Breaking the Cycle: EnCompass’ Equity-Based Approach to Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response

Written by: EnCompass Staff,

This piece was written by Elizabeth Hohenberger and Kathryn Constantinides

One in Three

Did you know that those who experience gender-based violence (GBV) must often recount their experience to many different people just to get basic care? In Lerato’s Story we learn about the typical experience of a survivor in Lesotho as she navigates the institutional response to her experience of gender-based violence. In the first story, we hear how a disjointed system of health clinics, police, and justice providers complicates Lerato’s pursuit of care. She must repeat her story multiple times at multiple institutions before finding the recommended course of action, which delays her access to even the most basic health care. In the second story, a system that was reorganized with EnCompass’ support provides a responsive referral and case management services, and Lerato’s access to health care and justice are improved.

Lerato’s story is, unfortunately, not uncommon. One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, most often perpetrated by an intimate partner. Gender-based violence permeates every aspect of life, affecting people in every country and across every industry, income level, race, ethnicity, religion, and education level. It is not only a human rights violation, but also a public health challenge; a barrier to equitable civic, social, political, and economic participation; and a limiting factor for education, household productivity, and income. Gender-based violence is a pervasive barrier to equity and must be prevented and responded to with attention to intersectionality and a survivor-centered approach.

The Power of Equitable Approaches

For International Women’s Day this year, we are asked to embrace equity in our work and personal lives. Embracing equity means celebrating the power that lies in leveling playing fields, appreciating lived experiences, and bringing the talent and potential of all people to bear as we work to address long-standing gender discrimination and the systemic barriers to full participation that have held back women and girls. Gender-based violence is one of the most widespread and complex of these barriers, with devastating and generational impacts for those who experience it. Ingrained social norms and patriarchal systems where violence and inequality are normalized enable the perpetuation of gender-based violence and prevent women from fully participating at every level of society. As EnCompass seeks to foster sustainable development and advance human dignity globally, we know that equality and equity for all people across societies can only be completely embraced with robust and intentional efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

Applying an Equity-Based Lens

At EnCompass, we applaud the recent launch of the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, which recognizes that preventing and responding to gender-based violence around the world is a matter of human rights, justice, equity, and equality. International Women’s Day invites us to embrace equity—appreciating that each person has different circumstances and allocating the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach equal outcomes—and we take this opportunity to share what we’ve learned in our work in preventing and responding to gender-based violence, and applying an equity lens:

  • Using a systems-level approach is essential. A systems-level approach recognizes that factors across personal, community, institutional, and government levels are interrelated and interdependent. By targeting the conditions that permit gender-based violence at each level and understanding its impacts on different populations, we can eliminate overarching, interdependent conditions that perpetuate violence and inequality and influence norms to promote positive gender relations and equity. An equity lens will identify how each level of the system impacts the ability of individuals, in all their diversity, to access care and justice.
  • Link appreciative approaches to equity. EnCompass uses an appreciative approach which emphasizes the strengths of teams, communities, and systems, and recognizes existing progress towards a goal. Whether we are designing and delivering USAID’s Integrating Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response across Sectors course, or training data collectors in Lebanon and Ethiopia to use appreciative inquiry techniques as part of a gender analysis, our facilitators use appreciative activities to draw out successes and opportunities for gender transformation. We help stakeholders uncover existing assets, strengths, advantages, or opportunities in their communities, organizations, or teams, and then collectively develop and implement strategies for improvement for all people. With an equity lens, these strengths-based approaches recognize how women and girls, men and boys, and gender-diverse individuals are working to mitigate, prevent, and respond to GBV in their communities; celebrating their contributions; and acknowledging that they have already created something to build upon.
  • Intersectional approaches are critically important to GBV prevention and response. An intersectional lens is one that recognizes the ways that a person’s overlapping identities contribute to unique experiences of oppression, privilege, and access. EnCompass uses this lens to understand how the intersecting inequalities of different populations shape their experience of gender-based violence. Doing so enables us to more clearly identify the approaches to prevent and respond to GBV that will meet the varying needs, concerns, and specific contexts of those who have experienced or are at risk of GBV.
  • Promoting equity and gender-transformative approaches are key to addressing GBV. In training on GBV prevention and response, EnCompass engages participants to reflect on the “boxes” that restrictive gender roles place them in and discuss potential ways to subvert or resist harmful norms. Challenging norms and restrictions allow men and boys to both directly and indirectly recognize how gender norms and GBV can profoundly impact their lives as well as the lives of women. Working with men and boys is critical to understanding the ways in which GBV negatively impacts them, as well as emphasizing their ability to make a positive impact in addressing GBV. An equity lens ensures that intentional steps are taken to achieve fairness and justice within prevention and response activities. Commitment to effective GBV prevention and response requires programs that are integrated across sector-specific interventions and stand-alone programs that engage men and boys in activities to break cycles of violence and appreciate the benefits of positive gender norms in advancing peaceful and prosperous communities. An equity lens will ensure programs recognize and are responsive to the specific needs and opportunities of different targeted communities.
  • Strong, data and evidence visualization are required to move awareness and activism from the private to the public arena. To help governments and private sector actors fully address GBV, pair robust and disaggregated data and evidence with eye-catching graphs and charts that can help readers—from stakeholders to policymakers—easily compare data. Graphic tagging of information can be used to show how GBV can hinder the growth of an equitable society and how to design and implement programs that empower survivors and allies to be agents of change in challenging harmful gender norms and building a more positive future. Data that are showcased with an equity lens will include information about the varying circumstances faced by the represented populations that influence the identified results.

Learn More

EnCompass supports systems-level change to prevent gender-based violence in Benin (USAID Private Sector Health Partnership Activity), Ethiopia (USAID Transform), Jordan (USAID Makanati Women’s Economic Empowerment and Leadership Activity), Lesotho (AIDSFree/Lesotho DREAMS), and globally (USAID ADVANTAGE IDIQ, DEVELOP). To learn more about what EnCompass is doing to embrace equity through our approaches to prevent, respond to, and mitigate gender-based violence, please see our factsheet, EnCompass’ Approach to Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, EnCompass is proud to support our partners and colleagues working on the frontlines, and to lead the way in creating champions who are committed to addressing gender-based violence globally and embracing the foundational principles of equity.


Photo by Naimah Thomas, art therapist and licensed professional counselor, United States

EnCompass Staff

EnCompass offers innovative solutions for organizational excellence.  We seek to enhance the impact and capacity of government and multilateral agencies, corporations, and nonprofits around the world through customized services in organizational and leadership development, training, technical assistance, and evaluation.

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