When we talk about gender-based violence or violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean, the numbers are significant. Significant in the prevalence of the issue: 25% of women in the region have been victims of physical or sexual violence by their intimate partners. If we include violence outside of intimate relationships, this number increases to 34%. The numbers are also significant in the consequences of the most extreme expression of this violence: 4,473 women were victims of femicide in 2021, one of the highest statistics globally.
The issue of gender-based violence is not only significant but also evolving. For example, in recent years, new forms of violence related to technology have emerged. However, technology also has the potential to be a tool for testing new approaches to prevent violence or provide support to survivors. Technology often reduces costs to reach a larger audience. However, can effective interventions be delivered through these platforms? The reality is that we are in the early stages of developing these new approaches. While innovation is appealing, it must be implemented cautiously in such a sensitive issue: based on evidence and supported by outcome evaluation. A delicate issue requires more than attractive solutions – it requires robust solutions.
How Do We Promote the Prevention, Support, and Elimination of Gender-based Violence?
For 24 years, November 25 has been commemorated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The figures presented at the beginning demonstrate that the path ahead is long. From the IDB, we continue to seek better approaches to prevent, address, and eliminate gender-based violence. We share some reflections and lessons learned from our work on this issue.
1. Intersectional Approach
We aim to increasingly integrate an intersectional approach to addressing gender-based violence. Similar to other issues, violence exacerbates when a woman’s identity interacts with other identities, such as race, poverty, immigration status, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, or disability. In Uruguay, for example, we integrate an intersectional perspective into an operation through which the Bank is supporting the expansion and improvement of violence care services. This includes designing and implementing different responses for migrant, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women. The project is expected to benefit more than 28,800 women and 13,000 young people.
2. Intersectoral Perspective
The issue of violence requires a holistic view of prevention and care. Initiatives like Ciudad Mujer, implemented in four countries in the region, require constant evaluation to understand their effectiveness and sustainability over time. This initiative offers integrated services under one single facility, including the prevention and care of gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, and economic autonomy. Coordination between sectors is costly and complex to implement at scale. It demands long-term political and budgetary commitments.
It is crucial to have evidence that allows prioritizing which interventions to focus on for each issue. Case management is a key tool to guide each woman to the appropriate set of services for her situation. It enables rational and efficient use of resources from different sectors. We continue to work on strengthening coordination with national social protection and justice systems, as well as the project’s sustainability over time.
Effectiveness evaluation is also important when integrating technology into services for survivors. In Colombia, the IDB supported the development of the Sistema Salvia. It proposes a technological tool associated with the National System of Registration, Attention, and Monitoring of Gender-Based Violence that integrates multiple channels. To name a few: in-person care, helpline, mobile app, website, and instant messaging.
Salvia seeks to improve victim care by connecting different available data and information systems. Specifically, it avoids re-victimization by recording incidents only once, allows case-by-case monitoring to verify timely care, strengthens pathways from a differential approach, and generates early alerts for responsible entities.
3. Considering Masculinities
Another emerging area of work in preventing gender-based violence is working with new models of masculinity. These involve redefining what it means to be a man in terms of relationships, fatherhood, and care, and unlinking masculinity from violence. An example of this type of work is the Hablemos entre Patas program in Peru, which provides tools via WhatsApp to reduce tension and conflict with partners. In its pilot phase, 67% of participants reported improvements in areas such as the distribution of domestic work, communication with the partner, and shared financial management.
What Are the Next Steps?
While new technologies and innovative approaches are appealing, there is much work ahead to determine which ones work effectively, with quality and sustainability, and at a cost that makes their operation at scale feasible. This is an area where we need to accelerate knowledge generation.
In this effort to test new approaches and evaluate them, we take note of these three learnings. First, integrate approaches that consider how violence affects women of different identities in different ways. Second, address interventions with a holistic approach. Third, include men as potential agents of change in an issue that not only involves them but also often directly affects them. It is challenging work, but it has the potential to change the lives of many people.