20. December 2018
Evaluation Liberia: Uncomplicated assistance for women and girls affected by violence
Uncomplicated assistance for those affected by violence, expert advice, and increased awareness for the problem of sexualised violence: these are all aims of the current project being implemented by medica Liberia as part of its work to counteract gender-based violence and its consequences. For the project, the Liberian non-governmental organisation is working in twelve village communities near Monrovia to set up expert contact points for women and girls affected by violence. This also includes training specialist staff and educating the communities. At the project’s halfway point, an evaluation team has taken a look at how the project has been conducted until now and made recommendations for the remaining project duration.
Government finally serious about protecting women
The experts agree there is a high need for assistance among women in Liberia who have been affected by violence. Even though years have now passed since the civil war and the Ebola crisis, and despite the government’s increasing recognition of the seriousness of the issue, violence is still widespread – in its gender-specific, economic and domestic forms. However, cases of vio-lence are rarely made public, and even if they are, very few people know what to do. The reasons for this include a lack of public awareness work, as well as patriarchal traditions which encour-age misogynist stereotypes and frequent violations of women’s rights.
Elders and confidants improve protection from violence
The medica Liberia project is especially well designed to match the needs of this context, accord-ing to the evaluators, who rated its relevance as very good: the integration and training of elders and other trusted, respected people to establish Women Support groups is one way the organisa-tion enhances the network of protection exactly where survivors need it most often – within their communities. At the same time, public services are improved by training staff in the stress- and trauma-sensitive approach. The organisation’s own services then supplement these. The broadly designed public awareness work by medica Liberia also targets members of the government and civil society, providing them with more knowledge about women’s rights. So the efforts to counteract violence are effective at many different levels.
Ensuring long-term viability of local protection networks for women and girls
This project has been in place since August 2016, and some positive results can already be seen. However, the evaluators also saw a need for improvement, resulting in a rating for the project’s effectiveness of “satisfactory”. At the time the evaluation data was collected, local protection networks had been set up and were active in all of the target communities. Their members had been trained by medica Liberia on the issues of gender-based violence and trauma-sensitive counselling, and most of these were seen to be knowledgeable and active in their new roles as contact people in their communities. However, in many villages there were no rooms available for counselling, and there was a lack of clarity regarding responsibilities for providing the needed material and financial support. Incentives are needed to ensure a long-term future for the voluntary Women Support groups. These incentives could be in the form of savings groups and credit unions, recognised titles or posts for the volunteers, or even small material rewards. Cooperation with school pupils from local Girls Clubs has only just begun and needs more attention.
Increasing awareness of the stress- and trauma-sensitive approach
Another building block in the project is the stress- and trauma-sensitive counselling and training courses. This is working well, according to the experts. medica Liberia has well-trained staff who can skilfully advise and support the women and girls. A range of training courses have enabled police officers, staff in the courts and legal system, and healthcare professionals to learn more about sexualised violence and the stress- and trauma-sensitive approach to treating survivors. However, despite the improved quality of the services now on offer, those affected are not taking advantage of them very often. The evaluators therefore recommend doing more to publicise the services, integrating this knowledge into official training courses, and training specialist staff in remote areas.
Targetted build-up of education on sexualised violence
Since the project began, medica Liberia has been working effectively to ensure more people know about the problem of sexualised violence and start helping survivors. By organising various public awareness actions together with the Women Support groups and other partners, the or-ganisation has reached many people in the project area. Additionally, for the first time, medica Liberia has developed its own advocacy strategy, seeking to target its previous activities more effectively. One consequence was the leading role it played in a joint campaign to improve facili-ties in women’s safe houses. Recommendations to raise awareness even more include improving the information material available at events and its distribution.
Ensuring long-term viability of structures to support survivors and protect women
The overall cost effectiveness and use of human resources was judged by the evaluators to be “good”, and they were confident that the initial positive project results would continue and im-prove. For this, the structures already in place need to be consolidated, which has not yet fully succeeded – reflected in the evaluation “satisfactory” for the criterion “sustainability”. The pro-tection networks are currently working well and since the beginning of 2017 some of them have even been meeting regularly of their own accord. However, it is still uncertain how long their commitment will last and to what extent the training in the trauma-sensitive approach actually results in a more empathic attitude towards women. As the main point of contact for those affected, medica Liberia needs to pass on more responsi-bility to public institutions, strengthen these, and lobby the government to provide them with the necessary resources. This is the only way to ensure long-term viability for the support structures, providing survivors with expert advice beyond the duration of the project, and protecting them from violence.