Post-disaster Gender-based Violence (Transcript)


Webinar Series: Session 2

“Post-disaster Gender-based Violence”

October 10, 2012




Roxane Richter: There are so many people with us today, from all over the world. We’re so pleased to have received such a positive response to this critical and timely topic. Welcome to our “Post-Disaster Gender-Based Violence” webinar, the second in our five-part Gender and Disaster series, which will explore how gender impacts the individual and collective experience of disasters and conflict for persons, families, and communities. The series, sponsored by the Gender and Disaster Resilience Alliance, GDRA, and partner EPI Global, is designed to introduce participants to this subject through discussions of key concepts and research in this area. It will also speak to those more familiar with this topic area and delve into specific subtopics, policy issues, and best practices. The webinars will be geared for audiences made up of academics, emergency management practitioners, service providers, relief workers, students, and more.


We’d also like to take a moment and invite you to save the date for our upcoming Gender and Disaster series of webinars, which will all be scheduled at 1 p.m. Eastern standard time, including our third webinar, “Gender and Health and Hygiene,” scheduled for January 16, 2013, our fourth webinar, “Gender and Climate Change,” scheduled for April 10, 201, and our fifth and final webinar, “Gender, Disaster, Policy, and Politics,” on July 10, 2013. The protocols we’ll follow for this webinar are:


• All attendees will be muted during this webinar in order to reduce background distractions.

• We encourage you to ask questions at any point by typing in the question box. All queries will be addressed at the end of both speakers’ presentations.

• Please be very clear and succinct in your query and indicate if a question is for a specific speaker. Otherwise the moderator will choose a speaker for you or present it to both to address.


As sponsoring organizations, the Gender and Disaster Resilience Alliance and EPI Global are committed to building awareness about the importance of gender impact on disaster. Both organizations seek to identify practical approaches and solutions so that this perspective can be implemented in the field, included in the emergency management programs, and supported by appropriate research.


GDRA is a network of women and men seeking to develop and strengthen the nation’s resilience to the increasing array of hazards and potential disasters we will face in the coming decades. Many members come to GDRA through their work on the ground to empower women as leaders for social justice, environmental sustainability, and disaster risk reduction, or through professional networks or associations engaged in the practice of disaster management. Elaine Enarson and Roxane Richter, representing GDRA, led the organizing efforts for this webinar.

GDRA’s partner in this webinar series, EPI Global, is a nonprofit organization created to promote the practice of inclusive emergency management by coordinating and planning for, responding to, recovering from, and mitigating the impact of natural and man-made disasters. EPI Global’s mission includes cooperating and collaborating with emergency management practitioners and community stakeholders to identify issues and find solutions across the life cycle of emergency management, resulting in a better prepared public and a more capable response community. Elizabeth Davis, Rebecca Hansen, and Kimberly Cunningham from EPI Global led EPI’s efforts to organize this webinar.


Shakeb Nabi
“Post-Disaster Domestic Gender-Based Violence”





Katie Tong
“Sexual- and Gender-based Violence in Emergencies”


Roxanne Richter: We’d like to now welcome our second speaker, Katie Tong. Katie is the Adolescent Girls in Emergencies Specialist for Plan International. She holds a B.A. in International Study from Leeds University in the UK and an M.A. in Humanitarian Response from the University of Capetown, South Africa. She has 10 years of experience working in both humanitarian and development with Concern Worldwide,  Marie Stopes International, Interact Worldwide, and Plan International. She specializes in adolescent sexual and reproductive health and emergency issues and whilst working as head of programs for Interact Worldwide, she was commissioned to undertake several assessments of adolescent SRH and GVB in Haiti post-earthquake, Pakistan post-2010 floods, and Niger during the Sahel crisis for Plan International. She is a member of the International Gender and Disaster Network, the Global  IAWG for Adolescent SRH in Emergencies, and the East Africa Regional WG for SRH  inEmergencies. She has presented as Adolescent SRH in Emergencies in various forums, including the UK houses of Parliament. Please help me in welcoming Katie Tong.


Katie Tong: Hi. Thank you very much, Roxane, for that introduction. I do hope that everybody can hear me. I think maybe one of the organizers might send me a message if you can’t. I’m actually dialing in at the moment from Nairobi, where the connection is very good at the moment, and I do hope that it will last.


