I recently had an opportunity to talk with Dina Deligiorgis, the Knowledge Management Specialist on ending violence against women at UN Women. I am completely in awe of the work that UN Women does to address gender inequality and violence against women and girls around the world. We talked about the shifts that governments are making towards protecting women and girls, through formal commitments, increased funding for programs and services geared towards establishing and maintaining women’s safety and empowerment, and policy and legislation that aligns with recommended international guidelines from the United Nations. Dina noted that in 2005, there were 89 countries who had legislation on domestic violence in place. That number has grown to over 125 countries in 2012. Policy and legislation, although an important step, are often insufficient to create measurable change. These need to be accompanied by budget allocations, protocols and guidelines for various sectors, training for staff and many other tangible changes to better deliver services to survivors and prevent violence altogether.
Programs that are being implemented lack rigorous evaluation. I know that the violence against women field in the United States can relate to the need for increased evaluation and the challenges in carrying out these evaluations. An area that UN Women is working to advance is primary prevention, initiatives to stop abuse before they occur, though this is still a very emergent area for many countries. Often times, intervention efforts are still gaining traction and the service provision has been done by non-profits and women’s groups who are often underfunded and marginalized by formal governmental process. Their inability to be formally connected to government structures precludes them from obtaining resources to disseminate information, guide policy efforts, or conduct rigorous evaluations to show that their work is indeed making a difference in the lives of women and girls.
So where does UN Women fit in? In addition to the support provided to governments at global and country levels, UN Women is a knowledge broker on violence against women and girls bringing together the evidence base at whatever levels it exists. It pulls baseline information, literature, existing tools, manuals, and additional resources together into one central location that practitioners around the world can access to help them at whatever step they are at in working to address violence against women and girls. Dina stated that the project began by mapping the entire field – the literature that exists, the tools that have been developed and the organizations and experts devoted to this work around the world in order to begin documenting it in a more systematic way.
UN Women works with organizations and local experts from around the world to develop program modules, identify promising practices, and provisions that have had positive results with regards to focused subtopics such as health interventions or working with men and boys. UN Women pulls together examples from an array of countries providing regional examples with cultural context.
The initiative also runs a Help Desk for technical or resource questions and hosts webinars to encourage knowledge sharing and exchange. On the Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls, tools are available in over 60 languages and comprehensive program modules (anywhere from 300 to 1,000 pages long!) are fully translated into Spanish and French.
Check out this amazing resource and make sure to forward it throughout your networks. Thank you Dina!