This week, Womanity Award Manager Servane Mouazan interviews Ceri Hayes, director at GenderMatters.  Ceri shares what ICT based organisations need to think about when developing programmes that seek to prevent violence against women.

SM: Ceri, what do you specialise in and how does gender matter based on the work you have done in various places in the world?

CH: I do consultancy work focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment issues for a wide range of organizations including UN agencies, international and national NGOs, government agencies, among others. Most of my work to date has focused on tackling gender-based violence, promoting women’s civil and political participation and supporting organizations to integrate gender equality and social inclusion across their work. Gender matters because 1 in 3 women around the world still experience physical and sexual violence, because their leadership and political participation are limited, because they are more likely than men to work in vulnerable, low-paid or undervalued jobs. Rigid gender roles are harmful for both women and men. While there have been significant strides in several areas of women’s rights, there have been huge push backs and challenges in others. Valuing more equitable gender norms and tackling all forms of discrimination are critical to ensuring safer, fairer and more stable societies. I never cease to be inspired by the amazing work of individuals and organizations around the work to create change in this area, but it shouldn’t be the work of a few, it should be the social justice issue at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Ceri Hayes -Director Gender Matters

SM: You have written a report on Tackling Gender-Based Violence with Technology: Case Studies of Mobile and Internet Technology Interventions in Developing Contexts. Were there any unexpected findings?

CH: As someone who has worked in the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) sector for the last fifteen years, I found it very interesting to look at the issue from this fresh new angle and my eyes were really opened to the potential contribution that Information and Communication Techonologies (ICTs) can make to the work of organizations working to tackle GBV in terms of increasing their reach and the accessibility of their services, monitoring their outputs and outcomes, documenting cases and facilitating organising and mobilising for change.

In terms of trends, I noted that: the majority of tools developed to date focus on mitigation and response to GBV, although some have been and are being developed with violence prevention in mind; Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) of these interventions is very weak, and very few have been scaled often because the evidence of impact is insufficient, follow-on funding is not available, or organizations have failed to identify suitable partnerships to carry forward the work; geographical uptake of technologies to address GBV has been very uneven to date, with a lot of the technologies relying on the use of smartphones and the internet, which may not be widely available in low-resource contexts, although access is increasing and more interventions are now starting to invest in low-tech, accessible and cost-effective solutions.

SM: What would be your recommendations for all the new ventures wishing to harness ICT/New Media to prevent violence against women?

CH: Be mindful of the barriers that women and other vulnerable groups still face in access to ICTs, such as low literacy levels, a lack of ICT training and support, the prohibitive cost of many ICTs, their lack of mobility and free time, and the cultural norms which proscribe their behavior and interests.
Engage the end user in every stage of the process both to ensure ownership, but also to promote sustainability and challenge assumptions made in the design of the product about what works and why.
Work in partnership with specialist organizations, often these are women’s rights organizations, with a track record of tackling GBV issues in the given context. Interventions needs to be designed in a context-appropriate way that understands the obstacles, but also entry points for tackling GBV in that particular environment.
Don’t assume ICTs may be the best way to achieve your GBV (or other social change) goal. Consider also other areas of innovation, such as how marketing and behavioral insights could strengthen preventative messaging.
Build the evidence base for what works and ensure M&E is properly costed and built into the design from the outset.
Factor in sustainability and potential scaling from the outset , including the need for a wide range of partners, focusing on solutions that have low costs, and considering the need for a longer-term perspective.

SM: How can ICT based violence prevention tools best be used with other support services, in order to protect women?

CH: I highlight a number of case studies in my reports for STATT and, more recently, for UNDP on this issue. Some examples include an initiative using solar-powered mobile technology to connect women in rural Sierra Leone with information about GBV, a helpline that provides counselling and support to women and their families in remote areas of Afghanistan, an online map to challenge the social acceptability of sexual harassment in Egypt and online gaming to tackle stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes in Nepal.

SM: Sylvia Walby’s report from 2009 estimates that in the UK providing public services to victims of domestic violence and the lost economic output of women affected costs the UK £15.8 billion annually. The cost to health, housing and social services, criminal justice and civil legal services is estimated at £3.9 billion…

How can we engage businesses to play their part in order to contribute to the general effort, that would ultimately cost less money to the state but also, once safe, enable women to participate more fully in the economic life?

CH: Stopping violence is good for business. Violence can affect employee productivity, lead to absenteeism, and create substantial costs for employers. Businesses can help break the taboos that surround GBV by, for instance, running workplace programs to boost employee awareness, training staff on how to respond to the issue, and ensure their own businesses are safe and supportive environments. They can also invest in programs to tackle GBV, share expertise and provide in-kind support such as technical knowledge and communication channels

SM: You took part in the 2016 Womanity Award selection panel, what are your insights?

CH: The quality of the proposals was very impressive and each organization’s approach and ICT solution had its merits, which made our final decision very difficult! But in the end the Take Back the Tech! proposal stood out for its innovative, timely and creative response to the growing issue of online violence against women and girls – and its intersection with offline violence-  and its commitment to challenging the stereotypes and unequal power relations that underpin gender inequality and perpetuate GBV.

Ceri Hayes is the author of a  UNDP paper: Hayes, C. Using Information Communication Technologies to Address     Gender-­‐Based Violence, UNDP, January 2016.

Connect with Ceri online on www.gendermatters.co.uk