Violence against women prevention in rural areas: Challenges and lessons for the field

(Photo: Jenevieve Mannell)

2018 International Women's Day Blog Series

Jenevieve Mannell, Principal Investigator of the GAP Project was interviewed by Laura Fitzhenry, SVRI Evaluation and Sustainability Specialist, Australian Volunteer

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.” The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) funds a number of projects in rural areas in low and middle income countries through the SVRI WBG Development Marketplace Awards. We asked researchers from one of our rural projects in Peru to share some key lessons and challenges for the violence prevention field in rural and remote settings for International Women’s Day.

GAP Project

The Gender-based violence prevention in the Amazon of Peru (GAP) Project is a community-based intervention that aims to prevent gender-based violence (GBV) through participatory action research. The project involves community health workers (promotores) and community leaders developing a community mobilisation and education program to address GBV. The project is being implemented in 25 rural communities in the Lower Napo River, which have severely limited access to services and secondary and tertiary violence prevention such as police and hospitals. The team at the University College London Centre for Gender and Global Health have previously written about making ethics work in small rural communities using participatory process. The GAP Project’s Principal Investigator, Jenevieve Mannell shares her thoughts on the challenges and lessons of working in violence prevention in rural Peru below.

What are the challenges that you face working in this context?

In the remote Amazon, the main challenge for violence prevention is the absence of health or social services. This leaves communities with little support with which to intervene in cases of GBV. Without police intervention communities are left to police the situation themselves. Without social services there is little support for women's mental health or the health of children. The priority for communities then becomes the maintenance of the status quo rather than protection of the woman experiencing abuse. So for instance, the community may decide that the couple needs to be separated in cases of severe abuse, but may also blame the woman for symptoms of poor mental health resulting from the abuse because this is seen as disrupting community stability.


(Photo: Diego Cacho)

What are some of the lessons from your project?

Our project focuses on participatory approaches to the prevention of GBV in the Amazon's Lower Napo River communities. While participatory approaches aim at stimulating community mobilisation, opening up new possibilities for the role of community intervention in addressing women's health and safety, and challenging norms of gender or 'machismo' that drive violence, this may not be sufficient in remote contexts. These remote communities also need to be able to call on support from more powerful outsiders and service providers.

What opportunities are there for advocacy for violence prevention in this context?

There is huge potential for advocacy. However, I think this advocacy needs to focus as much on providing access to culturally-relevant local services for women experiencing violence as it does on challenging the acceptance of violence by both men and women within communities.

For more information on this project read their blog on Participatory Action Research: Making ethics work for violence prevention in small, rural communities

For more information or to share resources / experiences of doing research on GBV prevention in high prevalence remote rural communities, please get in touch with us: Jenevieve Mannell (Principal Investigator) J.Mannell@ucl.ac.uk, Geordan Shannon (Co-Investigator) Geordan.Shannon.13@ucl.ac.uk

#IWD2018

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@UCLGenderHealth

@GeordanShannon 

@jvmannell

@TheSVRI

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