MAPUTO, Mozambique--"You cannot solve a problem that you don't understand" - so the saying goes. This is why it is critical to collect data if you want to make informed, evidenced-based decisions on ending sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
"To put an end to this violence, it is necessary to know the patterns and trends, understand who the victims and their aggressors are, what the services and barriers to access are, while ensuring that confidentiality, ethics, and security considerations are taken into account in the data use and collection process," said Andrea M. Wojnar, UNFPA Representative for Mozambique.
Globally, an estimated one in three women experience gender-based violence at some point in their lives, making it one of the most widespread forms of human rights violations.
The reality in Mozambique is similarly grim. Data from the Demographic and Health Survey 2011 showed that more than 37 per cent of women in Mozambique have experienced sexual or physical violence, yet just four in ten survivors of sexual violence have told someone about it or asked for help.
How data systems can help SGBV survivors
Improving SGBV data systems is important not only to inform policy-making, but to enable the safe, ethical, and effective sharing of reported incident data among essential SGBV service providers (health, police, justice and social) so that survivors can receive integrated services and access to justice.
Maria*, 14, from the city of Nampula, is a survivor of sexual violence. After she was raped, with the support of her uncle she contacted Ophenta, a civil society organization. An activist accompanied her to a one-stop centre for survivors of violence (CAI), where she could access health, psychosocial, legal and police services all at once.
"The centre was able to resolve my case. They referred it to the police and sent me to hospital for analysis. I was very well received and treated. The case was tried and was resolved. We were very satisfied. When people take their case to a CAI, they can solve it without any problem," said Maria.
The man who raped her was sentenced to 12 years in prison, in June 2020.
The integrated, survivor-centered work of the CAI is facilitated by the use of a single file called "ficha única". This file is used to register medical, psycho-social, police and legal support to GBV cases. It assigns a single number for each survivor, avoiding duplication of data, and allows for collection of demographic information.
CAI staff have been trained on how to fill it out in a way that is sensitive to a survivor's trauma. Each professional in the different sectors has access to information on the services received by the survivor that are relevant to their interventions. The right to privacy of the person seeking support services requires that a data confidentiality policy be followed. For example, HIV test results are not divulged to those in sectors for whom that information is irrelevant.
Thanks to this system, service providers from different sectors can streamline the referral process. By doing so, the needs of SGBV survivors like Maria can be met efficiently and safely, while avoiding the trauma of recounting their attack many times, which is experienced as a form of victimization.
It is hoped that with the improved survivor-centred care, more survivors might be encouraged to report the crime and seek help.
Improving GBV data systems through coordination and innovation
GBV data comes in many forms, from national or sample demographic or health surveys, to administrative data collected at services like health facilities or police units, and qualitative studies.
In an effort to improve systems for the collection, harmonization, and use of data on SGBV, UNFPA and the National Statistics Institute (INE) organized a seminar for interested parties to discuss the specifics of survey and administrative data on SGBV collected by the institutions and to listen to sectors for guidance and coordination.
One of the biggest challenges facing INE today is the production of statistical information to respond to the indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other national and international programmes and policies on GBV, according to Mónica Magaua, President of INE.
With UNFPA support under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, the Ministry of Interior is scaling-up its digital platform, InfoViolencia, to register and manage GBV cases. In the long term, the system will facilitate the referral of survivors to other institutions that provide essential GBV services, such as health units, administrations of justice (prosecutors and courts), and social services.
InfoViolência represents an important step in the country's ability to better manage, analyse and use data on SGBV cases, streamlining and speeding up the quality and timeliness of services and access to justice for survivors.
A pilot test of the database is currently being conducted. In the spirit of data-informed and evidence-based efforts, InfoViolencia will be instrumental in developing and implementing policies and programmes on GBV in the country.
Efforts like the institution of the Single File, the development of the InfoViolencia GBV information management system, and GBV data coordination across sectors are helping to ensure that women and girls like Maria can get the immediate support they need in a safe, respectful and efficient way.
They are also generating information and evidence to help eliminate this urgent and widespread human rights violation once and for all.
*Name changed to protect survivor's identity.