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Towards more inclusive programming to address violence against women and girls (VAWG)


While we have known for long that VAWG can affect women and girls from all groups and walks of life (the global estimate that 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime has remained the same for over a decade), growing evidence is telling us more about how the experiences of VAWG vary between groups. Evidence shows us that several groups of women and girls, including adolescent girls and women and girls with disabilities, are at increased risk of VAWG. Without strategies to reach women and girls who face multiple forms of discrimination, including women and girls with disabilities, VAWG programming risk leaving groups at most risk behind. However, disability inclusive VAWG programming has been the exception rather than the norm, as highlighted by Tithetse Nkhanza’s rapid review on this subject. 

Tithetse Nkhanza’s aims to change this. Our Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) strategy sets out an ambition to aim to tackle root causes of VAWG, as well as address intertwined systems of social exclusion. As a first social inclusion priority, the programme will focus on disability inclusion –for instance by ensuring that activities and communication materials are accessible to women and girls with disabilities, and that monitoring systems effectively measure progress towards these goals.   

While most people in our sector will agree on the importance of intersectional approaches, disability inclusion, and ‘leaving no one behind’ in VAWG programming – less is known about what this looks like in practice. How do we break down barriers that are embedded in the built environment as much as in in attitudes? How do we move from commitments to action and impact? In February 2021, the Tithetse Nkhanza team came together (virtually during COVID-19 times) to explore some of these questions and embark upon the journey of putting our GESI strategy into practice.  At the centre of the workshop was the GESI Matrix, a tool which helps us understand what GESI means in each programmatic area, and how we can take steps towards more inclusive and transformative programming.  

In this blog post on Emerging Lessons from Tithetse Nkhanza on Inclusive VAWG Programming, you can read about our experience of integrating GESI into the programme, and what we have learnt so far. Tithetse Nkhanza’s work on GESI is a work in progress, and we aim to share more lessons as we advance this work. Emerging lessons include:

  • Understanding context is essential to develop effective GESI strategies – our work so far has included formative research and a baseline study (you can read a summary of the findings here).
  • Do no harm – it is essential that the programme ensures the safety, health and security of staff and participants that is inclusive of all people, which requires a broader social inclusion approach (i.e. not only focusing on disability inclusion)  
  • An intentional focus can help create tangible progress – the explicit focus on disability inclusion is allowing us to address the specific barriers that women and girls with disabilities face.
  • Set realistic ambitions – programme capacity, resources, timeline and risk factors are key aspects to consider when setting your programme’s GESI ambitions.
  • Engaging the whole programme team – the GESI strategy and matrix is only useful if it is of value to the team and they are actively engaged in using it.

Find the full blog post, as well as other Tithetse Nkhanza publications here.