Programming Essentials, Monitoring & Evaluation
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Conducting research, data collection and analysis

Last edited: October 31, 2010

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Research, data collection and analysis are critical to effective advocacy efforts and resource mobilization, programme development, policy implementation and monitoring of interventions.

Data can be collected on a number of important elements, such as: the nature and extent (prevalence and incidence) of violence against women and girls; the consequences and costs related to violence; the help-seeking behaviour of survivors; the responses by different sectors to survivors and perpetrators; the knowledge, attitudes and practices of various groups (e.g. public officials, service providers, men, women, adolescents and others that are either responsible for implementing the law or targeted in an intervention); among many others depending on the policy or programme needs. Data can also be disaggregated for more detailed information by age, residence (urban v. rural) and other characteristics (e.g. ethnicity/race or socio-economic level).

Systems for regular data collection and analysis can involve partnerships between government, international organizations, civil society and academic or research institutions at both the national and sub-national level.

Common research and data collection methods on violence against women and girls include:

Qualitative Research which can include rapid assessments or in-depth studies with targeted groups or individuals within a population and provides more detailed information on a smaller number of people. Qualitative research does not gather information on the prevalence of violence against women and girls, but can highlight women’s experiences with violence, which may increase understanding about the context in which violence takes place and identify promising responses to violence as well as gaps in services across sectors. Qualitative research methods can help to inform policy or programme development, and be used for monitoring and evaluation of interventions. It can also inform the design of research initiatives, such as a more focused survey on violence against women and girls. (Ellsberg and Heise, 2005)

Quantitative Research, which can involve surveys or studies based on a population or specific group within the population, often generates less-detailed information on a large number of people and is represented in numbers or percentages.

For example, Population-based surveys gather data from a representative sample of the population (national or sub-national) so that results from the survey can represent how the issue examined affects the general population. Population-based surveys can involve surveys specifically focused on violence against women and girls or surveys on broader issues (e.g. on health, crime, census) that integrate modules or questions related to violence against women and girls. Dedicated surveys may better capture the actual levels of prevalence and more detailed information on the context in which violence against women occurs, but require a larger amount of resources (both financial and technical) and training compared with modules integrated into broader surveys.
Advantages of population-based surveys include:
  • Data collected can highlight the prevalence of women’s and girls’ experiences with violence across the population

  • Survey results may help advocacy efforts to generate policy and programme attention to prevent and respond to violence

  • Data can draw attention to forms and other factors associated with women’s experiences of violence, including the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of women and men.

Disadvantages of population-based surveys include:
  • The challenge of getting the methodology right, so that the data generated is valid and of good quality

  • Lack of standard methodology at international level, which challenges comparison between countries or surveys

  • The process raises ethical and safety issues for women and girls that may put women and girls at increased risk of violence or harm (trauma, stigmatization) if they are not addressed within the survey design and implementation

  • Information gathered from surveys may not reveal underlying causes of violence or other details on women’s and girls’ experiences with violence.

Service-level data collected from different sectors and providers should be coordinated among the various institutions and agencies, and ideally, use a standardized format for recording and reporting data on violence against women and girls that can be centralized from the local, to the district to the national level. Such data can be gathered from entities, such as:

  • police and other relevant uniformed personnel offices (e.g. military);

  • courts (from criminal prosecutions; applications for protection orders, civil cases);

  • hospitals and health care facilities (violence screening; mortality and morbidity rates);

  • social security offices;

  • social work agencies;

  • education institutions (schools, colleges and universities);

  • shelters and safe spaces; and,

  • hotlines.(Council of Europe, 2000)

Advantages of service-level data include:
  • Monitor demand for services (number of women and girls using services over time, type of services used)

  • Monitor capacity of different sectors to respond to the needs of women and girl survivors of violence (e.g. number of police investigations that go to court)

  • Monitor the level of services available within a community (both the number and scope of services provided)

Disadvantages of service-level data include:
  • Data only counts and documents experiences of the women and girls who report or seek help for violence, who represent only a small portion of actual survivors

  • Cannot be generalized or represent all women and girl survivors of violence within the population

  • May not be easy to interpret findings due to different terminology, reporting formats, etc. used by service providers

(Ellsberg and Heise, 2005; Garcia-Moreno, 2009; UN General Assembly, 2006)

For additional information see the power point on Challenges in Measuring Violence against Women. (Garcia-Moreno and Jansen, 2009)

Conflict and post-conflict settings pose additional challenges (e.g. instability, high mobility of people and poor infrastructure) for data collection, though population-based prevalence studies have been piloted using a standardized survey instrument in Colombia, East Timor, Kosovo and Rwanda (Ward, 2005). Surveys have been conducted in other countries as well, although they often use non-representative samples and are based on data from service providers. In these settings surveillance using existing case reports also provides useful data, though they may require simplification and systematization.

To address the challenges that continue to limit the availability of data on the issue in humanitarian settings, the International Rescue Committee, UNHCR and UNFPA came together in 2007 to create the Gender-based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS) to develop a standardized data collection and analysis mechanism.  Today, the GBVIMS is an inter-agency initiative governed by a Steering Committee made up of representatives from UNHCR, UNFPA, IRC, UNICEF, and WHO. Visit GBVIMS.

For additional information, tools and case studies on researching violence against women and girls, see the Monitoring and Evaluation Module.


Putting Women First: Ethical and Safety Recommendations for Research on Domestic Violence against Women (WHO, 2001).  Available in English, French and Spanish.

Ethical and Safety Recommendations for Interviewing Trafficked Women (WHO, 2003). Available in Armenian, Bosnian, Croatian, English, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian and Spanish.

Guide to Ethics and Human Rights in Counter-trafficking Ethical Standards for Counter-Trafficking Research and Programming (United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, 2008).  Available in English.

Researching Violence against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists Chapter 2: Ethical Considerations for Researching Violence Against Women (Path 2005). Available in English and Spanish.

Swimming against the tide : lessons learned from field research on violence against women in the Solomon Islands and Kiribati (Henrica A.F.M. Jansen, UNFPA, 2010). Available in English.

WHO Ethical and Safety Recommendations for Researching, Documenting and Monitoring Sexual Violence in Emergencies (WHO, 2007). Available in English and French.

The Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence (WHO, 2005). Available in English.

The Demographic and Health Surveys (MACRO International and the US Agency for International Development). Available in English.

The International Violence against Women Survey (European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control and the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, 2008). Available in English (p. 227).

The International Men and Gender Equality Survey (International Center for Research on Women and Promundo, 2008) in English (for men and women) and Portuguese (for men and women).

The Violence against Children Survey (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007).  Swaziland example available in English (Appendix C).