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Webinar to Highlight How Extension, Technology, and Behavior Change Combine to Improve Agriculture and Nutrition

This blog post is by John Nicholson, SPRING Knowledge Management Manager, JSI Research and Training Institute, and Kristina Beall, SPRING SBCC Project Officer, The Manoff Group.  SPRING is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and helps to strengthen country efforts to scale up high-impact nutrition practices and policies.

Leveraging the power of social capital and technology, Digital Green has pioneered the use of low-cost, community videos as an agriculture extension tool that allows farmers to record and share successful techniques with other farmers in their community. The work began as a part of Microsoft Research India’s Technology for Emerging Markets team in 2006, eventually spinning off into the non-governmental organization (NGO), Digital Green. This young, dynamic NGO has already helped produce over 2,600 videos that have been shared with more than 150,000 rural households across India, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Ghana. Digital Green’s grassroots approach — producing context-specific videos by the community and for the community—improves the efficiency of existing agricultural development efforts by a factor of ten times, per dollar spent.

Example of Digital Green video production

Example of Digital Green video production

USAID’s global nutrition project, Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING), is partnering with Digital Green in Odisha, India, to test the feasibility of adapting this video-based methodology specifically to promote high-impact maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and hygiene practices. Under the SPRING/Digital Green model, a local NGO partner – VARRAT – has worked in Keonhjar District of Odisha to produce 10 videos that showcase key nutrition and hygiene behaviors, often celebrating early adopters of these important nutrition practices. Videos are shared among small community women’s groups on a weekly basis using portable, battery-operated pico projectors. A robust suite of analytic tools, coupled with feedback from community members, then provides Digital Green and its partners with timely data to better target both production and distribution of videos. The collection of 10 nutrition- and hygiene-specific videos produced under this collaboration can be viewed along with the corresponding adoption analytics on the Digital Green website.

On December 17th, SPRING will host a webinar examining the Digital Green work through a multispectral lens, focusing on their unique approach and the growing partnership to scale-up technology to improve both agricultural and nutrition outcomes. Visit the SPRING website for more information and to register for the webinar.

This webinar is part of SPRING’s continuing collaboration with the Bureau for Food Security and Bureau of Global Health to identify promising approaches to better link nutrition and agriculture.

Getting it Right: Using Real-Time Data to Inform Smarter, More Responsive Aid

In this era of unprecedented connectivity, the private sector excels at using digital data to better understand its customers.  There is opportunity for our and other organizations involved in international development to use the analysis of digital data to better understand the real-time needs of populations who benefit from their programs.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Development Credit Authority (DCA), just completed a pilot feasibility study with the United Nations Global Pulse (UNGP) to examine the potential of capturing and analyzing digital data to inform the development of new programs on financial inclusion.

UNGPImage1

Categorization of general loan tweets between January 1, 2013 and March 14, 2013.

UNGP is known for exploring how the explosion of new digital data can be leveraged as a resource for sustainable development while advocating privacy protecting frameworks to enable the responsible use of big data for development. At USAID’s DCA, we wanted to see if we could collect data that would tell us real-time constraints for entrepreneurs trying to access finance.

Understanding Digital Footprints

First we needed to have a better understanding of the digital footprint of rural entrepreneurs in Kenya, the country we selected for our pilot. If we knew where people were contributing online, in the digital space, we could monitor those areas to collect accurate data to feed into our future development work. To gain a better understanding of the digital footprint of our loan beneficiaries, we interviewed a small sample group about their usage of various digital tools, and asked them about the terms they use when talking about accessing loans.

We then used these terms and keywords to build filters to monitor social media chatter about financial inclusion, and deployed our monitors through Twitter and Google search trends.

Sentiment Analysis

We were able to utilize the ForSight platform, thanks to a research partnership between UNGP and social media analytics Crimson Hexagon, to conduct sentiment analysis of online conversation. Sentiment analysis relies on language clues to measure the overall “feeling” of tweets.  This made it possible to see how people reacted to new financial products, relevant news stories, and even financial institutions.  By retroactively analyzing online discourse, we could even analyze how sentiment around access to finance changed over time, and during high profile events such as the 2012 elections in Kenya.

