In September, the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) hosted its fourth biennial SVRI Forum. As the largest gathering of violence against women and girls researchers in the global south, it brings together the world’s leading experts on research into violence against women and girls, to share innovative ideas about how to end gender-based violence.
We know that violence against women and girls is one of the greatest social, economic and public health problems facing the world today. In response, the Sexual Violence Research Initiative was set up to promote good quality research in the area of sexual violence, with a particular focus on the Global South. The forum brings together researchers, gender activists, funders, policymakers, service providers, practitioners and survivors from all over the world to showcase innovative practices to end sexual violence, intimate partner violence and child abuse, and strengthen responses to survivors in low and middle income countries – its ultimate purpose to understand what is working and why, with a view to scaling up those successes. The growth of the Forum over the years illustrates the increased value placed on research and evidence-informed programming, making this a biennial pilgrimage for those working in the field.
Opened by Claudia Garcia-Moreno, Chair of the What Works Independent Advisory Board, SVRI Forum 2015 Chair, and lead specialist on Gender, Reproductive Rights, Sexual Health and Adolescence at the World Health Organization, she highlighted the renewed vigour of the VAWG community to find real and sustainable solutions through evidence generation. Other notable speakers included Dr Rashida Manjoo, the former UN Special rapporteur on violence against women. Dr Manjoo’s inspiring speech as the Forum began ended with a powerful reminder and encouragement for the work we do, that despite these stark stats, there have been significant milestones in the work to prevent VAWG, and that it is no longer “scream quietly or the neighbours will hear.”
Plenary sessions showcased promising interventions around the world, including healthy relationships programmes in Bangladesh, and one programme that raised as many questions as it did smiles, called Pigs for Peace, working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to combine microfinance livestock programming with work to challenge harmful gender stereotypes.
What Works-funded projects and partners from around the world were at the centre of it all, leading discussion on successful new approaches that work to prevent violence against women and girls. Change Starts at Home, which is receiving support for its work in Nepal, looked at some of the social factors that contribute to nearly 31% of women in Nepal reporting they have experienced violence from their partner. Tearfund outlined strategies they have used to engage faith leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo as catalysts and agents for change on the status of women.
What Works and its partners also led broader discussions on the latest global evidence from The Lancet on rates of violence against women and girls, and where there are gaps in research and work, as well as programmes that are working around the world to address these factors. This includes the IMAGE project, Tosta and SASA! Meanwhile, Claudia Garcia-Moreno and Lori Heise put forward a global call for action that called on nations to show leadership, create equality, change norms, challenge sectors, invest in research, and to commit to action. Rachel Jewkes stood alongside Michael Flood and James Lang to discuss the latest evidence on work with men and boys.
On the final day of the forum, What Works led a Special Session to share the latest lessons learned from the field on refining, adapting and implementing violence prevention programmes. Director of the What Works programme, Rachel Jewkes, and Lori Heise discussed approaches to social norms work. Emma Fulu discussed approaches to communicating research, as part of efforts to see research adopted into policy. And Jennifer McCleary-Sills provided insight into how What Works will begin measuring the economic and social costs of violence against women and girls.
For a full list of speakers, and access to their presentations, visit the SVRI Forum 2015 site for details.