Why Intimate Partner Violence Is Your Business

By Marat Yu

The recent surfacing of numerous sexual harassment allegations—including multiple allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace—have demonstrated how much work remains to be done to create genuinely inclusive workplace around the world. Business can no longer be in any doubt about its duty to stamp out violence and harassment at work.

However, if there is another learning from the #MeToo movement, it is that violence knows no borders. It occurs at work, on the way to and from work, and at home, and the impact spills over from one aspect of life to the other. Companies have a clear interest in ensuring a violence-free workplace, and for a range of reasons—including the importance of looking after your employees—business must consider how it can go beyond the workplace to tackle violence in the domestic sphere.

International and local instruments increasingly identify employers as important stakeholders to address Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Coinciding with the Governing Body of the International Labour Organization (ILO) deciding to place a standard-setting item on “Violence against Women and Men in the World of Work” on the agenda of the 107th Session of the International Labour Conference, a tripartite meeting of experts concluded that “domestic violence and other forms of violence and harassment are relevant to the world of work when they impact the workplace.” In another recent development, China enacted its first Domestic Violence Act in March 2016, which includes provisions that require employers to act against domestic violence through measures such as providing assistance to victims.

Furthermore, working to tackle violence against women makes business sense: IPV can have negative impacts on workers’ productivity. Emerging research suggests that domestic violence can cause absenteeism because of stress, injuries, or ill-health; victims also have difficulty concentrating at work, which results in poor performance. An IFC study in Papua New Guinea calculated that staff lost 11 work days per year to gender-based violence, costing the companies 3-9 percent of payroll. Research from UN Women indicates that women workers in Vietnam who suffered IPV earned 35 percent less than those not experiencing such violence. There is a significant cost to business inaction.

Business can take a leading role on tackling IPV in several ways:

  • Understand the root causes, raise awareness, and create the business case for intervention. Business can commission or conduct research to understand the root causes of gender inequality and violence. One example of this is the partnership between Diageo and CAREto promote women’s empowerment in the agricultural and hospitality value chain. Business can also clarify laws and regulations on the responsibilities of employers in relation to IPV. A costing study of the economic and social cost of IPV can help generate internal buy-in, which in turn supports investment decisions.
  • Leverage the workplace as an engine of positive social change.The workplace can be a powerful space to shape attitudes and behaviors, as well as to create positive role models. Workers—men and women—will be less willing to accept violence at home and in their communities if they work in a respectful environment. Particularly, business should engage with men in company policy dialogue and program interventions, especially in the context of adverse social norms toward women. Implementing gender policies and programs without engaging men could create a perception of male disadvantage, leading to backlash against women. BSR works to engage men through HERrespect, supported by DFID’s What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls, while programs such as MenCare and Program H are other good examples of male engagement in program development.
  • Facilitate access to services and opportunities for victims and enhance the response mechanism.Business can facilitate access to essential services such as hotlines, counseling, legal aid, and housing—as Kering demonstrates—for IPV survivors. Business can also create economic opportunities for victims, as Sodexo is doing. Effective redressal mechanisms are traditionally a government’s responsibility, but initiatives such as Avon Foundation’s Justice Institute could support the strengthening of the justice system.
  • Campaign against violence.Companies can promote positive concepts of masculinity through campaigns or design products to provide direct support to women who seek help. The 16 Days of Activism campaign and others such as NO MORE provide a good opportunity for business to speak up against IPV.

It’s time for companies to be bold. That means adopting a comprehensive strategy on violence in the workplace, which companies have the power to eliminate, as well as helping to change norms and tackle social acceptance of violence beyond the workplace. Whether through raising its voice or protecting and supporting survivors, business has a key role to play in addressing the systemic issue of violence against women in every sphere.

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This blog was originally posted at bsr.org.

 

Working as a social mobilizer has transformed my life: Jalimaya’s story

IMG_0511For the last three years, I have been working as a Social Mobilizer in Bhimapokhara Youth Club (BYC), for the One Community; One Family Project in Baglung, Nepal. I have witnessed first-hand, the positive impact that the work I have done has had on the communities with whom I have lived. I pride myself on being a true agent of change.  I feel positive when I interact with people and share real-life experiences helping them in clarifying various gender-based violence issues (GBV), of which they are often unaware. These include referrals available within the district for GBV survivors, information about the different forms of violence, maintaining trust and confidentiality and so on. Moreover, I encouraged the community to take the initiative in bringing a positive change within themselves as well as in their family.