We were able to divide digital discourse into general or negative buckets, and see how those feelings changed over the time period of our analysis.  Paired with our keyword filters, this provided a new digital picture of financial inclusion in Kenya.

Looking Forward

As it turned out, limited digital chatter about loans prevented us from identifying variance in needs for loans across sectors or geographic regions. However, opportunities to do this type of analysis expand almost daily, as more people have access to social media.

For USAID’s Development Credit Authority, we recognize that other data collection methods may prove more informative and relevant to our work on financial inclusion – such “scraping” bank websites to better understand financial services being offered at any given time, or utilizing mobile surveys.

An entrepreneur in East Africa who received local, private financing with the help of a DCA credit guarantee.

An entrepreneur in East Africa who received local, private financing with the help of a DCA credit guarantee.

But the potential for using digital data in the development space- from monitoring disease outbreaks to listening to the chatter in a country just before an election- can be game changing.  This project and the resulting report were a first step to define obstacles and opportunities, and shed more light on the processes behind analyzing digital data. The more the development community understands the ways this data can be utilized, the more we can experiment in this space.  After all, to meet our objectives of ending global poverty, we can no longer risk ignoring the largest data-sets out there- those created directly by the people we are trying to reach.

Video of the Week: USAID and Nelson Mandela

This is a video of Nelson Mandela announcing a partnership with USAID on the AIDS Response Partnership in Durban, 2000. We continue to join with the world as it mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela.

Masculinity and Violence in Conflict

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

Why does masculinity devolve into madness in the face of violence? Why is it that we time and time again see a marked increase in the horrific misdeeds committed by men toward women when conflict arises? Throughout history, including up to this very day, a consequence of large-scale violence and war is a significant increase in the rate of gender-based violence that women experience in the form of rape and specific targeting by combatants. During widespread conflict, the breakdown of society and normalization of violence that extends from war into broader society is a commonly used explanation for rampant gender-based violence. Hypermasculinity, a term used to describe an increase in aggressive and misogynistic masculine traits, is also used in explaining why gender-based violence is practically treated as a given component of war. Even after a conflict has been politically resolved, the impact that widespread violence and societal conflict has on the people that experience it and live through it is profound, traumatizing, and proves difficult to overcome.

Historically, women have been treated as spoils of war and routinely victimized when communities were razed. This still happens in contemporary conflicts where we see rape used as a weapon to further traumatize and dehumanize specific communities and as a means to project power. Today in Syria, in addition to the higher incidences of direct gender-based violence, we see a different kind of indirect violence perpetrated against young women and girls in the form of child marriage practices, where families use their children as what is in essence a bartering good out of a pure need to survive. Even after a conflict has politically met its end, the violence experienced in conflict cuts deeply into the communities that are attempting to recover from its lasting impacts. In Liberia, high incidences of intimate partner violence are still reported a decade removed from the end of the civil war that tore through the country.

We need to help, but how? How do we recover from war and the cycle of violence that it fuels? How do we help women who experience violence during war, for that matter? Trauma from violence exposes everybody to the after-effects of war, but providing support through empowering and providing social services to both men and women can help with moving away from a violent society and contribute toward peacebuilding and maintaining stability. Politically empowering women and other marginalized populations, spreading awareness of the specific kinds of violence women experience while holding those responsible accountable for their crimes, and bringing women to the negotiation table needs to happen if we hope to distance ourselves from the ugliness of history. We also need to focus on a positive form of masculinity to contribute toward a peaceful and prosperous society, and move away from the hypermasculinity that pushes men and boys towards violence during times of conflict and disaster. While we have a long way to go, these steps will help us move towards gender equality and a more prosperous society.

Pearl Harbor Day – A Remembrance

The balcony outside the “Flag Mess,” or Admiral’s dining room, on the sixth floor of the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), offers one of the most all-encompassing views of Honolulu and the southern coast of the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  From the Diamond Head promontory on the far left (familiar to fans of Hawaii 5-0) through Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, to Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field, on to the Waianae mountains to the far right, on a sunny December morning it is hard to envision how different the scene would have been 72 years ago.

