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Preventing and responding to gender-based violence in humanitarian contexts: Mapping and analysing the evidence and identifying the gaps


Written by Rebecca Holmes, Wendy Fenton

How have aid agencies sought to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) in humanitarian contexts? Do we know if these programmes are working, and if so, what has worked?

This review seeks to answer a number of key questions around the monitoring and evaluation of existing programmes; key features of ‘successful’ programming; needs assessments, programme design and funding; the effects of mainstreaming GBV programming in humanitarian action; and the state of knowledge and use of GBV guidelines.

The review found that very few programme studies used rigorous evaluation methods, and there was little mention of monitoring programme progress and outcomes, as opposed to process and outputs. The study also identifies particular research gaps, including a lack of evidence on the incidence of violence, and quality and outcomes of interventions; a shortage of developed understanding of methods of addressing different forms of gender-based violence at specific stages of emergencies; a paucity of evidence on the impacts of GBV interventions in post-disaster settings; and a lack of evidence from regions other than Africa.

Despite these gaps, the review has provided insight into a range of design and implementation features which can contribute to reducing the incidence and mitigating the impact of GBV.

Types of programming which have contributed to changing attitudes, perceptions, knowledge and (some) behaviour include community-based programmes that use different forms of awareness-raising techniques such as radio, and engaging the community, or specifically men, in non-threatening and non-divisive ways. 

Key features of programmes which have increased women’s access to services include the availability of integrated or multi-sectoral services combined with increased capacity and knowledge of staff to respond to and refer GBV survivors to relevant services; ensuring the confidentiality of services; and increased local knowledge. Therapeutic programmes which utilise a group-based approach and are adapted to the local cultural context were also reported as being critical components contributing to improved emotional and physical wellbeing of GBV survivors.

  • Preventing and responding to gender-based violence in humanitarian contexts

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Rebecca Holmes and Dharini Bhuvanendra