Data for Action: Measuring Prevalence to Respond to Gender-Based Violence
Despite notable efforts by authorities, service providers and academia to record and track the incidence of gender-based violence (GBV) in the Caribbean, lack of comprehensive, systematic, nationally-owned data remains a serious bottleneck in responding to and preventing GBV, including its most prevalent form – that of violence against women. Subsequently, Caribbean Governments and Non-Governmental Organisations have requested the UN’s support in strengthening data collection so as to guide and sustain a robust national response to GBV.
In support of regional partner CARICOM and in part through the funding of the Government of Canada’s “Canada Fund for Local Initiatives”, the UN Women Multi-Country Office – Caribbean and the UNDP Sub-regional Office for Barbados and the OECS are supporting the adaptation and national piloting of a Prevalence Survey Model on GBV. A first step in this regard is the convening of a Regional Expert Group Meeting from the 3rd to 4th April in Barbados. The meeting brings together representatives from National Statistical Offices (NSOs), Ministries responsible for gender equality, specialised violence intervention units of national police forces, non-governmental organisations providing services to those who experience GBV, as well as representatives from international and regional organisations.
Dr. Hilary Brown, CARICOM Secretariat Program Manager for Gender, said: “This is a pivotal meeting that urges us to work together as a region to advance knowledge of the problem of gender-based violence. We must acknowledge the extent of the problem, the devastating impact it has on people's lives in our region and harness our efforts to address, not only the symptoms but also the root causes of gender-based violence. Ultimately we all want the same goal – peaceful and healthy communities where everyone feels safe to engage and prosper”
UN Women Representative Christine Arab said: “Despite being known as one of the most pervasive forms of violence in the Caribbean, countries for the most part continue to have only anecdotal evidence of the actual scope and prevalence of gender-based violence, including violence against women. Cases of and discussions around gender-based violence and domestic violence evoke strong emotions for all societies, and it is essential that the discourse and measures to prevent and respond to this phenomena are based on the full and accurate picture of the situation.” Ms. Arab added: “Public confidence in state capacity to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, including violence against women, is critical to an effective citizen security approach. Gender-based violence is as destructive to the individual, the family and the community as is the street crime that Caribbean societies’ face”.
UNDP Deputy Representative, Lara Blanco stressed: “While some threats—such as organised crime, especially drug trafficking—are often used to explain insecurity, the national and local dynamics are much more diverse. Violence against women as an expression of gender-based violence features as a persistent and pervasive threat hindering human development.”
The purpose of the Regional Expert Group Meeting is to present internationally-tested methodologies for population-based Prevalence Surveys on gender based violence (GBV), including the work of WHO world-wide; to review the existing processes in the Caribbean which monitor prevalence of GBV in communities and in the home; and to assess the most relevant Prevalence Survey methodology for the Caribbean context, with a view to having a CARICOM Model adopted, once tested.
Global and national commitments in the Caribbean towards ending GBV, including sexual violence, require that countries ensure availability of:
a) Administrative or service-based data on the sectoral responses and whether or not these responses are meeting the demands of those who have experienced violence and
b) Population-based data on the prevalence of gender-based violence in the country.
One common source of information on GBV are statistics from administrative records like health management information systems (HMIS), police, social services and justice. It is widely recognized that the majority of women who experience violence often do not seek help. Therefore administrative data – even if properly collected, presented and interpreted – is not representative of the scope of the problem. While administrative data cannot play a role in measuring the magnitude and patterns of violence in the population, it remains an important data source for understanding what sectors are approached for support, the response and the treatment provided.
Population-based surveys (or prevalence surveys) are the only way to achieve reliable and comprehensive statistics that represent the magnitude of GBV, including violence against women, in a country. These population-based surveys involve interviewing a representative sample of women about their experiences of violence using a well-designed questionnaire and specially trained interviewers. Data from interviews with men allows insight in how men perceive violence against women, as well as their own experiences with violence.
Global estimates show that up to six out of ten women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Violence against women has not yet been given the priority necessary to enable significant change in addressing and overcoming this severe and pervasive violation of human rights. Violence against women remains one of the most widespread human rights violations, yet one of the least prosecuted crimes.
Sharon Carter-Burke, Communications Analyst, UN Women Multi-Country Office – Caribbean
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