As Roxane said, my name is Katie Tong. I’m the Adolescent Girls in Emergencies Specialist for Plan International. I’ll be talking about “Sexual- and Gender-based Violence in Emergencies,” but given my job title and given the focus of my work with Plan, my presentation is actually going to have a very clear focus on sexual- and gender-based violence against adolescent girls and young women in particular.

Actually, firstly, before I properly get started, I would like to make a note that tomorrow is the first-ever International Day of the Girl Child. And I think this is actually very important, because it represents the first time in history that the world in general has recognized the unique challenges for and the unique power and resilience of girls. The focus of the day tomorrow will be on child marriage. We know that every year 10 million girls are forced or coerced into marriage. This equates to a girl being forced into marriage every three seconds. It therefore seems most appropriate to me to talk about sexual violence in emergencies but also to talk about increased child marriage as a form of gender-based violence in emergencies.


Very briefly, from an organizational perspective, I would also like to mention that tomorrow is also the global launch of Plan International’s “Because I’m A Girl” (BIAAG) campaign. Plan recognizes that globally one in three girls is denied an education by the daily reality of poverty, of discrimination, and of violence. Every day young girls are taken out of school or forced into marriage or subjected to violence. This is generally exacerbated in times of emergency.


So in emergencies, there’s a minimum standard of humanitarian response for gender-based violence. It fits under what we call MISP, the minimum initial services package, which is part of health action coming under Sphere standards, which are the minimum standards for humanitarian response. For Gender-based violence in emergencies, the response is dualfold in that it aims to prevent, but then it also aims to manage the consequences of sexual- and gender-based violence. And actually, in terms of response, this can be broken down into three different areas.


Firstly, there’s the “hardware”-type prevention. This would be things such as lighting, such as latrine placement within the camps. Shakeb just reference the notion of collective shelter or the lack of separate latrines for men and women. That’s very much a hardware prevention response.


Then there’s more of a “software” prevention, which would perhaps be more male engagement work with men in camps, perhaps maybe even addressing some of those issues that Shakeb brought up in terms of why gender-based violence increases in terms of emergencies. It can also be work with specifically targeted groups which would actually be police or military or even aid workers.


Then we move on to talking about management of the consequences of sexual violence. We’re talking about information about services, referral pathways, from my perspective particularly, ensuring that services are youth-friendly or adolescent-friendly. And ensuring that there is access to holistic, integrated services. We’re not just talking about the clinical management of rape. We’re also talking about psycho-social care, legal aid, relocation or protection where necessary. This is very, very difficult to do in humanitarian settings.


This was very obvious in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Haiti is a context with a very high level of sexual and domestic violence. That was true before the earthquake. After the earthquake, Haiti, particularly in the camps, was very much characterized by an extremely high level and often very violent rape, often gang rape and very often extremely young girls.


So in terms of case management in Haiti, there was quite a good response if you compare it to previous big disasters. There was within a couple of months a list of Minister of Health-approved health centers consisting of those that were able to provide basic clinical management of rape, although it wasn’t quite clear how youth- or adolescent-friendly those services were. There was an MSF hospital, Medecins sans frontières, established providing both clinical and psycho-social treatment for rape cases in Port-au-Prince. But a major problem in Haiti was that services were very disjointed. MSF and various other actors working there always had to struggle with, “Where do we refer girls to after the clinical management of rape?” So in terms of legal advice, help with reporting, social protection follow-up this was all lacking in Haiti. A holistic case management response was very much lacking.


In terms of prevention, a number of issues came up. One of the issues was around solar flashlights, torches, which were distributed to young girls in the camps in Haiti. But there were questions raised as to whether these flashlights made girls safer or whether it in fact made them a more visible target when they were going to the latrine at 2 a.m. on their own. To me, I think it’s very clear that where possible, static lighting and segregation of latrines is a much, much better option than distributing flashlights to young girls. Another suggestion that came from the women in the camp was around female patrol, some of the older women getting together and patrolling the camp at night with these flashlights, so that they could escort the younger women or the girls to the latrine in the middle of the night.


