What can we do to prevent GBV?
The rise in incidence in gender-based violence is everybody’s problem. Though it is primarily the women in humanitarian and relief work who are likely to be the victims, men are vital to the prevention effort. No one can afford to ignore or deny that this problem is epidemic, with devastating consequences for the victim and her community. Any form of gender discrimination, even as minor as sexual jokes and innuendos, can contribute to a climate where women are at greater risk for victimization or hindered from getting needed support when an incident occurs. The following practices can make a difference.
- Break the silence. Training and ongoing discussion can raise awareness and reduce reluctance to address the issue within teams and organizations. Be sure that voices of women are heard. Careful listening, empathy, and respect for their safety concerns will contribute to their security and empowerment.
- Ensure safety. Humanitarian organizations should routinely assess gender security threats along with their other security protocols. Women should not be unaccompanied or isolated in their transportation, work, and living arrangements. However, keep in mind that most incidents of GBV occur between a victim and perpetrator who know each other. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that women are safe with their male co-workers. Women should not be required to advocate strenuously for their own safety. It should be institutional policy to care for their security needs.
- Zero tolerance. Any organization should make it clear in its written policies and protocols that there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or other forms of GBV. Consequences for perpetrators should be immediate and severe.
- Clear reporting guidelines. Guidelines for reporting should be accessible, clear, and communicated throughout the organization. The reporting process should ensure privacy, confidentiality, and absence of retaliation or other obstacles. Victims should be guaranteed that their employment will not be at risk due to their involvement or reporting of a GBV event.
- Identify local resources. Every effort should be made to keep an updated list of local medical, psychological, and legal providers who are specifically trained to be sensitive to issues of GBV. Waiting until an event has occurred to search for help is inadequate. Organizations in some locations should have PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) kits on hand in order to protect victims exposed to HIV virus. In addition, up to date information should be kept on reporting authorities.
- Power & Authority. Every effort must be made to avoid an unequal gender distribution of power and authority in organizations and teams. The presence of women in leadership is one of the most effective tools in the fight against GBV.
For further reading.