December 7, 1941 – the “day that will live in infamy” in the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt – saw the Japanese Imperial Navy attack on Pearl Harbor and many other U.S. military installations on Oahu.  A Hawaiian friend, now 85 years old, was a schoolgirl at the time.  She remembers the sound of the attack and running out onto the lawns of the Kamehameha School – the first school established for native Hawaiians – to see the Japanese planes bombing the U.S. fleet at Pearl, an experience that left indelible memories.

Sailors man the rails as the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) enters Pearl Harbor. Nimitz is in Pearl Harbor for a scheduled port visit during their transit home after an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th, 6th, and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.

Sailors man the rails as the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) enters Pearl Harbor. Nimitz is in Pearl Harbor for a scheduled port visit during their transit home after an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th, 6th, and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. Photo Credit: Seaman Apprentice Kelly M. Agee

Other witnesses to the attack, who survived and lived to fight in the Pacific campaign, are fewer and fewer every year.  They still return, some to spend eternity with their fallen comrades.  In a solemn ceremony, survivors who served on the USS Arizona can have their cremated remains entombed within the hull of the ship – approximately three dozen have done so, joining the more than 1,100 who went down with their ship.

These days, the job of protecting American interests in the USPACOM area of responsibility (AOR) falls to the people of USPACOM and the four service commands.  It is a massive job – the AOR reaches from the west coast of the U.S. to the western borders of China and India, more than 50% of the surface area of the world.  With 60% of the world’s population, the world’s five largest militaries, five of the world total of seven U.S. mutual defense treaty allies, and sea lanes through which the bulk of world commerce passes, the region is vital to U.S. national interests.

The importance that USAID places on our partnership with USPACOM is demonstrated by the assignment of four USAID advisors to the Command – two Development Advisors and two Humanitarian Assistance Advisors.  Working closely together, we are committed to advancing U.S. national interests and USAID developmental objectives in this critical part of the world –responding to humanitarian disasters, building host nation capacity to counter instability and violent  extremism; mitigating the effects of climate change; and countering illicit trafficking; and  promoting stability, good governance, and regional cooperation in Asia. Although this cooperation takes many forms, it is usually most visible when military forces respond to a USAID and host nation request for support with disaster assistance programs, as was the case just last month when the strongest typhoon to ever hit land devastated parts of the Philippines.

As we pause to remember the sacrifice of those who fell here 72 years ago, we should also remember that the people of USAID and USPACOM continue to work in peaceful ways to achieve the ideals for which our fathers and grandfathers fought not so long ago.

Richard Hough is the USAID Senior Development Advisor to U.S. Pacific Command. A career Foreign Service Officer, he works to maximize interagency cooperation and develop solutions to developmental challenges faced by both civilian and military agencies.  His international career has spanned more than thirty years, with assignments in Africa, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Richard served as USAID Mission Director in Romania and Yugoslavia (Serbia/Montenegro), opening the missions in each country in the immediate post-communist period and managing significant democratic, social and economic transition programs, including pro-democracy support that was instrumental in removing President Milosevic from power.  As Director of Programming for the USAID Missions to Indonesia and the West Bank and Gaza (Palestine), he managed the development of a new, post-9/11 strategy for USAID programs in Indonesia, the fourth largest country, with the largest Muslim population, in the world.  Following the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 26, 2004 Richard developed a $400 million recovery and reconstruction plan for the province of Aceh.  In Palestine he managed a $2 billion development assistance portfolio that supported the Israeli-Arab peace process.  He is married to Jill Gulliksen, an international development professional with thirty years of program management experience; they have two grown children.

Political Transition Assistance and Prevention of Gender Based Violence

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

She was abandoned as a baby at a rural hospital in Bihar, India. The hospital, at a loss for what to do with an infant girl, gave her away – to a brothel. Through concerted efforts of an anti-human trafficking organization in India, Apne Aap Women Worldwide, she was adopted and housed at the nonprofit’s shelter for girls. Thanks to Apne Aap, she escaped the brothel at an early age, rescued from a life of forced prostitution that awaited her. This year she graduated from secondary school. She wants to be a doctor.