One thing that was very clear, though, in Haiti, was how much everyone was willing to discuss that issue. And I’m saying that as I’m about to move on to Pakistan, with the idea being that the amount of people who were willing to talk about gender-based violence issues in Haiti was very different from Pakistan after the flooding there in 2010, where particularly in the very rural areas, it was incredibly difficult for communities to discuss any kind of GBV issue. In Pakistan, it was almost impossible to fully comprehend the full extent of sexual- and gender-based violence there.


Because of this in Pakistan, the difficulty in discussing the problem, the focus was much more on encouraging reporting and then on the case management of that reporting. There was a story I heard when I was there, I was with Plan in southern Punjab, and I heard an unverified story, but told to me by a couple of different community members, about two 15-year-old girls who had been kidnapped, taken by a couple of men, and returned a few hours later. The story I was told was that the girls’ fathers basically took them away and hid them and claimed that nothing happened to them, so no officials and no NGO workers were allowed to see them to help them. And again, I’m saying this speaks to how much more hidden SGBV issues were in Pakistan than in Haiti, where  communities were more comfortable discussing the problem and how in Haiti it was comparatively easier, and I do just say “cooperatively” easier, that doesn’t mean easy, but comparatively easier to encourage women and girls to report and to seek help.

So in Pakistan, in southern Punjab in particular, there was quite a strong civil society in terms of local organizations. The focus of the response did include Darul Amans, which are local women’s shelters in Pakistan, funded by the government, and other services provided by local women’s organizations such as Mukta Mai. The question was very much about encouraging reporting and then it was about how to ensure referral pathways, which ensured utilization of services that were already available, such as the Darul Amans and organizations like Mukta Mai. Again, Shakeb referenced some of this in terms of utilizing the local resources and the setup that’s already there.

So in terms of encouraging report in a context such as Pakistan, this can be done in a number of different ways. Such as the use of child-friendly spaces or the use of nutrition outreach. And in Pakistan in particular, the use of lady health workers. This is a program funded by the government, and again, you’re utilizing the existed structures, the existing pathways. For me, the three common themes that would probably bring Haiti and Pakistan together would be that we should—and again, it’s something that Shakeb talked quite a lot about—work harder to utilize and include local women’s organizations. I mentioned a couple in Pakistan. In Haiti it was very clear that there were local shelters there, Kay Famm was one of them, who were doing great work before the earthquake and who were overwhelmed with the need after the earthquake, and who were quite outrageously underfunded. Utilizing those women’s organizations would make any response better.

Secondly, we do need to recognize the unique capacities and resilience of women and girls in emergency settings. We do need to ensure that we harness that resilience and capacity by including women and girls in all stages of assessment, of design, of implementation, of monitoring of all stages of a response. Thirdly, we need to recognize localized context, particularly when it comes to gender-based violence in its many, many forms. And frankly, if we do the first two things, then the third thing is much, much easier to do.

I would like to move on and talk about child marriage in emergencies. Child marriage is not mentioned at all in MISP, the minimum initial services package, or within humanitarian standards for response. It’s not mentioned in mainstream emergency response documentation. But we do know that countries with a high level of child marriage to begin with will see an increase in child marriage in an emergency situation. I’ve just come back from working in northern Cameroon for the month of September, and in late August, the north of Cameroon was affected by very severe flooding, some of the worst flooding they’ve had in 15 or 20 years. In Cameroon anyway child marriage was a massive problem. Since the emergency and the displacement, in some of the focus group discussions I did with older women in northern Cameroon, they very readily admitted to me that if men would come offering dowries, of course, they said of course they would send their daughters for early marriage. How could they not, given their current circumstances?


We’ve seen reports from Niger related to increased child marriage in the Sahel crisis. We have reports from Pakistan, from Bangladesh after the floods there. We’ve even had reports from Syrian refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan about increased levels of child marriage. So we can see that it does increase in emergencies.


Child marriage is seen as a religious and cultural issue, and there’s a huge amount of work being done to reduce and eventually eradicate child marriage across the globe. When we talk about child marriage as a GBV issue in emergency, and when we talk about how the child marriage level increases in emergencies, we need to understand the dynamics of the different actions that lead to that increase. We are now literally talking about an increase precipitated by an emergency. We need to understand this dynamic in order to be able to respond properly.


