Violence against women (VAW) is a major threat to women’s wellbeing and to achieving gender equality. In a country like India where women’s vulnerabilities are further heightened by caste hierarchies, class divides and deeply entrenched patriarchy, the gamut of VAW is wide.
The data available from National Family Health Survey and National Crimes Bureau indicates a persistent increase in the prevalence of VAW. Several reports are pointing towards an increase in violence against women during COVID- 19 pandemic. Further, women are not able to access support services due to public health measures imposed to curb the spread of COVID- 19.
The present situation has challenged women’s organisations and NGOs working in this space to acknowledge the precarity of any progress made thus far in addressing VAW in the country and come together to reflect, realign and re-strategise their interventions. It is the efforts of these civil society organisations (CSOs) that have led to civil and criminal remedies to address violence against women and the creation of support services and structures, but despite several decades of dedicated work, there has been limited cross-learning across organisations adopting different approaches and strategies and working across multiple movements and coalitions.
To address this gap, a convening was organised to build consensus on indicators to monitor the progress of interventions by various civil society organisations. This virtual meeting was organised by CEHAT in collaboration with SAHAJ as the first step for reflection and dialogue and eventually moving towards realignment and re-strategising. The representatives from 15 organisations participated in two virtual meetings to discuss various approaches to address VAW, ranging from a survivor-centred intervention to working with communities and with public systems. Additionally, the reflections on the various approaches also drew on barriers and facilitators to each of these approaches. The group also discussed various indicators and monitoring mechanisms used by the organisations to measure the success of their interventions.
The participants were divided into three groups based on specific approaches and assigned to separate rooms for an hour-long discussion during the convening. Each group was asked to address a set of common questions on the indicators of success, barriers and facilitators and monitoring mechanisms for each approach. This was followed by group presentations and questions and answers at a joint plenary session.
A comprehensive report was compiled based on the discussion of two virtual meetings with various organisations. The draft report was shared with representatives of various organisations for their feedback.
The finalised report was recently disseminated through a virtual meeting in which more than 100 organisations participated. The participating organisations were part of AMAN Network which is a national forum of various CBOs and NGOs working on the issue of VAW. The findings of the report were presented by a three-member panel where each member spoke about three approaches to address VAW- Casework, Community engagement and public system engagement. The panel members were representatives from organisations that participated in online convenings- Ms Gargi from SWAYAM, Dr Nayreen Daruwalla from SNEHA and Dr Sanjida Arora from CEHAT and the meeting was moderated by Dr Vindhya Undurti.
The panel highlighted indicators of success at the level of the survivor including those signalling immediate relief from a crisis, to their long-term evolution into VAW activists, advocates and service providers. At the community level, success included better awareness of VAW as a women’s rights and health issue, supportive attitudes towards VAW survivors, and ultimately, standing up as a community to enforce zero-tolerance to domestic violence and making intolerance to domestic violence a community norm. Engagement with public systems was assessed as successful when at a minimum, these systems acted effectively to support the VAW survivor, and eventually when the key stakeholders leading these systems became active spokespersons against VAW. One of the strong recommendations that came out of the dissemination meeting was the need to develop a Management Information System at the level of each organisation. The MIS can have a set of indicators that each organisation can monitor to assess their progress and produce evidence on effective strategies to address VAW.
This dissemination meeting was the first step to initiate dialogues with the community of VAW advocates, service providers and researchers, and through consensus, arrive at a select list of common indicators for assessing the effectiveness of VAW interventions. This will help various organisationsa to come together to identify or develop approaches that can effectively mitigate and prevent VAW.