Coordinated Responses
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Barriers to Success

Last edited: January 14, 2019

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Though coordination is increasingly recognized as fundamental to effectively addressing violence against women and girls, barriers to developing, implementing and sustaining coordination efforts still exist.  Some of the identified challenges, include:

  • Persistence of traditional, patriarchal beliefs about women and violence;
  • Failure to incorporate the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women into national law;
  • Lack of funded national action plans/laws on the elimination and prevention of violence against women;
  • When resources for direct services are already limited, allocating them to coordination may not be widely accepted;
  • Often those with the most in-depth knowledge of violence against women do not hold positions of power to make changes within agencies, thus expertise and influence can be in tension;
  • Lack of political will to address the issue of violence against women;
  • Differences in national and local policy-making and responsibilities;
  • No history of collaboration between state and civil society groups;
  • State agencies are often more highly represented and more powerful than the NGO and community sectors, although the latter are often the service providers with the most extensive knowledge about victims’ needs.  Strategies must be developed to recognise that without NGOs, the direct link to victims/survivors can be lost (Hague, 2000);
  • Government mistrust of women’s NGOs;
  • Lack of networking among organisations on issues of violence against women;
  • Lack of professional training across a range of key sectors;
  • Reliance on individual champions rather than multi-sectoral integration;
  • Frequent turnover of key staff within government and agencies that are part of a coordinated response;
  • Similarly, changes in government, policy direction or funding priorities can have a serious impact on coordination structures, and some may be disbanded as a result.  This is particularly the case in conflict and immediate post-conflict contexts, where political instability and regime changes may lead to rising sexual violence and the weakening of existing coordination efforts; and
  • Women’s ministries are often charged with coordination, but are often under-funded and marginalised among key policy-making bodies themselves.


Lessons from existing coordinated responses can be valuably interwoven into the planning process of proposed ones to avoid common pitfalls. Lessons learned include the following:

  • While a multi-sectoral, participatory process is essential, it can be initially costly and time-consuming (Keesbury & Askew, 2010).  This needs to be carefully managed and factored into timetables and resource-allocation;
  • The assignment of staff should be strategic and based on expertise and level of influence; 
  • Adequate funding and other resources for national plans and agencies’ implementation of coordinated responses are essential;
  • Involving victims/survivors (in an ethical manner) or those working directly with them, in decision-making is vital. This is an area that is often overlooked;
  • High turnover of participating staff can undermine continuity;
  • It may be challenging to engage senior-level staff (e.g. judges, doctors, police chiefs/commissioners) in training and other capacity-building initiatives, and in some contexts it is important to be sensitive to hierarchy and provide separate trainings for higher and lower-level staff;
  • It is important to demonstrate the benefits of engaging in a coordinated response so that service providers who are often overloaded with responsibility and face burn-out have the incentive to participate;
  • Clear guidelines of roles, responsibilities and protocols are essential at all levels for all partners and sectors involved – for example, to mitigate territorial or ‘turf’ issues that may arise between institutions or agencies;
  • Clear lines of accountability are needed to ensure implementation and enforcement of protocols; and
  • Monitoring and evaluation should be built in from the outset, not after the programme has started.