Reflections on “Understanding quality in services supporting women survivors of gender-based violence”

Levels of violence against women in places like Papua New Guinea are unimaginable, with ChildFund Australia’s research finding that two out of three women there have been beaten by their husbands.  PNG’s rich and strong culture has many strengths and characteristics we can learn from, but the levels of violence against women there, and in other countries in the Pacific and elsewhere must be unacceptable from any human point of view.  

How to reduce these appalling levels of violence?  If we consider the challenges that development agencies work to overcome, the human rights that we seek to advance or protect, reducing violence within families must be one of the toughest. 

Michaela Raab and Jasmin Rocha have contributed a very insightful and useful article: “Understanding quality in services supporting women survivors of gender-based violence,” published in “Development in Practice” Vol 23, No. 7, September 2013.  The article does not offer guidance for project design, implementation, or evaluation.  There are no case studies.  Rather, the authors offer a very useful framework for understanding the quality of services that address violence against women (VAW).  

Based on literature reviews, and reflection on a number of VAW projects across three countries, implemented by partners of a range of Oxfam International members, the authors have developed a model for understanding the quality of VAW services; the model has five components:

  1. Access (to services);
  2. Human Resources (the skills and attitudes of those who work to help VAW survivors);
  3. Service Process (the methods and procedures used);
  4. Co-operation and Coordination (linkages to other services to avoid re-victimisation); and
  5. Desired Results (resolution of the particular situation, ensuring women’s health and survival).

I particularly appreciated the emphasis given in the model to how survivors are treated – with dignity and respect – given that this is highlighted as of great importance by the women themselves.  

The model will be useful to any agency working to tackle violence against women.  It seems useful and practical, but (as the authors point out) the article, and the model, do not address issues of how to design and implement programs that reduce these shocking violations of human rights.  We need more models of successful interventions.  And since an enduring reduction in VAW will come from societal changes, legislation and enforcement, etc., these models will need to be holistic and multifaceted.

This is no criticism of the Raab and Rocha – they have sought to develop and share a model through which we can understand the quality of VAW services, and they have succeeded.  

I look forward to the results of the work that the authors are planning to “develop context-specific tools for quality monitoring and evaluation.”  Meanwhile, the article is highly recommended – a preview can be found here:  The corresponding author is Jasmin Rocha, Global Evaluation Research and Learning Officer at Oxfam International <>.

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