In a nearby village named Khawaspur, I met a girl about the same age who was living a very different life. Despite significant efforts to remove her from the red light area of the village, she was forced into prostitution at the age of 12. For the past 5 years she has been living with daily exposure to sexual violence. Forced to lie about her age to authorities, she lives in hollow silence.

Younger students have participated in a USAID program, based on an understanding that young people are still developing ideas about gender and relationships. Photo Credit: J. Harris, International Medical Corps

Younger students have participated in a USAID program, based on an understanding that young people are still developing ideas about gender and relationships. Photo Credit: J. Harris, International Medical Corps

I saw these two stories with my own eyes, and learned of the cruel cycle that we at USAID try to break:  poverty, women’s systematic exclusion, and a lack of education, among other factors, all contribute to endemic gender-based violence (GBV) and the disproportionate maltreatment of women.   Endemic GBV and women’s inequality on the other hand threaten the stability and development of any given country or region.  In addition, we know that in conflicts and crises, GBV is more prevalent and these issues are magnified.  This is why USAID continues to be focused on ending GBV.

GBV is the violation of human rights on the basis of gender, and encompasses a wide-range of issues including bride kidnapping, sexual violence, and human trafficking. Given the breadth and complexity of the issue, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) helps increase community education, support for prevention and response, and women’s inclusion in political processes – all critical issues that threaten both the stability and rights of citizens, such as GBV.

For example, in Kyrgyzstan, where bride kidnappings are a serious issue, OTI partnered with a local NGO to engage students from three universities in the southern city of Osh in discussions on bride kidnapping and recent changes to laws that increase jail time for perpetrators. Young women – and men – are uninformed about bride kidnapping laws and the legal process, and women often face stigma from communities and families when attempting to resist captivity.  With OTI’s support, the local organization activity utilized street theater performances, t-shirts, brochures, and public service announcements to empower students to take a stand against bride kidnapping and serve as an example for others.  In addition to confronting bridal kidnapping, the program functioned as part of a larger effort to address sources of instability and support the democratic transition,

In Burma, OTI supports a local organization to conduct a qualitative study on violence against women.  Women’s rights organizations plan to utilize the findings to enhance service and response mechanisms and support prevention and response programs around the country.

To address sexual violence in Sri Lanka, OTI-supported youth led more than 1,000 individuals in protests against sexual violence, with representation from diverse ethnic and religious groups from six districts across Sri Lanka.  Support for these youth groups was delivered through OTI’s Sexual Assault Forensic Evaluation (SAFE) program.

In addition to these activities directly addressing gender-based violence, the Office of Transition Initiatives supports a number of other initiatives as components of transition programming in countries including Syria, Tunisia, Afghanistan, and Burma. These initiatives promote women’s participation in the political process, build the role of women in government and civil society, and raise awareness on critical issues impacting women and girls. Inclusion of women in transition processes will promote their positions as equal stakeholders in democracy, and encourage prevention of gender-based violence. In conflict and crisis environments, providing an inclusive platform for those impacted by sexual violence to become agents of change in their own communities is critical for protecting the rights and security of individuals, and for the development of legitimate political processes.

With writing support from Lisa Bower, Program Manager and Gender Point of Contact at the Office of Transition Assistance, and  Melissa Hough, Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance.

Transforming Gender Norms and Ending Child Marriage: The Role of Boys

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

Child marriage has recently gained heightened attention by donors, researchers, activists, program implementers, and policymakers. The international community has increasingly recognized child marriage as a violation of girls’ rights, health, and well-being, and efforts to prevent and respond to child marriage have prioritized critical “hot spots” where the practice is particularly grave and widespread. Yet, it is also crucial to shed light on a current “blind spot” in these efforts: the role of boys in ending child marriage.

When males are included in strategies and interventions to address child marriage, the focus is mostly on the key role that men play as powerful gatekeepers: fathers and religious and community leaders, whose support must be galvanized to intervene on behalf of girls. The forward-looking USAID Vision for Action on Child Marriage, for example, includes engaging men as an important part of mobilizing communities to shift norms that perpetuate child marriage. But the Vision does not stop there; it further states that, “equally important is reaching out to boys at a young age to encourage equitable gender attitudes and norms so that they can be allies in preventing child marriage and change agents within their communities.” This aspect of male engagement is usually not highlighted in child marriage discussions, yet raises a vital question: What needs to happen to create a generation of boys that resists and rejects child marriage for themselves in the future?