My role working as a Social Mobilizer for the One Community; One Family Project run by VSO Nepal and BYC Baglung, which forms part of the UKAID funded global initiative, What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls has brought me much joy.

“I still recall those days where I used to hide behind others so that I wouldn’t be pointed out to share my opinions during any workshops. I felt nervous and experienced stage fright which made me hesitant to face even a moderate crowd”.

Participating in the project, I was afforded the opportunity to enhance my communication, leadership and writing skills. All these improvements are a result of the rigorous effort put in over a period of time, which has been wisely invested in training all the social mobilizers. And as a result, we are much better at implementing the interventions.

“As a result of being associated with the project, I have successfully addressed my stage-phobia and I no longer feel uncomfortable or nervous about expressing my opinions, as well as constructive arguments in any meetings or programs that I’m involved.”

After the successful completion of all the interventions, I am delighted to see young married women starting their selected Income Generating Activities (IGA) and committing to leading a dignified life.

“I have been able to witness harmony and mutual support among family members and often observed them strive and pave their paths towards commercialization of IGA, which can help women to be empowered economically in the future.”

Women’s independence and empowerment will undoubtedly uplift their status as well as deter domestic violence against women and girls in Nepal.

All of the insights have been shared by Jalimaya Thapa, working as a Social Mobilizer for One Community One Family Project in Bhimapokahra Youth Club ( BYC) Baglung. Neeta Gurung is acknowledged for translating Jalimaya’s story.

Can working with the whole family be effective in tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Tajikistan?

“I used to set the table for breakfast, lunch or dinner every day and, as usual, when I joined others around the table, it was already empty. Last week, when I set the table for dinner…everyone was waiting for me. I was so shocked positively that I could not eat. When I cleaned the table, and washed the dishes after, my father-in-law nursed my son to sleep. This happened for the first time in my life in my husband’s family and this is due to the ZS sessions”.

These were the words of a young woman who has benefitted from the ZS sessions currently being implemented in four villages in South and North of Tajikistan. Her story and that of many others have been testimony to the positive changes experienced in relationships with husbands and in-laws.

Levels of violence against women and girls are high in Tajikistan, driven by gender inequalities and livelihood insecurity. Young daughters-in-law are particularly vulnerable to intimate partner violence (IPV) and violence from in-laws. In many countries in Asia the family unit is not a husband/wife dyad, but extends to a complex grouping of in-laws who often exploit, and are violent towards, younger daughters-in-law. Therefore, interventions may be more successful if they extend beyond the husband/wife dyad to the family unit. However, there is a major gap in evidence-based interventions to reduce IPV and violence from in-laws, both in Tajikistan and globally.

To develop an integrated social and economic approach with a family-level focus, we used the ‘Stepping Stones’ intervention as the basis for an innovative livelihoods intervention which integrates efforts to prevent violence against women and girls and promote gender equality. Formative research on IPV, gender and livelihoods was conducted to inform the intervention. An adaptation workshop was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, bringing together implementing partners and the What Works global team to brainstorm and draft a training manual based on the contextual analysis and the findings of the formative research. Following this, local partners joined the group and were introduced to, and consulted on, the draft methodology through 3 days of pilot training with the draft manual.

The adapted intervention was named “Zindagii Shoista” – “Living with Dignity” and is now being implemented in four villages in Tajikistan, covering 81 target families with around 270 members, including 60% women (above 35 years old) and 40% men (18-35 years old).

Feedback indicates that the approaches used through Zindagii Shoista (ZS) are being very well received and found relevant to the Tajik context: Zuhro from partner organization Women of Orient (WoO): “At first glance, the information provided in ZS sessions seems to be simple, but makes you realise that we usually omit to pay attention to simple but very important things”.

Dilorom from partners organization ATO): “There were challenges at the initial stage of the intervention, but successes now outnumber the challenges. We are very pleased that in our village, out of 20 target families, in 15 families (75%) we already have improved family relationships”.

