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Djuntu pa Igualdadi! Fighting Gender-based Violence with a participatory approach

The fight against Gender-based Violence (GBV) and the support to GBV victims are key elements to build a democratic society, in which all groups and especially the disadvantaged ones are treated equally and are guaranteed the support they need. That is why we are supporting civil society organisations and dialogue with public authorities to fight against GBV in Cabo Verde. In a recent mission to Cabo Verde, our member Club de Madrid conducted a series of high-level advocacy meetings with stakeholders in Cabo Verde that have a responsibility in the implementation of GBV laws and policies. During the mission, we interviewed our partners Eveline Tavares and Dionara Anjos from the Cape Verdean Association for the fight against Gender-based Violence (Associação Cabo-Verdiana de Luta Contra Violência Baseada no Género) to take stock of the progress made so far.

The basis of the project is a participatory policy evaluation carried out by Cabo Verde and NGOs to assess the implementation status of the GBV law: gaps in assistance to victims, awareness and capacity for implementation.

What were the most important strengths in the development of the participatory evaluation?

A good number of diverse public entities such as police, education and health professionals involved in the support of GBV victims participated in the project and improved their  knowledge on the GBV Law and its Regulation. Regarding the CSOs working in the field of GBV and participating in the project, there was a clear lack of knowledge on the Law, but the training served to strengthen their capacity in working with GBV victims and the community.  CSOs are one of the key pieces in this process: as they made it possible to have access to realistic information from actors that are on the ground and deal with GBV on a daily basis.

And what about the challenges?

Identifying victims of GBV who could participate in the Focus Groups was a major challenge for some localities, as not all GBV victims’ support services were available to collaborate at the time. The participation of magistrates from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Judiciary in almost all the islands was also extremely weak. For an inclusive process, we need them around the table too.

The project supports its end beneficiaries, victims and aggressors, through the improvement of the Cabo Verdean GBV victims’ support network and the aggressors’ reintegration programmes. In which way does the project concretely help these two opposed categories?

The project consists of three main groups of activities, all of which benefit GBV victims directly or indirectly. Directly, they benefit victims through psychological support, capacity-building sessions on GBV rights and the Law and community sessions for information and sensitisation. Indirectly, they support victims by strengthening the technical capacities of the different professionals involved in the Law enforcement, namely professionals from the police, the health services, magistrates, the media and social networks. Furthermore, strengthening the capacities of the Victims Support Centres’s staff and staff from the institutions that provide assistance to victims and are part of the Inter-institutional Network for Victim Support (Sol Network). Regarding the aggressors, actions were proposed both to prevent GBV and to expand and improve the resources of the Rehabilitation Programme for Offenders Convicted of GBV, aiming at changing behaviour through group sessions on gender equality and GBV.

How did awareness-raising activities change behaviour or perceptions towards GBV in key actors such as the media and political actors?

Testimonies from professionals involved in the implementation of the Law highlight how the training sessions  made it  easier for them to identify GBV cases , have more accurate and up-to-date information about existing support spaces and services and provide more assertive and timely responses to GBV victims. At the institutional level, the Minister of Family, Social Inclusion and Development took responsibility for improving the implementation of the GBV Law, assuring that the Victims Support Fund will be implemented. Furthermore, the issue of gaps in terms of access to justice for the victims of GBV was brought up for discussion in Parliament, as a result of the dialogue  with parliamentarians that is part of the project. Regarding the media, although there has not yet been a profound change, they have supported by covering all the project’s events.

How did the project raise awareness within fundamental contexts like schools?

Several debate sessions on gender equality and GBV were held at the °Pedro Gomes School° in Cidade da Praia. The students involved are now more aware of and sensitised on GBV and thanks to the debate. they also shared knowledge with the community and their families by involving them in video shooting activities. Furthermore, the teachers who followed the process and participated in the sessions also reported that they broadened their understanding of GBV and the Law, as its content is still too poorly disseminated to allow for non-lawyers to understand and pass on the information.

What are the concrete actions and improvements that the project aims to do for the already existing support systems in Cabo Verde, such as the Victim Support Centres and the inter-institutional Network of Victim Support of the Rede Sol?

Some of the concrete support actions that were provided throughout the project were training on GBV victims assistance techniques, the creation of an online tool for GBV cases recording, drafting a protocol and drawing up a set of proposals for actions to be implemented by support structures. Moreover, we have been  trying to cooperate with the Cabo Verdean Institute for Gender Equality and Equity (ICIEG) to establish partnership protocols between institutions that are part of the GBV victim support process, so that the Rede Sol can be relaunched in all of the country’s municipalities..

Part of the project was carried out through policy dialogue processes involving government entities, civil society organisations, trade unions, victims of GBV, and other stakeholders. The recent mission of Club the Madrid to Cabo Verde is the culminating part of these initiatives. What were the most important takeaways coming from the dialogue sessions and how can they be used to develop a roadmap to improve the GBV Law’s implementation?

The dialogue tables were a crucial step to concentrate all the work carried out on all the islands and develop the Roadmap to improve the implementation of the GBV law. As a result, a document  containing a set of recommendations and proposals for activities to be undertaken by various sectors was developed. This document  is currently the most up-to-date in terms of data and information. Civil society and local institutions contributed to the recommendations and discussed them with key actors.. The dialogue was also essential  to share the contents of the GBV Law and its Regulations with the institutions and to specifically identify the responsibilities. The recent mission of Club de Madrid is extremely important to reinforce and make the GBV Law commitments visible to the governmental sectors, further opening the doors to the results of the participatory evaluation and the Action Plan.

Background to the project

It’s been 10 years since Cabo Verde has approved the “Special Law on Gender-based Violence” (GBV Law) in 2011. Despite concrete actions such as amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, there is a tangible difficulty of understanding the concept of GBV for both law enforcers and civil society due to  the law’s limitations and  the weak institutional ownership.

With our project “Djuntu pa Igualdadi”, we empower the key actors involved in the implementation of the Cabo Verde GBV Law and the Cabo Verdean citizens with actions aimed at improving GBV victims’ access to support services and women socio-economic integration. The project is implemented following the INSPIRED approach, which enables inclusive and participatory public policy dialogue between civil society, governments and other stakeholders.