–cultural, political, legal, physical and socioeconomic—contributing to violence against women and girls in a given country or context. It can also serve to assess existing multi-sectoral services as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
  • The process of conducting a situational analysis can itself be an intervention, by initiating a public discussion of violence and opening dialogue with key institutional actors. The situational analysis should be used as a tool to instruct as much as it is a tool to investigate. For this reason, it is strongly suggested that those using the tool are members of the local community, with a long-term and vested interest in using the knowledge gained from the situational analysis to improve GBV programming. Local researchers should not only participate in (and, wherever possible, lead) the research process, but should also be actively engaged in reviewing the results and developing action plans.
  • A situational analysis should assess (excerpted from Ward, 2010, pg. 76, unless otherwise noted):
    • Security situation
    • Types and extent of GBV
    • Types and extent of multi-sectoral services
    • Policies, practices, attitudes of service providers
    • Attitudes, practices, norms in the community
    • Help-seeking behaviour
    • Legal environment (both formal and informal sectors)
    • Existing (and efficiency of) mechanisms for interagency and interdisciplinary coordination (Vann, 2002)
    • Risk and protective factors for victimization and perpetration
  • For a situational analysis, this information and data can be obtained by collecting information from, for example:
    • Members of the community affected or at risk
    • women’s organizations/groups
    • organizations/individuals representing women and girls who may be particularly marginalized
    • direct service providers and institutional administrators within and across all the key sectors
    • Government representatives of relevant ministries;
    • traditional leaders
    • youth organizations/groups
    • community leader(s)
    • and representatives of clusters/sectors in humanitarian response
  • Although it would be ideal to undertake a comprehensive situational analysis in the early stages of an emergency, it is often not possible because of limited availability of VAWG technical staff to lead the research process, limited services to assess, general lack of security and access, and limited time and resources to ensure a broad-based analysis. Thus, it is often more useful to conduct a comprehensive situational analysis a month or more into the humanitarian response. The situational analysis can be a joint project of multiple organizations that subsequently share the information with VAWG coordination partners in order to develop/refine coordination action plans.  Transparency in research processes and sharing of data amongst VAWG colleagues is important in ensuring that information from assessments is used to inform local and national strategies for prevention and response.

Additional Tools:

For Sample Situational Analysis Questions see, Ward, J. 2010.  Handbook for Coordination Gender-based Violence in Humanitarian Settings, GBV Area of Responsibility Annex 37.

For Situational Analysis Guidelines see Ward, J. (ed).  2004b.  GBV Tools Manual for Assessment, Program Design and Program Monitoring and Evaluation.  RHRC Consortium. New York, pg. 19-50.

The Heightened Risk Identification Tool and User Guide have been developed to enhance UNHCR's effectiveness in identifying refugees at risk by linking community-based / participatory assessments and individual assessment methodologies. They have been designed for use by UNHCR staff involved in community services and/or protection activities (including resettlement) and partner agencies. While the tool currently addresses the vulnerabilities of older people, children and adolescents, women and girls, and persons with disabilities, it should continue to be revised and expanded to include other populations such as LBTI, sex workers, children born of rape, indigenous people, etc.  See the User Guide and Tool.

OCHA Gender Toolkit: Gender in Coordinated Needs Assessments.

See the provisional Child Protection Rapid Assessment Toolkit (2013) of the Child Protection Area of Responsibility.

See Section II on Assessment Tools of the GBV Manual of the Reproductive Health Response in Conflict.


Sample Assessments:

CARE Benin. 2011. An Assessment of Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies in Southern Benin, Emergency Program.

UNFPA.  2007a.  GBV Assessment Report Kebri Beyah Refugee Camp, Somali Region, Ethiopia and Shimelba Refugee Camp, from 19 February to 6 March 2007.

UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM and CCF. 2008.  A Rapid Assessment of Gender-based Violence During the Post-Election Violence in Kenya, February 2008.

UNICEF/UNFPA/IOM.  2009.  Joint Field Mission to Zimbabwe, May 2009.

UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) / IRC (International Rescue Committee) / Christian Children’s Fund and Legal Aid Project. 2004. Protected Yet Insecure: A Situation Analysis of Gender-Based Violence in the Conflict-Affected Regions of Acholiland, Teso and Lango. New York.

For additional assessments, see the GBV AoR website, especially the section on Information Management.