Mehrinisso (partner organization Farodis): “I was walking in the street and an old man, who was not our target beneficiary, approached and thanked me for working with families to improve relationships and the economic situation. He said, ‘you’re doing a very important and valuable job and my wish is you cover as many families in the village as possible’”.

Another young woman gave this testimony: “My mother-in-law is gradually changing positively and is looking after her grandchildren now. She is trying now to avoid criticising me… My husband is becoming kinder. Yesterday we chatted and I joked about whether he was thinking of taking another wife. He responded that no, why should I marry someone else? I have a son and a daughter and I am content with my life”.

Target families are running small enterprises in which young women, particularly daughters-in-law are actively involved. The economic empowerment component is contributing positively not only to family economies and increasing daughters’-in-law earning power, but also improving gender attitudes, knowledge and behaviors within families and reducing violence: Mavluda U. purchased a cow and calf through project support to the family business. She gets 5 litres of milk a day and can sell and market dairy products, bringing in 55-60 somoni (£5-6)/week to the family fund. “The sessions and activities that I and my husband are involved in on income generation helped us to improve our relationship. We had a cow before as well, but my husband was not interested to help me to look after her. Now, he pays special attention to the new cow and is very motivated and interested to look after her. He even bathes the cow twice a week”.

Zindagii Shoista is generating evidence and lessons about how best to tackle the high levels of violence experienced by women in Tajikistan. But it is important that we scale up the approach in other areas of Tajikistan, particularly urban areas, in order to improve, and share widely, our understanding of how to prevent violence against women and girls and positively transform our society to one in which women and girls are treated equally. For more information, please visit http://www.international-alert.org/tajikistan

 

The Key to a good relationship

 

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Picture credit: Rezwanul Haque

Tasnova Rahman from Change Associates in Bangladesh sharing a few lessons in life

Do not be misled! I am not a love guru. But after some years of working on a range of content, concepts, and resources combined with delightful experiences post marriage, I have learned a few lessons that I thought I wanted to share.

First, the least expectations you have the merrier you are. This pointer is applicable for your spouse, in-laws and everyone you have in your life. Second, you can never be a pizza! What I dramatically mean is that only a pizza can cater to a family’s diverse needs and make everyone happy. An individual, no matter how angelic the person is, can never make everyone happy. So before stressing yourself out in your efforts just stop, think and prioritize. Keep a balance and keep yourself sane. My last and favorite pointer is – effective communication. Every good relationship, besides love and friendship, requires honest communication. Be it happiness or troubles (personal or related to that particular person/relationship) it is extremely important you communicate it. The time you stop talking is when all other mushrooms of doubt and boredom arise. The lack of effective communication brings distance in a relationship and this is why it is so core.

I got case studies, personal sharing from women (garment factory workers)who earned respect from her in-laws, made a position in her family where her opinion now matters. There are women and men (yes we convinced men!!) who are in their own way practicing active listening, noticing body language (non-verbal gesture). Most interestingly ‘I’ statements (where you express yourself logically, using ‘I’ without blaming or indicating the opposite person) is something I wasn’t expecting anyone to internalize it so well. These workers and management (surprised again? yes we convinced them too!!) are implementing this learned skill with their spouse, supervisor, in-laws. This indicates that we all care about our relationships, we want to be happy in it and we want to try to better things. And guess what? These life skills worked for them. It worked for me. Sometimes we just have to be little strategic but not manipulative!

Communication is a life skill that we do not acknowledge.

My father says those who do not talk or speak are like ‘jalebi’ (circuitous looking dessert) because they suppress themselves and complicate things. So, unwind your words and talk, listen carefully and strengthen your communication skills.

 


Tasnova Rahman is working on HERrespect with Change Associates Ltd for the What Works To Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls from the Global Programme

 

 

 

#Metoo

#Metoo

Leane Ramsoomar, Research Uptake Manager, What Works

The #metoo campaign, developed by Tarana Burke a decade ago, recently turned into a hashtag which went viral this week, with survivors of sexual assault, violence and harassment sharing their experiences on social media across the globe.

