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Ending violence against women: 3 ways to innovate


Egyptian women participate in the "Reporting on Violence Against Women Innovation Camp" to share ideas on how to report violence against women. The camp was supported by UNDP, The National Council for Women, and Vodafone Egypt. Photo: Ezzat/UNDP Egypt

In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on innovation in development practice.

The status quo is unacceptable. Globally, one out of three women experiences violence in her lifetime.

Both the Sustainable Development Goals and the World Humanitarian Summit Report call for innovation to end this global pandemic. Given the complexity of gender-based violence (GBV) and its main underlying cause of persisting gender inequalities - how can development and humanitarian actors innovate?

As a starter, let’s put the emphasis on the changes we want to achieve and not the “solutions” we create. A new way of addressing a problem or a new product is not per se innovative. Innovation is a novel approach that adds value to the very people affected by the problem.

Innovation in this context is less about creative ideas than about formulating a solid hypothesis that can be tested.

Start with the end

There is not sufficient evidence on what works in preventing and mitigating gender-based violence in low-income countries and crisis contexts. To improve policies and programmes in the future, the design of GBV initiatives has to incorporate data and impact assessments, which require funding.

Several organizations are addressing this evidence gap, including the UK Department for International Development, through its What Works fund and the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, with a call for proposals to combat GBV in emergencies. In addition, the potential of randomized control trials to identify effective programme interventions and policies is not yet sufficiently explored in development and humanitarian work on GBV.

Try Design

Design-thinking, or user-centered design, is the discipline to (co)-create solutions to problems or opportunities, where the design process is driven by the needs, desires and contexts of the people using the solutions.

Applying design principles to initiatives that address gender-based violence has the potential to improve the effectiveness of prevention and mitigation interventions. A starting point can be to systematically look for positive deviance, where certain individuals or groups’ uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, despite having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse conditions.

In the area of support services, service journeys are based on interviews with survivors of gender-based violence. The journey identifies all the touchpoints with the service provider and the ‘points of pain’ (the elements that cause dissatisfaction or worse). Numerous interviews can unearth patterns and identify what can be improved.

One ‘point of pain’ can be the physical infrastructure of medical units or police stations. In Moldova, UNDP initiated a re-design of the police station infrastructure, led by citizens and the local police force.

In Egypt, UNDP works with local partners to address the problems related to reporting incidents of sexual violence and convenes Innovation Camps to provide Egyptian women and men with the space to develop testable prototypes. Together with Vodafone Foundation and the National Council for Women, UNDP is now providing technical assistance to the teams developing these prototypes.

Embrace it: women and men are complicated

The acknowledgment that men and women, girls and boys, act and decide in ways that do not correspond with the models of many development plans has gained traction. Governments are institutionalizing small behavioral insights teams to improve policy making.

For GBV prevention, what messages work best to influence the behavior of men and boys in different contexts? Too many GBV awareness-raising campaigns do not test different messages, let alone assess how the users interact or perceive these messages. Data indicates that addressing social norms to prevent GBV is more effective than focusing on the individual and sharing empathy messages. Strategies that borrow from marketing methods such as A/B testing and insights that measured what messages work best to ‘nudge’ citizens can improve our insights on what works in prevention messaging.

Given the prevalence of gender-based violence across the globe, there is no alternative but to keep pushing ourselves to improve policies and programmes.

A longer version of this post was originally published on Devex.

Benjamin Kumpf Development Effectiveness Innovation Gender equality Women's empowerment Sustainable development Capacity development Sexual and gender-based violence blog series

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