Our Perspectives

Making innovation work to end gender-based violence: The search for better feedback loops


Egyptian girlsIn Egypt, the joint efforts of community activists, authorities, development agencies and media are gradually making a difference to phase out the traditional harmful practice of FGM. Photo credit: UNDP/Egypt

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is a reminder that more needs to be done to address gender-based violence (GBV). Globally, one out of three women experiences violence in her lifetime, most likely committed by a partner or family member.

Given the prevalence and persistence of GVB across the globe it is necessary to strive to find more effective solutions with the people we work for. In UNDP, we explore innovations to address GVB based on our multi-sectoral approach to prevent violence against women. In this context, innovation is merely the logical result of taking our mandate seriously.

While technology is an important accelerator for innovation, we do not equate innovation with technology. “Think change, not technology” is an important principle for marrying gender equality and innovation.

Leveraging technology for advocacy provides us with the great opportunity to broaden the scope of influence but this requires dedicated efforts and communications in a language that our target audiences actually understand.

In Nepal, for example, UNDP, through short video clips and quizzes, challenged young Nepalese women and men to rethink dominant gender norms. The clips are shared via social media and a specific focus is put on reaching audiences that usually do not come across content from organizations such as UNDP.

In Serbia, UNDP partnered with the New School to explore interventions that are effective in preventing perpetrators from committing future acts of gender-based violence.

Innovation needs to go beyond the means of implementation and technology. Innovation needs to be evaluated in terms of tangible outcomes and results.

Randomized Control Trials are increasingly applied in development interventions embracing behavioral science. (Check this post for practical examples and annotated reading list curated by a UNDP colleague to learn more about behavioral science for development.) In Uganda, for example the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine evaluated a community-based programme to reduce gender-based violence and HIV-risk behaviors and conducted randomized control trials in eight communities. The study found that the interventions indeed resulted in visible decrease of violence against women in the community. However, Randomized Control Trials need to follow strict ethical considerations and interventions have to seek the consent from community members to partake in such trials. (I recommend this post with a good overview on the current debate by Ben Ramaligan).

Innovations to end gender-based violence need to focus on outcomes and accordingly on faster and better feedback loops. Are Randomized Control Trials with careful ethical considerations an option to improve these feedback loops?

Gender equality Sexual and gender-based violence Women's empowerment Innovation

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