A young girl.  Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

The international community has increasingly recognized child marriage as a violation of girls’ rights, health, and well-being, and efforts to prevent and respond to child marriage have prioritized critical “hot spots” where the practice is particularly grave and widespread. Yet, it is also crucial to shed light on a current “blind spot” in these efforts: the role of boys in ending child marriage. Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

This “demand-side” orientation requires long-term investments aimed at changing the social and behavioral gender norms that drive child marriage. What if all future men refused to marry a child bride? Though directly addressing this side of the equation is seldom mentioned, there are promising interventions with young girls and boys that seek to transform gender attitudes and behaviors with the goal of promoting gender equality more broadly. One example is the USAID-funded Gender Roles, Equality, and Transformation (GREAT) project.

Although GREAT does not directly address child marriage, it works with adolescents (ages 10-19) and their communities to reduce gender-based violence and improve reproductive health in Uganda. Building on the CHOICES project in Nepal, GREAT recognizes early adolescence as a window of opportunity—a time when the formation of gender norms and identities is taking place. The project utilizes participatory activities to engage young girls and boys in gender equality discussions. For example, project staff ask young girls and boys to pile-sort cards representing various household and community tasks, to show who is responsible for them. Girls and boys (including sisters and brothers) see the pile of tasks assigned to girls steadily grow larger than the boys’ pile. The activity prompts conversations about fairness, as boys remark on the larger burden carried by their sisters.

These types of “a-ha” moments are crucial entryways to deeper critical reflections that can begin a journey towards gender equality. By tapping into young boys’ sense of justice at a very young age, interventions such as these, which seek to transform gender norms early in the process of childhood development, hold the promise of shaping a future generation of men as allies in wiping out child marriage globally.

Seeking Justice: Implementation through Vital Voices’ Institute Model

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

Despite the increasing focus on gender-based violence (GBV) since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the situation for many women worldwide has not improved.  For twenty years, the international community has adopted and ratified international frameworks to combat GBV, like CEDAW, Resolution 1325, and the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, and enacted national legislation compliant with these standards.  We passed critically important laws. And then we stood back to admire our handiwork, rather than setting to work on the difficult task of implementation.

For many women, the reality is dire.  Acid attacks are on the rise in Colombia. Syria’s humanitarian crisis has left more women vulnerable to sexual assault. Child pregnancies will double globally by 2030, and reported rape cases have doubled in Delhi, India, for 2013 alone.  The United Nations Population Fund cites a persistent lack of an accountability mechanism as a problem in implementing Resolution 1325. The U.S. State Department Trafficking In Persons Report (“TIP Report”) indicates myriad challenges to implementation of Palermo at national levels, such as failure to identify and protect victims (Liberia), failure to prosecute forced labor cases (Peru), and the criminal prosecution of victims (Albania).

Justice Prudence Galega leading a session during the Institute in Cameroon, July 2012. Photo credit: Vital Voices

Justice Prudence Galega leading a session during the Institute in Cameroon, July 2012. Photo credit: Vital Voices

Vital Voices has prioritized implementation.  We have developed a training program, the Institute, to mobilize and refine the criminal justice response to GBV and human trafficking. Participants include law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and service providers. We deliver training on a victim-centered approach to offender accountability by focusing on the needs and safety of victims.  The Institute encourages collaboration across disciplines, particularly utilizing women leaders and NGO service providers to achieve effective implementation.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP), Vital Voices has conducted the Institute throughout Cameroon since 2010, with support of local partner Justice Prudence Galega and NGO Nku’mu Fed Fed.  Since the start of our program, investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking cases have risen and agencies are more effectively collaborating to refer victims for care.  Cameroon’s ranking in the TIP Report was upgraded from Tier 2 Watch list to Tier 2 in 2012, and the 2013 report [PDF] recognized our training efforts. From 2013-2015 J/TIP is sponsoring the implementation of our program in Uganda in partnership with local NGO Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda.

