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Tackling the Pervasive Social Issue of VAWG: Using Community-based Action Teams (COMBAT) to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls

Project Title

Tackling the Pervasive Social Issue of VAWG: Using Community-based Action Teams (COMBAT) to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls

The Organisation

Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre (Gender Centre)

Geographic Location

This project is run in Ghana. Rural and urban communities in four districts located in the Central region have been selected for the study. Two districts are along the Coast (Abura and Komenda) while the other two (Agona and Upper Denkyira) are inland districts. Intervention / project implementation is being carried out in 20 communities in two districts, namely Agona and Komenda districts.

Summary of Intervention / Research

The goal of the Gender Centre’s project is to reduce the incidence of VAWG in Ghana and protect women’s rights through state and community-based structures. This is being done by increasing the visibility of VAWG as a social issue, improving the public’s knowledge and understanding of its impact on the status of women and girls, establishing a community-based response system for the support and protection of women, and by providing counselling services to ensure effective response to all whilst sharing best practice and key lessons learnt with other stakeholders.

The COMBAT model/approach was developed over a decade ago by the Gender Centre as part of a rural response to VAWG implemented in over 20 communities in different regions of Ghana.

Community-Based Action Teams (COMBAT), with equal representation of men and women, are selected and trained on types, causes and impact of VAWG, family laws, conflict resolution, advocacy and counselling. Using participatory methods, role plays, drama and more, these teams educate and sensitize community members on the impact of VAWG, family laws, and provide counselling services and support tovictims to access justice and other social services where necessary. They also serve as a bridge between community members and the police, as well as other state agencies to ensure a consistent and coordinated response. Linkages are also established between state agencies and the community to ensure that members have access to legal services and justice mechanisms, helping women to access justice should they need to. Training is also held for relevant state agency personnel to enhance their knowledge on the impact of VAWG and ensure that cases reported to them are handled effectively. Community and district-level advocacy meetings are held to ensure maximum reach towards the full implementation of all relevant legislations.

This project is seeing both the implementation of the rural response/COMBAT model and an impact assessment of intervention and non-intervention communities. The impact assessment component of the research is led by the School of Public Health at the University of Ghana, Legon. An unmatched cluster randomised controlled trial with two arms; the intervention arm (receive Gender Centre’s RRS /COMBAT package for communities as well as state agencies) and the control arm (receive baseline and post-intervention information on IPV andimplementation of intervention after study) are employed for this study. Ethical approval for the study has been obtained and mapping of communities in the selected districts are currently ongoing. This will be followed by community mobilization and the training of research assistants (on the survey instruments) and subsequently the collection of data for the baseline.

The specific objectives of the impact assessment are to assess the impact of the Rural Response System (RRS) to reduce incidences of VAWG; and assess the extent to which the RRS has changed community attitudes about gender inequality; assess state institutional response to reported cases of VAWG and assess whether the RRS model facilitated a shift in power relations between men and women in the household/community to become more equitable.

Major Timeframes

- 2015-2016 | Community entry and inception meetings with key stakeholders in each of the selected districts and the IEC materials for the project are being developed. Six COMBAT members (three men and three women) from each of the 20 communities have been selected by community members during community meetings, using a set of defined criteria developed and shared by the Gender Centre. In addition, one animator has been recruited from each district in April 2016 to provide support and supervise the work of COMBAT members. A seven day and three day training workshop on violence against women was held in July 2016 for COMBAT and state agencies / traditional leaders respectively. Following the training, COMBAT members were inaugurated in their respective communities during a community meeting in August 2016 to formally introduce them to community members. Counselling services and monthly sensitization meetings are being held by COMBAT members since September 2016. In addition, five day training will be held for COMBATs on family laws, conflict resolution, advocacy, counselling etc. in November 2016. Regular monitoring through quarterly reflection meetings with COMBAT and community members (to assess the progress of activities and any lessons learnt) will also be held by the Gender Centre in November 2016.

- In year two (2017), operations of COMBAT members as well as animators will be ongoing. A three day learning and sharing meeting will be held for COMBAT members to discuss / share experiences, lessons as well as challenges of their operations in their communities. Collaboration with other CSOs and CBOs for effective advocacy will also be carried out in Year two.

- The impact assessment component of this research is led by the School of Public Health at the University of Ghana, Legon, with collaborators from the Medical Research Council in South Africa. The study is being conducted over 36 months with recruitment having begun soon after ethics approval. There were three months of baseline survey (February – May 2016), after which the intervention will be going for 24 months, followed by three months of impact assessment starting at 25 months post-intervention. The baseline cross-sectional survey of community members, state agencies, and COMBAT members was conducted in intervention and control communities prior to intervention implementation to provide information on these groups and to assess the underlying comparability of intervention and control communities. The remaining months in-between both surveys and after impact evaluation will be used for data analysis, writing up the findings and dissemination and intervention scale up to non-intervention communities if the findings are positive.

Key Contacts

Evelyn Nuvor, Programmes Manager, Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre

Email: e.nuvor@gendercentreghana.org

Website: http://gendercentreghana.org/

 

Adolphina Addo-Lartey, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Ghana School of Public Health

Email: aaddo.lartey@gmail.com

Website: http://publichealth.ug.edu.gh/

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