As I said, child marriage generally increases in an emergency due to three factors. Depending on the context, all three factors can be in play, or any one of them or any combination can contribute to increased levels of child marriage. First is a simple economic imperative. In times of increased poverty comes increased desperation, and a dowry in exchange for one less mouth to feed within the household seems economically impossible for parents to turn down. However, that’s not the only factor. Secondly, we have to recognize that in an emergency, parents, in particular fathers of young teenage girls, get very nervous about their young unmarried daughters being in unsafe environments such as IDP or refugee camps, where we know sexual violence and exploitation is quite rife. This is particularly true for situations where girls and women have previously been sheltered from non-family males, and now in a camp setting, all of a sudden these girls are surrounded by and interacting with men and boys they didn’t previously know.


This is how gender-based violence and sexual violence in camp settings can ironically be a precipitating factor of child marriage, which is also a gender-based violence issue, because the potential threat of sexual violence against girls, the associated stigma and dishonor that that would bring to the girl and her family in particularly conservative situations is seen to be a worse outcome than marriage. Therefore early marriage almost seems to be a way of protecting your daughters, keeping them safe.


Thirdly, and this is a very important factor, is that there is a link between education and child marriage, in terms of the fact that in many contexts, a girl who is at school is not married, a girl who is not at school is married, and there’s no other option. So this to say that the “Because I’m A Girl” campaign focuses on keeping girls in school for a timely education, on keep adolescent girls in school. I don’t think avoiding child marriage is the only reason to keep girls in school, it’s not the only benefit to education, but it is a benefit. Therefore, in emergencies, if we can keep education options, whether formal or informal, open to adolescent girls, we’re giving families a choice and a chance to avoid early marriage.


In any context, it’s important to recognize which of the factors will come into play in any circumstance, and it’s quite possible, of course, that other people out there have other examples of different factors that may also come into play. But knowing what’s in play will tell us how to respond and how to respond with a response that has an impact. Partly why I’m saying this is because coming back from Cameroon last week, when I was there, I asked all of the local ministries and local NGOs what we could do to prevent an increase in child marriage, and they all said, “We think sensitization is the way to go.” I think sensitization is a development response to high levels of child marriage. When there’s a noted increase in an emergency, when we know that the increase is because of the emergency, that increase isn’t due to a lack of sensitization. We’re saying that now girls who wouldn’t prevails have been married at the age of 12 are going to be. That’s not a sensitization issue, that’s a desperation issue, and we actually need to respond to it, particularly with those three factors I mentioned, the poverty, the fear on behalf of parents that girls will somehow be spoiled, and the education issue.


I would like to mention two more points. Firstly, a point that Shakeb referenced very, very well. I mentioned that tomorrow was the first ever International Day of the Girl Child. Saturday is the International Disaster Risk Reduction day. The theme of 2012-13 is Women and Girls: The Invisible Force of Resilience, exactly what Shakeb was talking about, recognizing and harnessing the unique capacity of woman and girls to help us and from them to help themselves in terms of disaster response.


The other that Shakeb said was this question of building back better, of using natural disasters as a platform for societal change. We should recognize these windows of opportunity when they present themselves to us. We should recognize that it’s something worthwhile to invest in. It increases both household and community resilience for the next disaster, and it’s very good for the community. Thank you all very much for listening. On behalf of Plan’s BIAAG, Because I’m A Girl campaign that’s being launched tomorrow, in the time that I’ve been speaking, there’s probably been close to 400 girls being forced into marriage. We do know that this includes during disasters. We do know that it’s a gender-based violence issue. We know it increases in disasters. There is something that we should all be fighting against. Thank you very much.


Questions and Answers


Elizabeth Davis: I want to now take a moment, as we move into the question section, I’ll thank both of our speakers for very insightful presentations, which clearly could go on much, much longer. I do want to take a few of the questions that have come in and also offer some dialogue opportunity as we round out this second of the five-part series.