Effective results have been achieved here in the United States since the initial passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.  Change did not, however, come automatically with the passage of the law.  It was only after proper implementation, coming in the form of advocacy, awareness-raising, and capacity-building training that the United States response improved.  The White House estimates that from 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67%, even as reporting increased.  The United States case proves that implementation of the law reduces violence.  A stand-alone goal within the post-2015 Millennium Development framework has been proposed to focus on GBV.  Vital Voices applauds the attention paid to this issue. But we know that these efforts will not make a difference in women’s lives unless the international community works in concert with foreign national government and grassroots NGOs for implementation.

A Thing of the Past

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

Shahida Begum is a young Bangladeshi mom who hails from the northern district of Bogra, where her parents arranged her marriage at the age of sixteen. At the ceremony, her mother and father agreed to pay the groom’s family a dowry in exchange for taking Shahida’s hand in marriage. Though illegal, the traditional practice of paying a dowry—usually a lump sum of cash or valuable property transferred from the bride’s family to the family of the groom—still occurs in Bangladesh, particularly in rural areas.

In the beginning of their married life, things were going well for Shahida and her husband. However, after a few months, Shahida’s in-laws began to demand more dowry money. After several refusals, the requests transformed into heated verbal pressure from her husband’s family, yet Shahida and her family continued to resist. The situation continued to escalate to the point where physical violence was exerted against Shahida by her husband. The violence grew worse with the birth of an unexpected baby girl. Finally, the abuse became so intense that she had no choice but to flee to her parents’ home. Even though her husband knew that she was breastfeeding their daughter, he did not allow Shahida to take their child when she walked out the door.

Like Shahida, this woman signed an official agreement following an alternative dispute resolution meeting, which upheld charges of abuse she filed against her husband and assures additional legal action under the Domestic Abuse Act if she suffers violence in the future. Photo by Md. Arif Hossain/USAID Protecting Human Rights Project

Like Shahida, this woman signed an official agreement following an alternative dispute resolution meeting, which upheld charges of abuse she filed against her husband and assures additional legal action under the Domestic Abuse Act if she suffers violence in the future. Photo by Md. Arif Hossain/USAID Protecting Human Rights Project

Bangladesh is considered a rising performer in achieving development milestones. Not only does it boast a growing economy, it is also on track to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals, including MDG3 to “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.” Today, there is equal enrollment of boys and girls in primary and lower secondary schools, and the number of seats in parliament was raised in 2004 from 300 to 345—the additional 45 seats reserved for women lawmakers.

Despite this progress, violence continues to destroy the lives of many Bangladeshi women and girls. The Daily Star—a popular national newspaper—reported that 822 women were victimized for dowry in 2012; of them, nearly 300 were killed. These numbers only reflect official reports and don’t tell the full story. Privately, domestic violence is widespread in Bangladesh. A baseline survey conducted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2011 found that 75 percent of women surveyed believed that domestic violence is justified if a wife disobeys her husband.

USAID is working with the Government of Bangladesh to implement and enforce the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 to make tragedies like Shahida’s a thing of the past. Public awareness campaigns educate citizens about the law and the consequences of domestic violence. In addition, USAID has trained nearly 300 human rights defenders—half of them women—to enforce existing human rights laws, including the Domestic Violence Act. Grassroots social protection groups made up of social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers, and students monitor domestic violence in their communities and help victims access legal channels and alternative dispute forums to settle incidents of abuse.

After leaving her child behind, Shahida lived at her father’s home where she felt safe. During this time, she experienced a wave of emotion and confusion. She had heard about domestic violence happening in her community but never thought she would be a victim. Most of all, her soul longed to return to her baby daughter.

Shahida began to seek help and found a social protection group in her community. This group was part of USAID’s Protecting Human Rights program in which a legal counselor, police and social protection group members promised Shahida to help resolve the dispute. The group also provided psychosocial counseling.

The social protection group organized two alternative dispute resolution sessions in which Shahida, her husband and their respective family members convened to present their stories. Forum members listened to the testimonies and discussed the accounts amongst themselves. After coming to a ruling, members of the group brokered an agreement among the parties in which Shahida would be allowed to return to her in-laws’ house and be reunited with her daughter. To ensure she would not face future violent acts, the Protecting Human Rights program issued a clause in which they would file a court case against Shahida’s husband or his family under the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act if she is abused in any way.

