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How Does Gender-based Violence Impact Women’s Economic Empowerment?

Concept note for a data project

Published July 16, 2018

By Bridget Steele, Lance Hadley and Aniket Bhushan

Context

Violence against women and girls is a “global pandemic and a serious obstacle to sustainable development and economic prosperity for families, communities and states.”

Women who work in low-income countries typically operate at the margins. They are often informal; in sub-Saharan Africa, 74 per cent of women’s employment (non-agricultural) is informal.  They operate small non-technical enterprises; 53% of employed women in Sub-Saharan Africa are self-employed and are typically constrained by care responsibilities. Under these conditions, domestic and workplace GBV can play a significant role in limiting women’s agency and economic empowerment. Additionally, economic participation does not necessarily lead to a reduction in the violence women experience both at home and at work. Research has shown that economic empowerment may reduce but can also exacerbate domestic violence.

Gender based violence and women’s economic empowerment: data and research gaps

GBV data: key gaps and limits

There are challenges to collecting consistent, reliable, comparable, and abundant data on gender-based violence (GBV) globally. These challenges act as barriers to understanding the magnitude and nature of the problem and to initiating action. The World Health Organization, among many other organizations, stress the importance of building the evidence base on the “prevalence and nature of violence against women in different settings” and are committed to supporting countries’ efforts to “document and measure this violence and its consequences.” Specifically, this involves improving the methods for measuring violence against women in the context of monitoring for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Current GBV data is collected through police, justice, or health and social services, dealing with reported cases of GBV, and sample surveys.  Official GBV statistics are often compiled and produced by National Statistical Offices, based on data from surveys and/or administrative sources. However, national statistics only capture a fraction of GBV due to underreporting.

Existing analysis of GBV data finds:

  1. Population based surveys using representative samples is the most reliable method for collecting information on the extent of GBV in a general population. These results can often be generalized and provide more reliable information on the actual occurrence of GBV when compared statistics on formal reports of violence to authorities. Some level of under-reporting (level is dependent on survey implementation) is still likely.
  2. Surveys developed specifically to understand GBV are the best source of comprehensive data on the issue. Such surveys tend to gather more information about different types of violence and perpetrators, as well as information on circumstances, risk and protective factors, and consequences of violence. While highly useful, these types of surveys tend to be costly, and difficult for countries to implement on a regular basis meaning that there is still a lack of quality and comprehensive data.
  3. GBV data collection challenges are exacerbated in developing countries.  Data collection challenges include prohibitive laws, rights (or lack thereof) and cultural norms, lack of funding, and available technology. Further, obtaining accurate data on GBV in conflict and post-conflict settings presents obvious difficulties given security and logistical constraints, population mobility, reluctance of individuals who have suffered profound trauma to report, poor infrastructure, and lack of confidence in authorities and public service providers.

The link between GBV and WEE: research gaps

Precise data linking GBV to women’s economic behavior in low-income economies remains underdeveloped.

  1. Existing research focuses on the linkages between domestic intimate partner violence (IPV) and WEE and does not include the causal linkages between the empowerment of women in developing country contexts and the GBV they experience both at home and in the workplace (i.e. Salia, 2017; Hughes et al., 2015; Frese et al., 2014; Gupta et al. 2013; Krishnan et al., 2010; Vyas and Watts, 2008; Kim et al. 2007).
  2. Not all forms of GBV have robust data sources. For example, forms of violence that are less common, occur primarily in specific populations or among specific demographics are not captured in most data sources.
  3. Large scale national surveys conducted only in the dominant national language omit certain population groups (United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, United nations Economic Commission for Europe, and United Nations Statistical Division, 2007).
  4. Most quantitative GBV and WEE studies examine correlations between income levels and GBV without exploring intersectionality and without exploring specifically affected economic behavior (i.e. Hughes et al., 2015; Dalal, 2011). As a result, there is little data linking GBV to changes in women’s economic and business behavior,
  5. Most existing GBV and WEE studies have been conducted as part of intervention evaluations (RCTs). These offer limited options to identify GBV-coping strategies outside of the intervention nor necessarily options for optimized policy interventions (i.e. Gupta et al. 2013; Kim et al. 2007).

Further data is needed to specifically identify the links between GBV and WEE. Sexual harassment, corruption, fear, and misogynistic social practices can modify women’s economic behaviors and lead to suboptimal market decisions and limited participation. As a result, women may avoid preferential marketplaces, practice inefficient savings methods, and have reduced bargaining power. A comprehensive understanding of WEE must go beyond providing women access to economic opportunities and consider the ways in which GBV intersects with and complicates WEE.

Proposal for a data project

Targeted data is needed on where economically empowered women are experiencing violence or fear violence to better ensure that WEE initiatives and programing not only give women access to the workplace, but also target the root causes of GBV. Further, more data is needed to explore how and why GBV may be exacerbated or manifested in a new way as a result of WEE. This proposed data project, would explore the following research question: How does GBV impact the empowerment and economic behavior of working women leading informal SME’s in low-income contexts?

In partnership with Sauti East Africa we have access to a targeted sample of women-led informal SMEs operating at the Kenya/Uganda border (n=1000). Sauti East Africa is a social enterprise that provides mobile-based information platforms empowering SMEs to trade legally, safely, and profitably across East Africa’s borders. Sauti has agreed to provide both their trader client-base, technological and operational capacity, and their mobile survey platform. Their experience in the region also lends CIDP the local knowledge to assist in the implementation of this project.

Project goals

This project will:

  1. Pilot test a low-cost mobile based survey to gather data on the GBV experience of working women leading informal SME’s in low income contexts.
  2. Identify the distinct types of violence women face once they have access to working environments through both data analysis and focus group consultations.
  3. Research and report the ways in which GBV alters the economic behavior of working women in low income contexts.
  4. Share findings through round table meetings with Canadian policy makers and civil society organizations to inform policies and development interventions that provide holistic strategies for women to participate in equitable economic environments.

CIDP’s Parallel Research

CIDP has conducted an analysis on Canadian ODA disbursements to sexual and gender based violence SGBV projects. Read it here.

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