The campaign has seen women across the world virtually joining hands in a collective display of support, empathy and bravery in the face of what is, a devastating reality for too many. Some have used the campaign as an opportunity to draw attention to the scourge of sexual violence experienced by women and girls across the globe; others have used it as outlet to disclose their experiences of sexual assault, violence or harassment during a time when they feel less lonely in the journey. Still others, use the campaign to help remove the stigma that surrounds disclosing one’s status as a sexual assault /violence survivor. While recognizing that some men have been victims of sexual violence, the campaign has justifiably focused on women, who overwhelmingly experience disproportionate levels of sexual violence and harassment; and whose experiences are fundamentally different from those of men.

The #metoo is not just about sexual assault and violence- it is about the daily harassment of virtually every woman who has to endure catcalls, whistling, unsolicited attention to their bodies and their dressing in their offices, neighborhoods, streets and public spaces.

Men have not been silent in the campaign. Many have come forth to assume responsibility either for perpetrating sexual assault, violence or harassment or being complicit in its occurrence. Others have used the campaign to reflect on how their socialization has impacted on the toxic masculinities that result in, and sustain violence against women and girls.

The campaign has also stimulated discussion and opinion from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community about the extent to which the campaign extends across the gender spectrum. Some feel that the very conception of the #metoo campaign has polarized the heterosexual and LGBTI communities. Others are of the opinion that the campaign has been inclusive across the gender spectrum. The debate continues.

One thing is clear, the #metoo campaign has sparked conversation and drawn attention to the lived experiences of women (and men). There is indeed solidarity in the campaign. Yet there remain many women and men who have chosen not to participate, despite being survivors of sexual assault violence and harassment. This is understandable. With its well-intentioned aim of “stomping out the stigma”, shaming perpetrators, raising global awareness, the decision to publically declare surviving sexual assault, violence and harassment remains a huge emotional burden for many. This must be acknowledged and validated.

To survivors who have chosen not to participate in the campaign, we understand, we respect you, we support you. You are valued. We recognize that raising awareness about the magnitude of the problem does not on its own address it, nor does it even begin to capture your pain. Like many who have joined hands to support those who have chosen to participate, we join hands with you. We remain committed to addressing the drivers of interpersonal physical and sexual violence and ending violence against you.

 

 

Ending Intimate Partner Violence One Couple at a Time

Saprina Panday, from Equal Access International, on the power of group discussions in transforming troubled relationships


“In the past my husband used to abuse me. He didn’t count me or our daughters as human beings… he used to force me into having sex.” That is how Bikani, a Nepali woman, with two daughters, initially summarized her ten-year marriage. The experience of Ashram and Bikani is not uncommon in Nepal. A recent study carried out by Equal Access International and Emory University found that 34 percent of survey respondents had experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime and 25 percent had experienced physical or sexual abuse from their spouse in the past 12 months.

Today, things could not be more different for Bikani and her husband Ashram, thanks to Change Starts at Home.

“The programme had a very influential impact in our life. Earlier he did not talk to me about any of his plans… now we talk to each other about most of the things we do. Even our sexual relationship only happens after mutual consent,” said Bikani. Her husband, Ashram, said, “from the sessions we learned how to analyze the consequences of our behavior and how it will impact us. Now, even when I get angry, I remember the things that were discussed in the sessions and try to tame my temper.”

asha bikani 2 Equal Access Pic

Change is a research-based intervention we developed at Equal Access International, an NGO that creates positive social change for millions of people across the developing world through interactive media and community engagement programs. We have been working in Nepal since 2003. Change is implemented with Emory University and is funded by DFID as part of the ‘What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women’ programme.

In May 2016, through Change we enlisted 360 married couples, including Bikani and Ashram, to participate in nine months of weekly listening and discussion groups sessions (LDG) where they would meet to talk about the original radio programme focused on how couples in Nepal deal with real-life problems. The accompanying discussion sessions, guided by trained facilitators using the Change curriculum, allowed participants to express themselves, both to peers of the same sex and their spouses, whilst taking part in activities focused on the major theme of that week’s episode. For many, this was the first time that they communicated openly and, most importantly, communicated as equals with their partners, a simple yet powerful change.

