Thursday 2nd November 2017
‘Food for the Soul’ – The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) Forum 2017
Addressing gender-based violence is a core priority for AmplifyChange. We are currently funding over 200 civil society organisations (CSOs) across 46 low and middle-income countries to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls (VAWG). The SVRI Forum 2017 was an invaluable opportunity for actors working on these challenging issues to come together, learn, reflect, inspire and challenge each other. One participant described it as ‘food for the soul’.
Speakers at the opening plenary began on a positive note by highlighting significant recent achievements. VAWG is higher on the global agenda than ever before. Specific targets have been included in the Global Goals on eliminating all forms of VAWG, and there is increasing recognition that it will not be possible to achieve several of the Goals without reducing VAWG. We know that VAWG is preventable, and the evidence base for how to tackle it effectively is growing.
While there is much cause to celebrate, there are many healthy reminders of how fragile progress can be. In many places around the world, hard-won gains are under threat of being eroded. The challenges are immense, but so was the determination and energy among delegates to tackle them.
One issue that emerged as a running theme throughout the Forum was the importance of evidence and valuing diverse forms of evidence in our work. Many speakers expressed concern at an increasing focus on numbers and statistics that is overshadowing other forms of knowledge, including qualitative information and practice-based learning. The importance of contextualised and locally-generated evidence was also highlighted.
Supporting evidence-based programming and advocacy is a priority for AmplifyChange. Almost 100 of our current grantees are generating evidence in various forms to support SRHR advocacy. One challenge is how to ensure this locally generated evidence informs global policy and debate.
Additionally, it is crucial that activists, practitioners and social movements in the Global South have access to the latest learning and resources. This will be the focus of an exciting new initiative announced at the Forum called the Prevention Collaborative, which will support evidence-based prevention programming and advocacy through technical accompaniment by making evidence available and accessible.
Another theme that emerged was the importance of a feminist perspective underpinning work on VAWG, and concern over shrinking space for initiatives that are women-centered, women-led, and rights-driven. The Coalition of Feminists for Social Change (COFEM), launched a series of 5 challenging papers at the Forum to explore this further.
A feminist perspective is particularly vital in the design of initiatives to engage men and boys. If these initiatives are not women-centred and accountable to women and girls, they run the risk of inadvertently reinforcing patriarchal norms and undermining women’s movements.
“If you don’t conduct a feminist political analysis you may be putting women at more risk”
- Lori Michau, Raising Voices
AmplifyChange recognises the crucial importance of supporting grassroots activism and movements for social change. We are currently funding nearly 150 women-led organisations across 40 countries. Courageous SRHR advocates are also being supported through our new #advocacyleaders project on social media. Additionally, we recently initiated a qualitative research study to harness lessons from our grantees’ advocacy and policy influencing work.
Another thought-provoking session at the Forum focused on the opportunities and challenges presented in taking promising social norms initiatives to scale. It was organised by the Community for Understanding Scale Up (CUSP), a collective of practitioners that have designed successful approaches to achieving reductions in VAWG. The members of CUSP have collated compelling lessons and insights to support social norm programme scale ups in such a way as to maintain the essential elements and principles that catalyse sustainable, transformative change.
“Violence against women and girls and gender inequality are sustained by norms that embody unequal gender power relations”
– Angelica Pino, SONKE Gender Justice
It was also positive to see many panel sessions at the Forum exploring the intersections between VAWG and other issues, including family planning, violence against children and disability. In the next Forum in 2019, we look forward to expanding on these intersections and seeing more diverse voices presenting at the conference.
Article by Suzanne Walker, Technical Performance Manager for AmplifyChange