First off, we did receive a question during the presentation that’s asking for any specific targeted information or resources that will distinguish the different targeted girls’ age. The point is that adolescent girls in particular are style children, but often treated as women and therefore their issues are ignored simply by the classification where they find themselves, as they’re at this threshold point, and while I would invite both speakers to address this, if our second speaker, please, wouldn’t mind starting us off, I’d appreciate that.


Katie Tong: Sure, of course, no problem. I think that’s a great question. There’s over the last year years been an increasing focus on humanitarian response. For a while now we’ve recognized that gender’s important, and particularly in terms of assessments, we talk about sex-disaggregated data when we’re doing our rapid needs assessment and we’re collecting that. There is a growing focus on sex- and age-disaggregated data becoming maybe not quite more mainstream yet, but it’s a growing topic of discussion.


As a result, I would point people to what’s called the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Emergencies Tool Kit. This was developed by UNFPA and by Save the Children US, in 2010, quite recent. What it does, it doesn’t focus on girls, it focuses on both boys and girls. It takes everything from what we call minimum standards in terms of sexual and reproductive health response in emergency, and it makes all of that adolescent-friendly. It’s a great tool kit. It can be downloaded online. That’s a really good resource looking at adolescents. That breaks down into very young adolescents, 10 to 14, middle adolescents, 15 or 16, and older adolescents. Thank you.


Elizabeth Davis: Thank you very much for that response. I know that the person who addressed the question, as well as the rest of us, will be very interested in looking to that material. I’ll put forward that we’ll get that link from you and get the proper citation, and we will post that after this webinar has completed. We’ll make sure to have that information up for the attendees who want to follow through. I should invite Mr. Nabi, if you have anything to follow up on that, please feel free now, but may I also point you to another issue as well? This for Mr. Nabi. Specifically when you were speaking about the ways to reduce the impact and you were talking about working with the structures and where women can best fit into that, can you offer as a follow-up to the very specific solution goals, including women in pre-disaster in all phases of preparedness response and recovery planning as well as including them on actual response teams in the relief, shelter management, etc., can you give you places where we can look where we’ve seen those goals actually applied successfully, or at least attempted?


Shakeb Nabi: First and foremost thing, and I would like to say that these planners, the humanitarian workers, have been blind to the most vulnerable in the ___ community. Be it the girl child, the women, the person with disability, be it the elderly person, if you go to the village and you try to find out how many girl child is there, you will not be able to collect data about it. We were doing similar kind of exercise in Bangladesh in the ___ area. We wanted to know the exact data. People came up with different data which is was not able ___ 25% of the—you know, the adolescent girls present in that village. So first and foremost very, very important is that when we are doing any kind of a planning, the first thing is, it has to be very, very conscious. When I’m saying conscious, we try to look at the most invisible community, we need to properly map them and then we try time kind of incorporate them, encourage them to be part of the ___.

Number two, I sincerely feel that a woman can be a good support system for a woman. What I propose is that there should be a strong peer support system among the adolescent girls also and they should be taking care of each other. When the marriage happens in the village, it is the father who takes the ___, not the mother. If I talk about ___ specifically, what I would prefer that there has to be some kind of sensitization, number one. Number two, we need to kind of take the community into confidence, if you’re talking about shelter, and plan the things in the shelter as per the need of the community. The issue why the adolescent girl get married, number one, very, very important is the protection in the shelter. Protection in a post-emergency scenario. So any issue related to protection or any planning related to protection, the community has to be taken into confidence on the work, it has to really ___, and it has to be based on the traditional protection mechanisms for measures that is already being practiced in the community. What was your second question?


Elizabeth Davis: Looking back to the very specific solution goals that you presented during the piece about how to reduce the issue post-disaster, and a couple of those included pre-disaster increasing the role of women in all phases of disaster planning and response, in particular with response itself, including women in the team as part of the solution. The question asked is, using those really very specific and honed solutions, can you tell us or point us to places where we have actually or can see where this has been applied, or at least attempted, so we can see how this is moving successful forward?