By the end of our project, over 90 percent of group members said they noticed a positive change in themselves or their relationship and almost 90 percent noticed a change in their spouse. Overall, the couples involved in our Change groups report a decrease in arguments and an increase in communication and joint-decision making, including husbands discussing financial planning with their wives; husbands openly supporting their wives with household chores and childcare, and couples engaging in consensual sex.

Both Bikani and Ashram are keen not to return to the way things were. With their daughters doing better at school now, the couple is looking forward to a more positive future. Ashram is grateful to his wife for initiating a change and hopes they can inspire the same in others. “I know if it weren’t for my wife, then my home would have been destroyed. My wife endured everything in the hope that I would change and now we have a good relationship and good relationships with our relatives. I even tell my friends and neighbors about the good things I have learned from the radio program and the weekly sessions,” said Ashram.

Change is a successful example of how innovative research and programming can be used to address and end intimate partner violence. Our key findings were shared by Equal Access’ Lead Researcher Binita Shrestha at the fifth SVRI Forum in Brazil in partnership with What Works.

To hear more from Bikani and Ashram, and other couples involved in the Change intervention, you can watch a short video about them on the Change Starts at Home Website.

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Despite a new law which bans it, corporal punishment is rife in schools throughout Afghanistan

Mohammad Osman Hemat, Executive Director of Help the Afghan Children on the role of peace education in reducing corporal punishment in schools.

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Although the government of Afghanistan has passed a law banning corporal punishment in schools, many teachers, especially in remote areas, continue to use it against students. This is cyclical as most of those teachers themselves experienced corporal punishment when they were at school. Indeed, this has been a common practice all over the country even in unofficial learning centers. Corporal punishment is strongly accepted in Afghanistan as well as beating and other forms of aggression seen as normal practice for controlling children and enforcing them to study and be more polite. However, research has shown that corporal punishment has negative impacts on learning ability and discourages regular attendance in school. In addition, the drop out and absentee rate can lead young children engaging in risky behavior and becoming vulnerable to criminal acts. In addition bullying, fighting and aggressive behavior amongst the young students is common in Afghanistan schools.

With Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) we have been implementing peace education since 2003 in diverse parts of the country to reduce conflicts between students and to encourage boys and girls to model positive behavior and solve their issues in a peaceful manner. HTAC also works with teachers to avoid corporal punishment and replace it with modern methods of discipline in schools they teach in. At HTAC we believe that peace education is a preventative strategy that can help new generations in a fragile state like Afghanistan to work toward solving their issues in a peaceful way. Our sustainable peace education program is designed to help children reject violence and embrace the principles of peaceful everyday living and train teachers for positive discipline. Our program is dramatically changing the attitudes and behaviors of Afghan youth, especially boys, who now reject violence, practice non-violent conflict resolution, learn patience, tolerance and respect for others while gaining self-confidence as well as teachers model positive behavior.

It is essential that civil society works together to have a voice in Afghanistan to advocate for including peace education in the national school curriculum for reducing corporal punishment and peer violence in schools.

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When Hari started to help his wife with the household chores

When I participated in the sessions of Sammanit Jeevan (meaning dignified living) I began to understand the discrimination between men and women. This training has helped me to internalize how I discriminate unknowingly against my wife. After I got an opportunity to participate in this training, I realized the importance of sharing the household chores. I started washing utensils and cooking food as well. I did not feel hesitant to assist my wife in household chores.” This is what Hari*, a 35-year-old young married man, said after attending Sammanit Jeevan intervention.

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In Nepal, women spend most of their time taking care of their families. This leaves them with little or no time to take care of themselves. This obligatory engagement means women have to do unpaid care work, thereby denying their economic and other rights and pushes them deep into the vicious cycle of poverty. Men are very hesitant to support their wives in household chores. Recognition and redistribution of domestic care work is essential to increase the representation of women in economic activities and for true women empowerment to be realised.

The Sammanit Jeevan intervention on changing gender norms has brought small but impactful changes among a few men in a community in Baglung. It is gratifying to know that our small effort has made even just a few women’s lives easier.

Hari had not assisted his wife with domestic chores in all 15 years of their married life. He felt very hesitant and shy to do household chores and never thought about helping out with them, as he thought that these were the responsibilities of women alone. Today things are different and Hari has started helping his wife. This is an amazing shift of traditional roles from what are seen as a ‘women’s responsibility’ in Nepali society. When asked his wife Rita* said she was pleasantly surprised with her husband’s new behavior and could not believe that he is now helping her with the household chores.

