When crisis broke out in Syria, little to no information existed on gender-based violence (GBV) in this context. Humanitarian actors faced additional difficulties in creating a needs-based response, particularly in a context where approvals from relevant authorities to conduct protection/GBV assessments were challenging and where assessments were rendered more difficult by remote management and security risks for humanitarian actors engaging in data collection.
While it is widely recognized and accepted that GBV is underreported and that prevalence figures are not needed to establish an effective GBV response, having an analysis that includes information on the types of GBV taking place, the specific demographics it is impacting, and the evolution of trends over time does help ensure a tailored, targeted, and ultimately more effective response. Therefore, the UNFPA Regional Syria Hub and the Whole of Syria GBV Area of Responsibility (AoR) set out to devise an assessment methodology to obtain GBV data to improve strategies for preventing and responding to GBV while at the same time informing the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) and the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). Their methodology employs a community-based approach that uses contextualized tools and indicators, including proxy indicators, to better analyze GBV issues country-wide.
UNFPA Regional Syria Hub and the Whole of Syria GBV AoR teams were awarded Honorable Mention in InterAction’s 2020 Results-Based Protection Good Practice Contest for their approach to GBV data collection in Syria.
What makes this different from other approaches to GBV data collection is its focus on qualitative data that unpack different GBV risk components rather than capture prevalence data. Most importantly, information is collected through participatory approaches, such as community Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with women, girls, men, and boys, thus helping to ensure their perspective and direct voices are incorporated into the analysis. The discussions are shaped to explore the context-specific risks by disaggregating the different types of GBV manifesting in a community and exploring what unique factors contribute to different forms of GBV and what coping strategies populations use to overcome these risks.
The approach emphasizes using contextualized tools and indicators to strengthen understanding of emerging GBV risks and trends. Once information is collected, it is bolstered and triangulated through FGDs with GBV experts and through Key Informant Interviews (KIIs). At the same time, the analysis also considers secondary data sources and proxy indicators coming from the HNO Multisectoral Needs Assessments (MSNA). For example, within the MSNA, GBV actors regarded kidnapping and abduction as an appropriate proxy indicator for GBV, as previous assessments indicated that sexual violence and “honor killings” are closely linked to kidnapping and abduction.
Since 2016, the analysis derived from the framework has been used to generate an annual report titled Voices from Syria. Over the years, the report has proven beneficial when informing the Syria HNO and guiding GBV organizations on how to respond, as featured in the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan.The report— through amplifying the voices of women and girls, including their hopes, fears and strengths—helped identify the risks of GBV that need to be mitigated throughout the response by all humanitarians and supported advocacy for GBV programming and risk mitigation, while simultaneously providing information conducive to results-oriented programming. The analysis has also informed several programs and initiatives aimed at reducing people’s vulnerability to GBV and increasing their capacity to deal with it when it does occur. There is also massive potential for the analysis to inform prevention programming and other initiatives intended to reduce the threat—a key component of the risk equation and one area that can be especially challenging for humanitarian actors to work on directly.
Because of the recognition of this assessment as a global best practice, the UNFPA Regional Syria hub has developed Beyond Numbers, a how-to guide to support the replication of a similar assessment in other countries responding to GBV in humanitarian crises. The guide provides an in-depth description of the methodology used to collect qualitative data in Syria and the reasons for doing so. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, a section has been added at the end of the guidance to provide recommendations on how to adapt data collection.
This case study is based on UNFPA Regional Syria Hub and the Whole of Syria GBV AoR teams’s submission to InterAction’s Results-Based Protection 2020 Good Practice Contest. The entry was submitted by Fulvia Boniardi on behalf of UNFPA Regional Syria Hub and the Whole of Syria GBV AoR.
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