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Last edited: December 20, 2011

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Surveys can provide important information as part of an appraisal. Surveys can be relatively simple or highly complex. Regardless of size and complexity, surveys ask the same pre-determined set of questions of all participants. Surveys can collect both quantitative (numeric) and qualitative (narrative) information. Surveys can be mailed out to participants, sent via email or made available on a website, distributed at events, or administered face-to-face or via phone if resources and the context allow. Formal survey research can be quite expensive and time consuming, but if an organization has a defined, manageable group of people (for example all judges in a particular province) from which it wants to gather information, a survey can be cost effective. Organizations may want to partner with a university or other experienced researchers to get advice about conducting a survey. Click on the link to view a sample survey instrument that was used as part of an appraisal related to reform on violence against women in Santa Clara County, USA, Stakeholder Readiness Instrument, at Appendix 1.

It is also useful to draw on existing survey data for an appraisal. The International Violence Against Women Survey examined data from Australia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Mozambique, the Philippines, Poland, and Switzerland and assessed:

  • Prevalence and severity of violence
  • Impact and consequences of violence for women
  • Factors that are correlated with increased or decreased violence
  • Experiences of disclosure of violence to police and others

The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index examines 35 countries worldwide and includes measurement related to four principles including:

  • The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law;
  • The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property;
  • The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient;
  • Access to justice is provided by competent, independent, and ethical adjudicators, attorneys or representatives, and judicial officers who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

The survey breaks these principles into 10 key factors, one of which focuses on informal justice systems.

The Arab Regional Resource Center on Violence against Women also gathers data and material on violence against women to help policy makers. The website is available in Arabic.


Surveying Justice: a Practical Guide to Household Surveys (World Bank, 2010). This guide aims to be a practical starting point for justice practitioners interested in survey design, as well as survey researchers interested in incorporating justice questions into their work. It provides guidance on designing a survey, suggested topics and questions, and ideas to facilitate a constructive engagement in discussions around justice in development practice. Available in English.


Cambodia – Survey Data Reveals Need for Change in Programming Strategy

A Cambodian example demonstrates how data can reveal that programming assumptions have been incorrect. A large-scale, highly complex survey on violence against women in Cambodia was conducted in 2005 with the support of multiple international donor agencies. The study revealed that despite almost a decade of intensive work by multiple donor agencies and non-governmental organizations, the prevalence of domestic violence in particular had not declined. Through detailed examination of results of questions that asked Cambodians about attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours related to domestic violence, agencies working on the issue came to the conclusion that they needed to change strategy. Much programming had been focused on rights-based education for women, but the survey revealed that social attitudes in Cambodia justified men being violent to their wives when their wives challenged their behaviour. It became clear that educating women about their rights and strategies for resisting violence could be disastrous if education for men about gender equality was not also included in the programming strategy. Past programmes had also focused on sending the message that domestic violence is a crime, but the survey revealed that there was virtually no enforcement action taken against men who were violent and that the vast majority of Cambodians had no access to formal courts. Thus, promoting the message that violence was criminal behaviour did not reflect reality. Importantly, the lack of law enforcement was found to be a major influence on men’s attitudes. The survey data was critical in revealing that programming strategies in the Cambodian context would need to change.

In 2009, a follow-up survey revealed that perceptions by Cambodians about the acceptability of domestic violence appear to be changing – fewer survey respondents felt that certain forms of violence were acceptable. Notably, these attitude shifts were also reflected amongst local authorities and police. However, reporting of some forms of violence increased* and half of respondents still believed that violence was an acceptable response to women arguing with husbands, not obeying, or not showing disrespect.

*It is not known whether the increase in reporting is due to a greater number of women feeling comfortable to disclose or whether there was a true increase in experiences of abuse.


Sources: Ministry of Women’s Affairs. 2005. Violence Against Women: A Baseline Survey: Cambodia; Morrison. 2009. Assessing Behaviours and Attitudes Related to Violence Against Women, Indochina Research Limited.