The Global 16 Days Campaign — now 30 years strong — seeks to encourage activism around gender-based violence (GBV) in the world of work. Jhpiego, meanwhile, is on the ground in Mozambique, aiming to prevent unintended consequences of development projects there. The campaign began November 25.
From the start of a large-scale road construction project in rural Nampula and Zambezia provinces implemented by the National Roads Administration, Jhpiego and the World Bank have proactively addressed an increased risk of sexual exploitation, assault and sexual harassment (SEA/SH). All the partners involved in the Integrated Feeder Road Development Project are painfully aware that the development field is not immune to GBV; not in their own workplaces and not in the communities served.
In fact, communities situated near the project already experience a high prevalence and acceptance of GBV in their midst. Women’s vulnerability to exploitation, assault and harassment is exacerbated by poverty, as well as slow recovery from cyclones in 2019. It’s hardly surprising that an influx of predominantly male workers from outside a community can result in an increase in SEA/SH.
Gender experts cite norms of masculinity and sexuality as reasons that some men feel entitled to sex. Women struggling to survive and to feed their children are hardly in positions of power to spurn a man’s demands or seek retribution. At the beginning of the project, there were limited services available to support those who experienced SEA/SH.
To mitigate these risks and support survivors, Jhpiego worked with the World Bank and the Government of Mozambique in late 2020 to set up grievance and response systems to institutionalize zero tolerance for SEA/SH at multiple levels. Earlier this year, Jhpiego began educating road construction workers onsite about SEA/SH. So far, 1,793 workers have been trained and all new employees have signed codes of conduct agreeing not to perpetrate SEA/SH.
Most importantly, the workers are held accountable. Those who commit acts of violence and harassment are subject to formal legal mechanisms and workplace-level sanctions. Codes of conduct stipulate penalties such as written warnings, remedial training, loss of wages, suspensions or termination. In addition to individual punishments, contracts for companies are terminated for non-enforcement of SEA/SH policies.
To better support survivors of violence in the project’s surrounding communities, Jhpiego developed awareness-raising materials on the risk of GBV, set up a free helpline in local languages, identified community grievance response representatives, and assured survivors and their families they could safely and privately submit complaints.
So far, 8,707 community awareness workshops on SEA/SH and reporting mechanisms have been held, reaching 101,012 people.
The project also provides training and medical supplies for post-GBV service delivery to health facilities. So far, staff at 55 health facilities have been trained in post-GBV care, and 20 facilities received equipment and in-depth quality assurance support. Now, when someone reports a case of GBV, it sets off a cascade of services and referrals for health care, legal aid and psychosocial support.
After a case has been investigated and resolved, project staff conduct a root cause analysis to identify and enact improvements in environment and management to prevent similar cases in the future.
This project marks a fundamentally new way of doing business. And not everyone was quick to embrace it. Contractor companies were narrowly focused on completing roadwork and initially did not prioritize staff time and resources for SEA/SH trainings. However, now they know to view violence prevention and response as a priority.
Change also needed to happen at the government level. And it has. This project has fostered a sense of possibility and urgency to provide services for survivors and to hold perpetrators accountable. A government official recently remarked that without the GBV intervention, there would have been new roads, but that workers could have destroyed the dreams of their children. The official’s comment reflects an awareness that there can be no development in the genuine sense of that word without the protection of women and children.
Change is hard, especially in a highly patriarchal environment that has never been held accountable for GBV. But projects like this one, which addresses prevention and response on multiple levels, are geared for sustainable success.
A recognized leader in strengthening health system responses to GBV, including development of policy, clinical and operational guidance, Jhpiego contributed to Caring for Women Subjected to Violence, the World Health Organization’s global health worker training curricula for responding to violence against women in the health setting.
Jhpiego also led the development of the Gender-Based Violence Quality Assurance Tool that sets standards for the provision of high-quality post-violence care in health facilities.
In Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Nepal, Madagascar and Mozambique, Jhpiego led the development of national health sector guidelines and/or training curricula for responding to GBV in the health setting. In Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Philippines and Zambia, Jhpiego built the capacity of health workers to provide quality care to survivors of GBV, including empathetic counseling, safety planning and referral to additional services.
The road to eliminating GBV is long and bumpy. That’s why Jhpiego, undeterred, plans to expand and accelerate its GBV programming—as if countless lives depend on it. Because they do.
Ana Baptista is the Gender-Based Violence Program Coordinator for Jhpiego Mozambique and Elizabeth Doggett is a Senior Technical Advisor for Jhpiego.