Every act of gender-based violence is preventable, and International Medical Corps is committed to supporting global, national, and community efforts to combat GBV. In emergencies, when risks of GBV increase, all humanitarian actors are obliged by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to take actions to prevent GBV. Unfortunately, this responsibility is too often overlooked in the face of multiple needs, and attention to GBV is not prioritized. International Medical Corps is working with partners through the GBV AoR and the Call to Action initiative to increase action towards prevention of GBV and to increase accountability to women and girls in emergencies.
In emergency settings, International Medical Corps recruits local staff and volunteers, and partners with local organizations, committed to ending violence against women and girls. We value local knowledge, and we work with community groups to identify and mitigate specific risk factors for GBV in different environments. Through application of the IASC Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action, we train a range of other actors and service providers— including those organizing health, education, WASH, nutrition, and shelter services—to design and implement services in a manner that reduces risks of GBV.
To combat social norms of discrimination that constitute root causes of GBV, we also engage communities, including men and boys, to promote women’s and girls’ equality and to foster positive, non-violent behaviors. Cycles of violence can continue across generations, where children who grow up in violent homes are more likely to perpetrate and to be affected by violence as adults. But increasingly, evidence demonstrates that even short-term interventions can help people change attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate GBV.
Examples of how we combat GBV:
PAKISTAN, in Afghan refugee villages.
International Medical Corps faces considerable challenges promoting women’s equality in refugee villages where a strict patriarchal system dictates that male heads of household should make all important decisions, and where women’s mobility is limited. Our program has organized sex-separated groups of community volunteers into “Gender Support Groups” (GSGs). The GSGs are responsible for holding discussions with men or women about the consequences of GBV, including the harmful effects of some traditional practices. The GSGs also talk with community members about the benefits of girls’ education and women’s economic and social participation.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, in communities affected by decades of conflict.
In eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, conflict-related sexual violence is widespread, and women and girls are also highly vulnerable to sexual violence within communities and domestic violence at home, resulting in compounded risks. In this environment, International Medical Corps led a six-year, large-scale social behavior change program to prevent GBV with support from USAID. We worked with key actors in communities to develop communication strategies and shared messages through radio campaigns, theatre, public debates, sporting events, and visual media. The program also engaged groups of men in discussion groups focused on ending violence against women. An external final evaluation found that the program had a positive influence on communities.
ETHIOPIA, in South Sudanese refugee camps.
While early/forced marriage is common in South Sudan, the practice has increased among those displaced by conflict. Parents struggling to support and protect their families may agree to these marriages in an effort to better the situation for their daughters, or their other children. In refugee camps in Ethiopia, International Medical Corps has worked with South Sudanese communities to tackle this problem. We have targeted teachers, community leaders, and parents for discussions on the health, psychosocial, and economic consequences of early/forced marriage. We have also worked to empower adolescent girls, with increased access to education, life-skills trainings, and mentorship opportunities. In one year, we provided life skills training for 100 out-of-school adolescent girls at risk of early/forced marriage.