In August 2013, Shahida returned to her husband’s home.  She says she feels safer with her daughter in her arms and also takes comfort in regular monitoring by USAID’s Protecting Human Rights program to ensure a violence free life for Shahida and her child.

As part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we renew our commitment to end the abuse that traps so many women and girls in Bangladesh and around the world. Let us work together, in partnership, to make all forms of violence a thing of the past.

USAID Activities Respond to Gender-Based Violence

From November 25th (International End Violence Against Women Day) through December 10th (International Human Rights Day), USAID joins the international community for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. During this time IMPACT will highlight USAID’s work to combat gender-based violence.

In Rwanda, in 2012 alone, 3,472 women and girls were raped, defiled, beaten or killed, according to a statement by the Commissioner of Police John Bosco Kabera to The New Times, July 9, 2012.  More than half of newly married women reported suffering physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Nearly 80 percent of those women claim the violence occurred during the last 12 months (Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey, 2010).

Before the establishment of One Stop Centers, victims had to first go to the police station to give testimonies of their ordeal, and then travel back to the hospital to receive treatment, and only then received the official report to take back to the police station. No legal counsel was available onsite. The process could take days to complete, with victims shuffled from one service to another, re-living their traumatic experience and sharing the same details with different groups. Many would give up and go home. With the new One Stop Centers, all services are located on the same site. The whole process takes approximately four hours, during which time the victim remains at the Center while a dedicated staff of doctors, nurses, police officers, and social workers handle her case.

A group of community health workers being trained to identify and help respond to GBV cases in their community surrounding the Nyamata Health Center; discussion around the importance of gender equality and establishment of one stop centres in Nyamata/Bugesera district. Photo credit: USAID/Rwanda

A group of community health workers being trained to identify and help respond to GBV cases in their community surrounding the Nyamata Health Center; discussion around the importance of gender equality and establishment of one stop centres in Nyamata/Bugesera district. Photo credit: USAID/Rwanda

USAID’s Rwanda Family Health Project is supporting the Ministry of Health in fighting gender-based violence through the establishment of two One Stop Centers in Nyamata and Nemba Hospitals. One Stop Centers offer critical integrated services to victims, including immediate counseling, treatment, lab tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and a physical examination by a doctor. Once exams are completed and evidence recorded, an onsite police officer submits the medical report to the court for legal proceedings.

Olive Mukase, a psychiatric nurse that is trained in dealing with victims of gender-based violence reflects, “It is a cultural and economic matter. In Rwanda, women believe that they need to remain silent so as not to bring attention or trouble to the household. The husband is the chief and a woman must respect what he says and does. Sometimes, she is scared that if she reports him to the police he could be sent to prison and she will not be able to provide for her family.” Ms. Mukase counsels victims and encourages them to help other women in their community find the courage to speak up and get help. Unfortunately, few women that are victims of gender-based violence will seek help, believing that the perpetrator will eventually stop. Only when the violence becomes unbearable do some women seek help.

Marthe Nyirarutimana, a Community Health Worker in a rural village outside of Nyamata, has recently been trained by the Program to raise awareness of gender-based violence in her community and how to refer victims to support services.  She shared that before receiving training, she did not think about how, as a community health worker, she would be involved in this issue. She now plays an active role in identifying cases, referring, and accompanying victims to health centers for care and treatment.

Marthe continues to work closely with local authorities to raise awareness of gender-based violence in her community. She describes how at first the community was resistant.  After her outreach, members began to discuss gender-based violence-what it is, why it occurs and how it should be handled. Most importantly, the community now knows that the victims should and can be taken to the One Stop Center for help.

One message that was echoed by these brave front-line workers is the need to break the silence around gender-based violence. Olive and Marthe are just two of the people committed to changing gender perceptions and providing services to the victims of gender-based violence in Rwanda. During these 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, support Olive and Marthe and others by becoming a part of the movement that gives voice to victims around the world.

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