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Data on Gender-Based Violence: What's New and What's Not

by Lisa Aronson

(December 2011) To commemorate the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, the Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG), PAHO, and USAID held an event entitled "Data on Gender-Based Violence: What's New and What's Not" on December 6, 2011. The event featured four presentations from leading voices in the field of combating gender-based violence focusing on the importance of ethical, comprehensive, and accurate data.

Opening remarks by Dr. Jon Andrus of PAHO and Mr. Robert Clay of USAID emphasized that this event represented the core mission of those who work to end gender-based violence—using the best data available as a tool to influence policy. In each of their respective careers, they have seen the effects and changes that have come from the hard work of those in the field and were enthusiastic about what is to come.

The first presentation, by Mary Ellsberg (ICRW), was "Ethical Considerations Around Data Collection on GBV." Ellsberg noted how far the gender community of practice has come since 1995, with research on violence against women growing exponentially every year. However, she said, those conducting the research have a responsibility to themselves and those who are interviewed to keep practices ethical and safe. Ellsberg discussed the importance of proper training of fieldworkers, gaining trust within the community, and privacy measures when conducting research on gender-based violence and violence against women.

Alessandra Guedes of PAHO followed with "Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Comparative Analysis of Population-Based Data From 12 Countries." This presentation covered the initial results of a recent study of 13 population-based surveys, such as Demographic Health Surveys and Reproductive Health Surveys, to establish a regional overview of gender-based violence in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Guedes stressed the great need for a regional overview and a comparison of data in order to gain a real understanding of GBV in the LAC region. While initial results showed a high prevalence of violence against women—for example, physical intimate partner violence which resulted in injury—Guedes added that these are preliminary results with many methodological considerations.

A third presentation, "'Face Validity of the DHS Domestic Violence Module in Bangladesh," was given by Sidney Schuler of fhi360. Schuler's presentation focused on the results of an NIH-funded study in Bangladesh that used the 2004 and 2007 DHS as a base for questionnaires and interviews about the prevalence and acceptability of gender-based violence. The interviewers also used much more detailed "scenarios" than the DHS does when asking about violence against women in order to determine unspoken responses that may not have been recorded. The study found that DHS may underestimate scenarios where physical violence against women is condoned or taken for granted based on perceived social, cultural, or community norms.

A final presentation was given by Diana Arango of UNFPA. "GBV Information Management System" introduced the new tool for GBV service providers now being used globally and whose popularity is growing. The tool helps service providers compare data results across agencies and ensures accurate and quality data. The GBV Information Management System (GBVIMS) is not used for case management; its intended use is for on-site reporting of a GBV case. Complete with intake and consent forms, highly protected victim information, and GBV classification, the GBVIMS creates standard categories and questions in order to determine the exact type of case. The long-term goal of the GBVIMS is to help achieve global standards for GBV collection.

Sunita Kishor, senior gender advisor for the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program at ICF International and an expert on gender-based violence, served as the discussant following the four presentations and the question and answer period. Reflecting on the power of data to change policies, she praised each of the presenters for sharing valuable new information on gender-based violence and emphasizing the importance of careful data collection.

Available here are all four presentations and other event materials.

To see a webcast of this event please visit PAHO's livestream.


Lisa Aronson is a program assistant at the Population Reference Bureau.


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