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During this year’s 16 Days, we highlight how various GBV interventions have adapted their practices in the face of COVID-19.

Read in French and Spanish.

Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Innovations to Address Gender-Based Violence

Reports suggest gender-based violence has intensified globally amid the pandemic but lockdowns and other restrictions demand creative solutions to address the violence against women or develop programs to tackle the scourge.

To address the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and violence against women, countries and programs can draw from learnings about GBV prevention and response, so they can apply the learnings in their investments, policies, and practices.

During this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the World Bank Group and Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) are highlighting how various GBV interventions have adapted their practices in the face of COVID-19.

Over five years, more than $5.6 million has been awarded to 52 research projects, across 32 low- and middle-income economies through the Development Marketplace: Innovations to Address Gender-Based Violence. This initiative has addressed gaps in the knowledge base related to GBV prevention and response by contributing to the evidence on economic empowermenteducational interventions, work focused on reducing intimate partner violence and addressing harmful gender norms, effective interventions in humanitarian settings, the use of technology, and working with adolescents.

Many of these research projects are addressing the impact of COVID-19 on their research, programs, and the people they serve and learning to adapt their work to ensure they continue to address GBV in an ethical and safe way. The following are recent Development Marketplace winners to address GBV during the pandemic:

  • In India, hospital-based one-stop centres called Dilaasa have created a continuum of care and scaled up activities to include remote counselling and emergency transportation and housing services. This project won an SVRI / WBG Award in 2019 to scale up a health sector response model to violence against women and children in public hospitals in Mumbai, India.
  • Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) also won the award in 2019 to conduct a preliminary study of MediCapt. This project’s objectives are to close a gap in the evidence about the use of mobile health technology for collecting quality evidence and to explore its role in a survivor-centered approach to forensic medical examination of sexual violence. PHR continues to work towards developing and evaluating ethical data collection mechanisms. This has been an important topic during the pandemic, as researchers struggle to adapt conventional collection methods. Their evaluation of the mobile application MediCapt can provide critical insights into what is working—and not working—with services enhanced by mobile health technology.
  • Through the 2018 SVRI/WBG Development Marketplace Award, the “Geeks against GBV” research team created a mobile application and network of peer-mentors (GBV and human rights experts, psychologist practitioners, and legal experts). This project created online support to women and protecting them from occurrences of on-line violence, guiding them and providing necessary support in case such violence occurs. Since the pandemic began, the project has scaled up the Safe YOU Mobile App for replication in Georgia and working with World Fair Trade Organization Asia to adapt it, so that women can use technology to access services while mobility is limited.
  • In Cambodia, the 2020 SVRI/WBG Development Marketplace research team at KHANA, originally planned to study how SMARTgirl Chatline would be effective in providing 24-hour emotional support via WhatsApp. Since the pandemic, the team has adapted to incorporate the experiences of violence during COVID-19 into the chatline framework.

The progress of these and other innovative programs to address GBV underscores the importance of adapting programs during times of crises. They also suggest greater collaboration between researchers, the health sector, judiciary, and other service providers to better serve survivors of violence.

For emerging lessons on how to work through these sectors effectively, visit the VAWG Resource Guide website, the SVRI website, and the SVRI/WB award site.

Written by Diana J. Arango, Elizabeth Dartnall Angelica Pino

Author biographies:

Diana J. Arango, Sr. Gender-Based Violence and Development Specialist, World Bank Group

Diana J. Arango is the Sr. Gender-Based Violence and Development Specialist in the Gender Cross-Cutting Solutions Area at the World Bank Group. She has more than 10 years of experience working on development issues including gender-based violence, specifically within the context of humanitarian settings. Before joining the World Bank Group she was a Research Scientist at George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute leading research on violence against women and girls in conflict settings. Prior to that she served as the Global Coordinator for the development and implementation of the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS), an innovative inter-agency initiative that aids humanitarian workers in collecting timely data on GBV incidents that can then be used to inform programmatic work. She has an MSc from the London School of Economics in Anthropology and Development, and has on the ground experience in several countries, including Colombia, Haiti, Chad, Somalia, Uganda, and South Sudan.

Elizabeth Dartnall, Executive Director, SVRI

Liz is SVRIs first Executive Director. A health specialist with over 20 years’ research and policy-making experience on health systems, mental health, violence against women and children, Liz has worked in several countries, in both government and research positions. Liz has a deep understanding of the policy process and use of research to inform policy and practice. For example, in South Africa, Liz worked for the Department of Health at both provincial and national levels in epidemiology and health information systems. In Australia she worked in mental health for the Western Australian state government. Since 2006, Liz has managed the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), and recently with support of multiple partners, launched SVRI as an independent NGO. With more than 7400 members, the SVRI is one of the largest networks in the field of research on violence against women and violence against children. The SVRI produces leading publications and materials; strengthens research capacity, provides research grants and technical assistance for research on violence against women in low and middle income countries; and hosts the key global biannual event in the field – the SVRI Forum. Liz is committed to research and policy-making that is feminist, ethical, equitable and partnership based. Further, through the SVRI and our partners we are reversing the global imbalance in research capacity and resources to ensure research on violence against women in low and middle income countries is led by researchers in low and middle income countries and knowledge production is driven by research priorities and needs of low and middle income countries.

Angelica Pino – Grants Manager and Capacity Strengthening Specialist

Angelica Pino is a feminist lawyer with extensive experience in gender-based violence and gender equality. She started her work in the human rights field in Chile in the 80s, while the country was under General Pinochet’s dictatorship. As a Law student, she worked in NGOs conducting human rights awareness and training in disadvantaged communities, and at the same time became involved in the feminist movement. She worked as a lawyer in women’s rights NGOs providing counselling and legal advice to women survivors of gender-based violence, as well as conducting training and research on women and the law. After the democratisation of the country, Angelica joined the Ministry of Justice to work in a Legal Aid Project, where she coordinated mobile Legal Information Centres in townships. Angelica moved to South Africa in 1994, where she  has worked in several women’s rights organisations and initiatives managing programmes on feminist networks and on gender-based violence, including: Lolapress international feminist magazine; Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation,  Gender Links and Sonke Gender Justice.  At Sonke, she contributed to the field of engaging men and boys for gender equality by bringing a feminist perspective to the community-based programmes, as well as the trainings and research conducted in partnership with academic institutions, both at national and regional levels. Angelica also worked for the Heinrich Boell Foundation Southern Africa office managing the Gender Programme. She holds an LLB from the University of Chile and an LLM from the University of the Witwatersrand. Angelica believes that violence against women cuts across class, cultures and continents. Through the SVRI and partners, she hopes to contribute to gender justice by facilitating the access to resources and building the capacity of gender-based violence researchers from the Global South, as well as stimulating networking among researchers and activists.


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