Responding to Gendered Violence in a Pandemic in Bangladesh

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The use of a hotline and ‘door-to-door’ services to support women and girls in need of critical Sexual and Reproductive Health services in Bangladesh.

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Contact

Alden Nouga-Ngog Chief, Strategic Partnership & Development International Planned Parenthood Federation London, UK, [email protected] +1 6174129748

Case Study Source

International Planned Parenthood Federation

Project Status

ONGOING

Funder

Supported by a variety of unrestricted and restricted funders

CONTACT (AS LISTED IN ORIGINAL CASE STUDY)

Alden Nouga-Ngog Chief, Strategic Partnership & Development International Planned Parenthood Federation London, UK, [email protected] +1 6174129748

The use of a hotline and ‘door-to-door’ services to support women and girls in need of critical Sexual and Reproductive Health services in Bangladesh.

Introduction

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines have shown that all Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), particularly domestic violence, has intensified. Gender inequalities and economic impacts triggered by COVID-19, alongside government restrictions, have led to a steep rise in Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Bangladesh.

In the first ten months of 2020, 25,607 complaints of gender-based violence were received by the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee’s (BRAC) 410 Human Rights and Legal Aid Clinics across the country.

International Planned Parenthood Federation’s (IPPF) member association – Family Planning Association of Bangladesh (FPAB) – promptly adjusted their delivery to support women and girls needing critical sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and SGBV care through hotline support and ‘door-to-door’ services across the country.

About IPPF Bangladesh

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted FPAB to initiate their hotline service. Medical officers and counsellors from 21 FPAB branches provided support for both SRH services and specialized assistance for SGBV issues for women and girls.

The FPAB service design is decentralized, with eight divisional hotline numbers integrated with 21 FPAB branches, each containing a medical officer and counsellor. The tele-counselling via FPAB hotlines has allowed medical officers and counsellors to provide SGBV support and SRH telemedicine despite the government-mandated restrictions. These hotline services are enabled by an effective and user-friendly e-platform to report SGBV cases and trigger an emergency support system when required.

When there is high demand, FPAB also works through the government helpline for managing SGBV cases. Throughout COVID-19, all 21 FPAB branches have used the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWCA) hotline for extra support due to the high numbers of reported cases. Hotlines are integrated with specialized assistance through door-to-door services.

Evaluation and Results

Through their digital health interventions (DHIs), FPAB delivered over 23,000 SRHR services throughout 2020.

Approximately 150 of these were SGBV services, and nearly 1,700 were for counselling on various SRHR issues, including SGBV. Through shifting services to digital means during COVID-19 that had not previously been undertaken, these services allowed the timely provision of critical care and support to many women and families.

Lessons Learned

– It was found that there was limited public knowledge of what services were available and where to access services immediately. As such, there is a need to allocate funds and raise awareness of hotlines through radio messaging, sound systems for community engagement drives, TV, and national newspaper advertisements.
– Assigning dedicated, full-time staffing by a service provider for hotline management is essential for effective implementation. Full-time dedicated staffing of the hotline wasn’t available before and the service became more effective when it was introduced.
– The high demand for services meant that doctors were answering calls at home, bringing to light the need for adequate funding and resourcing to increase surge capacity.

CONCLUSION

SGBV care is already an existing and permanent feature of FPAB through clinical services, including screening, counselling and referrals. However, the newly created hotline will support and upscale these existing efforts. Moving forward, the essential SGBV work of FPAB will be enhanced by increasing awareness of services, as well as undertaking local level advocacy and capacity building activities with communities on SGBV.

FPAB will liaise with partners and donors to continue to mobilize resources to increase the sustainability of hotline services. The success of this technological innovation in increasing access to essential and life-saving services will help to protect, restore and improve the lives of victims, thereby improving their health outcomes and the life prospects of their families and communities.

References

  1. Sharmin LD, Khalili L, & Saltmarsh S-J, (2021). ’30 ways BRAC prevents violence against women and children in Bangladesh’. BRAC, viewed 11 October 2021.