Put the Survivor at the Center of Her Solution

As part of PSI’s series for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, philanthropist and advisor Barbara Jones explains the vital role listening and empathy play in designing solutions for survivors of GBV.

By Barbara Jones, philanthropist and civic leader

I’m partnering with PSI to tackle the scourge of gender-based violence that has too long plagued the women of Myanmar. After decades of military rule, the country is finally coming out of the shadows. With the recent elections, there is a lot of hope and optimism about the future. Yet the physical and psychological legacy of violence and repression lingers.

Naturally this a global problem. One in three women worldwide will experience violence in their lifetime. That could be your mother, sister, or friend. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the immense challenge that this statistic represents. And it is just as easy to forget that behind the numbers are actual women who face violence and its consequences every day.

We must do everything we can to end gender-based violence (GBV), in Myanmar and around the world. Activism, advocacy and effective interventions have a critical role to play. But we cannot achieve a world without violence unless we listen, learn from, and seek to understand the daily realities of the women we aim to serve.

I’m reminded of a famous proverb: “What you do for me, without me, is against me.” Ending GBV starts with the woman. We need to see the world through her eyes, how her daily life is shaped by her family and community.

Ending GBV starts with the woman. We need to see the world through her eyes, how her daily life is shaped by her family and community.

In-depth research can uncover the inflection points where violence occurs at all levels of society. It helps shed light on the social norms, attitudes, and actors involved in creating a culture of violence. And it can show us how best to intervene to create an environment where GBV is not tolerated and where women can access the services they need to overcome violence.

In Myanmar, we aim to defeat GBV with a four-pronged approach that begins with the women themselves.

First, we are working to understand the daily lives and experiences of women living in Yangon and Mandalay. We are generating evidence that comes from a place of empathy—in seeking to gain an awareness of women’s daily lives and beliefs, we can begin to design a program that will transform cultural practices and help end GBV.

Second, we will use the results of our research to design targeted violence prevention and counselling programs. PSI’s huge network of franchise clinics already supply a large proportion of the healthcare in Myanmar. Doctors at these clinics will deliver essential services to women who have suffered or who are at risk of violence.

There are many local organizations that have deep roots in the community and it is important we engage them to avoid duplicating efforts. Our third goal is to help build the capacity of these organizations to serve women who have experienced violence and establish a network for providing GBV support services.

Finally, we will use the evidence gained from our research to develop and launch behavior change communication campaigns through inter-personal outreach, radio and other channels. We aim to transform negative gender norms that perpetuate GBV, to promote healthy relationships, and provide information about support services.

Violence against women in Myanmar and around the world has to stop. Every woman has a story to tell—and the more we listen and seek to understand her reality, the more we can do to tackle violence in all its forms.

Photo Credit: Tamlar Hsoe