Thimphu’s new journey to reduce violence against women and children begins with innovation

Written by Anik Gevers, Koh Miyaoi, Sangay Wangmo and Tashi Choden  

Stakeholders Commit to Partnerships to Address GBV

Experiences and scenes of domestic violence are often accepted as a regular feature of everyday life in a household. Increasingly, national prevalence data are being collected in different countries and the extent of this and other types of gender-based violence is coming to light.

The recent survey conducted in Bhutan found that the acceptance rate among Bhutanese women of domestic violence stood at as high as 78 percent. In this context, government agencies, civil society organisations and community members, with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), have started a new initiative to prevent violence against women and children. Among these partners there’s full agreement that violence against women and children cannot be tolerated. 

Currently, there are a range of interventions in Bhutan focused on responding to and supporting survivors of violence against women and children. However, there is a gap in primary prevention programming. The team has committed to taking an evidence-based approach by addressing the root causes of this violence and focusing on changing harmful social norms. This is a new approach to many stakeholders in Bhutan and required a collaborative, multi-sectoral approach within a new intervention methodology. Both advocacy and capacity strengthening foundational work was needed to achieve the commitment needed to drive this project forward.

Internal Advocacy and Capacity Strengthening to Drive Forward GBV Prevention Work

UNDP Bhutan together with NCWC and RENEW came together to assess the problem of GBV in Bhutan and the actions that need to be taken to address it. They found that most of the programming focused on response and support services, but that prevention was a specific gap. They agreed to embark on a project to pilot an innovative primary prevention of GBV approach. The core project team partners from NCWC, UNDP, and RENEW engaged with regional and global advisors from UNDP to investigate various evidence-based primary prevention approaches and understand the theoretical models underlying these approaches. This investment allowed the core team to “speak with one voice” and lead advocacy and capacity strengthening efforts during a workshop with a wider group of local stakeholders.

The result was that multi-sector stakeholders were able to understand and then support the innovative, community-based primary prevention pilot project during a validation workshop held in Paro, Bhutan in August 2018. Throughout the workshop, we witnessed the collective resolve to tackle this challenge and build on lessons learned by adapting and contextualising existing evidence-based programme models for the local setting. The determination of project partners and stakeholders was also prompted by the recognition that reducing and ultimately eliminating violence against women and children will contribute to the country’s guiding philosophy, Gross National Happiness.

Prevention Programme Approach: Adapting Evidence-Based Models

The new initiative is named Gakey Lamtoen, roughly translated as "Way to Happiness". Its main pillar is a community-based participatory primary prevention methodology adapted and contextualized from a methodology that has generated promising results elsewhere in the world. This evidence-based intervention model directly engages caregivers (e.g. parents or other family members, teachers, health care providers, youth and social service workers) and adolescent boys and girls from participating communities, to address the root causes of gender-based violence by aiming to transform problematic social norms such as gender inequality and patriarchal gender roles, harsh discipline of children, and problematic coping strategies such as drinking alcohol. At the same time, protective social norms such as positive relationship building strategies and supportive families will be promoted in order to build happy, healthy, equitable, and supportive homes and schools that are free of violence and discrimination. 

Bhutan’s journey with an innovative primary prevention model has just begun with a solid foundation in multi-sectoral commitment, understanding evidence-based models, and continuing advocacy and capacity strengthening within the team and with stakeholders.

 

Global Project on Innovative Approaches to GBV Programming

This intervention is one of seven pilots that are part of the UNDP global project funded by the Republic of Korea on ‘Ending GBV and Achieving the SDGs’. This global initiative is testing innovative approaches through integrating a Gender-based Violence lens into broader development projects and local planning and financing projects. You can find additional information about this project at http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/gender-equality/gender-based-violence.html.

For more information about the Bhutan pilot and other integrative intervention pilots please contact Anik Gevers at anik.gevers@undp.org

 

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