Highlights from the SVRI forum 2017

11 October 2017
Sephy Valuks

STRIVE participated in the 5th International Conference of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative held in Rio, Brazil, 18–21 September 2017.

The global event brought together more than 450 researchers, gender activists, funders, policymakers and practitioners who are working to understand, prevent and respond to sexual and intimate partner violence. Many of the socio-ecological pathways that STRIVE is investigating overlapped with the diverse programme of events at SVRI 2017, including:

  • transactional sex
  • social and gender norms
  • economic empowerment programmes
  • the intersection between IPV and HIV

Power and Violence within Transactional Sex

The issue of transactional sex continues to gain traction. A panel on this topic included presentations from Satyanarayana Ramanaik (KHPT) and Joyce Wamoyi (NIMR). Discussion centred on the impact of gendered power dynamics on women’s ability to negotiate relationships and thus on the increased risk of violence. Many at the forum explored these issues through the lens of sexual exploitation, by contrast with STRIVE’s working group on transactional sex, which analyses transactional sex from the perspective of women’s agency.

Social and Gender Norms

STRIVE researcher Ben Cislaghi found a lot of interest from donors, practitioners and researchers in social and gender norms at the SVRI forum. Forum participants had very different levels of experience of working with norms, as well as a wide variety of investigative approaches. Sessions addressed questions such as:

  • Which social norms sustain violence?
  • How can norms be changed to prevent violence?

Violence is the issue that challenges existing norm theory and pushes boundaries. STRIVE is working to challenge norms theories to better serve the needs of those working on violence. The forum presented many opportunities for forging potential new partnerships. It was evident that many have been working on norms without calling it that and there is a need to systematise knowledge. Potential confusion emerges as two fields of knowledge and practice are clashing: social norms and gender theory.

Multi-country studies in partnership with practitioners offer a valuable next step to understand the validity of new theories explaining how norms sustain violence across different settings.

Economic Interventions and Effects on Intra-Household Dynamics and IPV

Chaired by Lori Heise, this panel included a presentation from Shelley Lees on baseline data from the Maisha study. Amber Peterman’s review of cash transfers and intimate partner violence in low- and middle- income countries drew upon STRIVE work.

Innovative and Participatory Research Methods

Veronica Selestine (NIMR) presented findings from using photo voice in the Maisha study in a participatory session that allowed plenty of time for discussion and feedback. Photovoice was a new methodology for many of the participants and they were curious to know more about it.

Violence against women and children is complex set of problems requiring complex solutions. For a long time, research, programming and policy have not been working in collaboration. The forum emphasised the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem.” Veronica Selestine, NIMR

Couple-level IPV Research: Promise or Peril?

Joyce Wamoyi chaired this panel which included presentations from Lori Heise (LSHTM), Ravi Prakash (KHPT), Elizabeth Starmann and Erin Stern. Discussions revolved around:

STRIVE’s technical brief on measuring partner violence was completed in time for SVRI, as a resource for all who work in this area.

Science pitches

As an innovation, the SVRI forum introduced the ‘Science Pitch’, in which groups of twenty people gave four-minute presentations from a podium to accompany their poster. This format led to a greater engagement with the content and provided a fantastic opportunity for networking. STRIVE member, Saidi Kapiga (NIMR), presented results from the Maisha study as part of the programme of science pitches about prevention. Other STRIVE members participated in the session which also included presentations from colleagues at the London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine.

The SVRI forum was a great platform to exchange ideas – it reinforced that our work is on track, producing research that is relevant, timely and that can hopefully impact on policy in the future...I came back inspired.” STRIVE researcher

Key themes emerging

  • Intersections between violence and HIV
  • Recognition of the ways in which gender and social norms impact on adolescent girls and young women’s lives
  • Measurement and evaluation of interventions that address factors that contribute to vulnerability (STRIVE’s measurement briefs were disseminated)
  • Scalability of interventions, seen as essential but also complex and, of necessity, context-specific