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The importance of a holistic approach in Gender-Based Violence prevention and response

During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), it’s an opportune time to reflect on what’s working and not working to address GBV. We think there are lessons learned that can and should be applied going forward in working with donors to be more effective. One particular area stands out: the gap in donor programming between human development and governance approaches to gender-based violence (GBV) prevention, protection and response.

We believe that bridging that gap would increase impact and more directly align with USAID’s sustainability agenda. Rather than compartmentalizing efforts into health or education services as separate from the introduction and implementation of laws, policies and regulations by government, private firms and civil society, a comprehensive and coordinated GBV approach would be more effective.

Our work in this area underscores the need for such a coordinated approach. We recently led an evaluation of the Women’s Leadership Portfolio (WLP) under the E3 Analytics and Evaluation Project. The evaluation found that the GBV human development activities in the portfolio focused on health service delivery, community awareness raising and parenting education. However, they tended not to address the equally important legal and institutional conditions that create a favorable and sustainable enabling environment in which the services operated. Conversely, the governance activities, especially in conflict-affected areas, focused on the GBV oversight institutions, the justice sector and policy advocacy to protect safety and security. Unfortunately, these kinds of interventions do not change peoples’ lives over the long term unless governments implement policies and allocate resources to deliver quality services locally.

Fortunately, the mechanism to achieve integration between the human development and governance sectors in GBV programming already exists in USAID’s Women’s Leadership Portfolio (WLP). WLP is managed by the Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment (E3) in cooperation with the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA), which houses USAID’s work on Women, Peace and Security.

We urge USAID, with its timely emphasis on programming for country self-reliance, to leverage this collaborative mechanism and to increase the Agency’s investment in combining the expertise of these two approaches in future GBV activities. We believe this will be one important step in ensuring holistic approaches to prevent and reduce gender-based violence.

Note: This evaluation briefing note on the GBV sub-portfolio summarizes WLP activities with GBV interventions.