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Establish Leadership

Last edited: February 26, 2019

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Coordinated responses are by their very nature collaborative, but while it is important to value and acknowledge the contribution of all agencies and individuals in a coordinated response, the right leadership is critical throughout the different tiers and across the range of sectors involved.  For instance, leadership at senior levels can help mobilise champions at lower levels of operational management, thus increasing the likelihood of implementation. (Abrahams, 2005).  Further, coordinated responses must involve leadership with the ability; power and political will to effect change.

At the national level, the ministry or sector with overall responsibility for coordinating responses to violence against women is often determined by the overall approach in national policy.  For example, where responses to violence against women are located primarily within a gender equality framework, ministries such as Women’s/Family Affairs have the main responsibility and may chair an inter-ministerial group.  Where there is more of a criminal justice-led approach, responsibility is more likely to lie with a Justice, Interior or Home Affairs ministry.  Other ministries or agencies may be given responsibility for overseeing implementation of specific sectoral activities through national action plans. The same may be true at the state/provincial level in countries with a federal structure, such as the US and Mexico.

At the local level, groups should determine the most beneficial leadership structure based on the strengths, capacities and strategic reach of agencies involved.  There are various leadership models, including:

  • Single sector/agency;
  • Rotating leadership (this may offer possibilities for representing diverse sectors but can also lead to instability);
  • Shared leadership (this is often between a state agency and an NGO and can be particularly helpful for alleviating the power differentials between sectors); and
  • A steering committee with targeted sub-committees/working groups.

Considerations when deciding whether a particular agency should play a leadership role include whether they have:                                                                               

  • Wider recognition of their role on violence against women issues;
  • Capacity to undertake coordination and monitoring functions;
  • Good relations with key stakeholders, including non-traditional partners; and
  • Demonstrated track record of work on violence against women issues (Inter-Agency Task Force on Violence Against Women, 2011).

Regardless of the leadership structure that is adopted, women’s NGOs should have a significant leadership role because their sole purpose is to represent the interests of victims/survivors. They are therefore in a position to ensure that the group maintain a victim-centered focus.