The small change in Hari’s behavior has brought great happiness to his family, especially his wife. Both Hari and his wife were so thankful to have benefited from the session of the Sammanit Jeevan intervention run by VSO Nepal and BYC Baglung, a UKAID funded global initiative, What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Children.

This blog has been written by Abhina Adhikari of VSO Nepal.

* Not their real names

Visualizing the world. Ratna Shrestha from VSO Nepal, on the power of pictures over words.

VSO Nepal

Every day (sometimes without realising it), people present ideas, views and facts about their lives. Only a limited number of interesting and logically prepared presentations are actually absorbed, or listened to seriously. In my opinion, having compelling presentation skills is an art form in itself. Learning these skills can be done in a variety of different ways to ensure people listen to what you are saying and indeed, care.

On July 4th, 2017, I participated in a Capacity Development Workshop organized by What Works consortium. Among the many interesting sessions, I was introduced to one called Data Visualizing: Transforming Words into Visuals, which provided insightful ideas on ways to present our research findings.

Firstly, we worked on developing key messages from our research findings, which formed the basis of preparation for our presentation. Secondly, we were asked to prepare a presentation on sticky notes (assuming it as a slide in PowerPoint presentation) so that we could easily shuffle them around following our group discussion. Finally, we were asked to select three slides to present our baseline findings. From our One Community One Family project in Nepal, it was quite challenging, but with our team effort we were successful in presenting our work to the wider audience in just three slides!

I have done many presentations in the past, but often ended up with far too much text and less visuals. By visuals I mean action-oriented photos, powerful quotes from primary actors, policy makers and others, and diagrams of the research findings – these are the strong visual tools which help to give presentations more weight. It’s not because I am not aware that power point slide should have less text but because of lack of visualizing skills to make the slide more attractive and effective, I could not see how to do it. I learnt from this session, that the important thing is the power of a more visual slide, with less text, one which has clear key messages. I also learnt the importance of practicing before your presentation day and rehearsing timings. Therefore, keeping the presentation to the point, complete within the timeframe and speaking through images with less text are key tips that all power point presenters should bear in mind while preparing their presentation.

Demystifying Research Uptake

Written by Leane Ramsoomar.

Demystifying Research Uptake

When I started my position as Research Uptake Manager of the Global What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls? Programme, I was privileged to have a window into the 2016 Capacity Development and Annual Scientific meetings in Dubai. Being introduced to the partners on this formidable global effort to prevent violence against women and girls, I was greeted with warmth and some nervousness by programme partners. Research Uptake? What is it? How do we do it? How will we measure it?

In the early months of taking office, I came to realize that research uptake was a field known to many of the partners on the programme by many names. Knowledge translation, knowledge in action, translation research……..Indeed several definitions of research uptake have been exchanged in the world of research and implementation and it caused and continues to cause confusion and sometimes utter bewilderment.

So we set out on a path to demystify research uptake. Several drafts of research uptake plans, interactive discussions and capacity development sessions later, there was light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Partners began to write blogs, research papers were trickling in and policy briefs no longer seemed unattainable.

The 2017 Capacity Development workshop was the perfect testing ground for the knowledge and skills transferred over the course of the past 11 months. Partners were joining the pieces of the puzzle. Breakaway rooms were abuzz with ideas, teams jointly brainstormed, and exciting interactive discussions held. With a critical thinking and “learning by doing” approach adopted, the bigger picture began to emerge. Listening to short evidence- based presentations of research, listening in on discussions and debates ranging from stakeholder prioritization to tailored messaging for key audiences and sharing ideas for blogging and brief writing left one feeling dizzy with excitement. Fewer things satisfy me than watching the rapid and meaningful growth of individuals and organizations working to address social problems.

For What Works and their partners, this growth has been phenomenal and the enthusiasm for doing research uptake is gratifying. It remains to be seen, not just how the efforts of the What Works partners will inform policy and programmatic decision-making for VAWG arising from this programme, but perhaps even more encouragingly how these efforts will be sustained long after the programme has ended.