Shakeb Nabi: If I can give you the example from Bangladesh, recently what we do is that we go through a process which is called community risk assessment. What we try to do is to kind of keep the community at the center stage of the whole process, and the community takes initiatives and comes out with this risk assessment, when kind of risks the community faces, where the resources they have to overcome these risks, and what are the resources which they can mobilize from other sources also, very, very important. What we have been doing in Bangladesh is that we try to ensure that we put the most vulnerable and marginalized community at the center of the whole planning process. It’s a time-taking process, and this project is funded by Echo [?]. So right in the beginning, the first thing is that we map the most vulnerable and marginalized community. Our focus is women, person with disability, elderly people, and then through a set of community volunteers we try to get in touch when them, and when we try to lead the whole process, the women—participation is a very gradual process, but in due course of time we try to ensure that the women are actively participating in various process.

And when we talk about this community risk assessment, we also talk about contingency planning, which is the planning to respond in the event of a disaster. In the contingency planning, in Bangladesh we have different type of task forces. Somebody focuses on shelter management, we have a task force focusing on wash issues, on psycho-social issues, one that takes care of the food distribution process. So these task forces form based on the willingness and the ability of the community to be part of the task force and they are capacity-building. Very, very important. And then we try to see—there are certain things, like shelter management, we try to ensure that the issue of females in the shelter management is good enough so that females feel secure to go into a shelter, which is at a very different location altogether.

What we have observed in Bangladesh is that when we have constructed the shelters, the toilet facilities as we designed with the committees were very near to the place where the women used them. These kind of small things, which as a humanitarian worker we are not able to visualize, if you give the community the responsibility, if the community is able to navigate the whole process, it becomes more realistic. That’s what I want to say.


Elizabeth Davis: Thank you for that reply. I’m going to take one more question, pose it to Ms. Tong, and then I’ll round out the session. Specifically a question here has to do with what suggestions, if you could articulate in bullet format for us a few suggestions for improved healthcare access and rape intake exams and the assessment in the cases of rape itself. What are some very targeted solution-based recommendations?


Katie Tong: Another very good question. I would start that by making it clear that I’m not a clinician. I’m not clinically qualified. There are WHO protocols in the clinical management of rape in emergency settings that all organizations should be looking to. What we’re looking at, and depending on the circumstance, is firstly the reporting and encouraging reporting. As I mentioned, using different methods, using child friendly spaces, using nutrition outreach, using other sector areas that are set up to encourage that reporting.

One of the things that Medecins sans frontières had done in Haiti was to print a number, a few thousand slips of paper with the telephone number and the address of the clinic they had set up. When I was there, I did a number of focus group discussions, and in terms of that, just giving out this information, I think one thing that Shakeb said that was really important is using women to help women. Helping women form themselves into groups and pass on information about where services are. Also, one more thing would be more of an integration, making sure that services whereby maternal and neonatal health services are given, also could then offer gender-based violence services for the treatment of rape.


The third thing, which is probably more of a hardware thing, is the transportation issue. For people in camps, how far away is the clinic? Do they have means of transportation to get there? That’s something that all NGOs who were on a response would go out and, whether they were actually providing services, collaborate in terms of providing the referral mechanisms and the more hardware transportation that’s need to allow women and girls to get the treatment that they need.


Elizabeth Davis: Those are all excellent points, and I appreciate the fact that you were able to article those as bullet points, given the time that we have left. Thank you for that, very successful. I want to recognize the fact that we appreciate the time that our presenters give to us as well as the time that our attendees commit to being with us for these really important sessions.


With that, I’d like to conclude with some final points. We will post the actual PowerPoint presentations after this sessions so that attendees can invite their colleagues to see the materials if they were not able to join us today. We want to ask you again to mark your calendars. Our third in the series will occur on January 16, 2013. The fourth will be on April 10, and the fifth and final in our series will be July 10, 2013. These will all start that 1 p.m. EST and we do also want to thank those of you in various different time zones for readjusting your schedules to be with us.


In order to improve and continue to make this series as well as subsequent series appropriate, technically inviting, and to respond to the attendee-driven issues, we will be sending out a short survey. If you’re on this call now, you’ll get it shortly. It literally will take about two minutes to complete. We hope you’ll find the time to help us continue to improve this program. I want to thank our organizers, and especially thank our two presenters today for some really amazing material. You’ll hear from us as follow-up to get some of those references and citations so we can also post the follow-up materials that came out of the Q&A session. Thank you all very, very much for joining us. We look forward to a dialogue that will continue again very shortly.

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