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Shining a light on Violence against Women and Girls programming…the need for evaluation

In September 2017, we attended the launch of the Spotlight Initiative, an EU and UN multi-year initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls.


In September 2017, Sam McPherson and I attended the launch of the European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) new, global, multi-year initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls (VAWG) – the Spotlight Initiative – at the UN General Assembly.

As the impressive speakers, ranging from António Guterres, UN Secretary-General to Malala Yousafzai, spoke to the issue of shining a light on VAWG and achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it struck me just how powerful the complement of statistics and qualitative data is. Over two hours, we were presented with hard facts and numbers, for example:

  • 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence – mostly by an intimate partner.
  • In 2012, 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family.
  • At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM in 30 countries.
  • 70% of human trafficking victims globally are women and girls.

But we were also presented with the voices and faces of change and hope. Survivors and activists spoke of their experiences – how they were overcoming VAWG in their communities, one former FGM initiator explained how she put down her knife and is encouraging others to do the same, and Malala and her father discussed the critical role men and boys have in eliminating VAWG. They all grounded the numbers in reality – the how, what and why.

As the UN agencies and the EU launch this €500million initiative, the role of quantitative and qualitative data – and translating it into meaningful action and course correction – cannot be understated. Putting in place a strong overarching Theory of Change for Spotlight and an accompanying Monitoring, Research, Evaluation and Learning (MERL) Framework from inception will ensure that lessons and evidence is fed back into the programme at the appropriate levels. Capturing this level of change will require a comprehensive suite evaluation methodologies, including innovative qualitative methods, to truly meet women and girls where they are and evaluate how or if this initiative is making a change in their lives.

For example, we are currently conducting the endline evaluation for an innovative collaboration between the British Council and the Premier League, which aims to tackle violence against women and girls through football in Kenya (you can read the baseline findings here). It is doing this through a combination of football and interactive education sessions with young people, and advocacy activities at a community level.  The hope is that the programme will help reduce violence and, more broadly, empower girls and women to claim their economic rights. We’re excited to share our findings in the coming months to contribute to the wider knowledge around the elimination of VAWG. Watch this space!

As implementers, policy-makers, decision-makers, advocates, even evaluators, we are ultimately accountable to the women and girls around the world that initiatives, like Spotlight, intend on reaching. The deliberate integration of a MERL Framework will ensure that Spotlight Initiative implementers and funders have a tool for internal and external reflection and accountability.

“This is not a battle for women. It is a battle of the entire society.” –  Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice President of the EU Commission, at the launch.