Women Rights-Based Approach: Turning Principles into Practice

The training course “Women-rights-based approach: turning principles into practice” took place in Vijayawada, India. 20 youth workers & local leaders from Lithuania, Honduras, Senegal and India gained knowledge on gender-based violence, human rights-based approach to tackle the problems caused by gender inequality as well as intervention strategies to use in their organisations.

Here are some of the best moments of this unforgettable Indian experience:

Erasmus+ training course "Women rights-based approach: turning principles into practice"

Check out the best moments from our training course on female rights in incredible India! During the training, we've worked with local women communities, schools and orphanages, as well as created strategies on how youth work can help tackle discrimination. Do you also want to help those in need? Get personal – help one kid at a time through our initiative! More info: https://www.female-rights.com/careandshare/P.S. Next training will be hosted in Honduras! If you want to join, follow the news here: www.facebook.com/genderup.Video credit #Baltasmedia (Julius & Nerius)

Posted by Active Youth Projects on 2018 m. lapkričio 19 d., pirmadienis


The training was aimed at helping youth organisations to start to work on gender equality projects. Each day of the training was organised in a way both formal and non-formal education methods could be used to provide participants with knowledge and practical skills. Activities included lectures, discussions, workshops, guest speakers, field visits and practical implementation of gained knowledge by creation of new local initiatives. Click here to download an Info pack.

If you find yourself interested in working on the topic we invite you to check the basic information from the Training  prepared by the trainer Sam Chelladurai from India.

Participants of the training course

Topic 1: Gender based violence

What is Gender-based violence (GBV)?

Gender-based violence is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females. It includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion, and other deprivations of liberty. These acts can occur in public or in private. Acts of GBV violate a number of universal human rights protected by international instruments and conventions.

Many – but not all – forms of GBV are criminal acts in national laws and policies; this differs from country to country, and the practical implementation of laws and policies can vary widely. The term ‘GBV’ is most commonly used to underscore how systemic inequality between males and females—which exists in every society in the world—acts as a unifying and foundational characteristic of most forms of violence perpetrated against women and girls. The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (Devaw, 1993) defines violence against women as:

“any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women.”

Devaw emphasizes that the violence is:

“a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to the domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women.”

Gender discrimination is not only a cause of many forms of violence against women and girls but also contributes to the widespread acceptance and invisibility of such violence – so that perpetrators are not held accountable and survivors are discouraged from speaking out and accessing support.

What about men?

The term ‘gender-based violence’ is also increasingly used by some actors to highlight the gendered dimensions of certain forms of violence against men and boys – particularly some forms of sexual violence committed with the explicit purpose of reinforcing gender inequitable norms of masculinity and femininity (e.g. sexual violence committed in armed conflict aimed at emasculating or feminizing the enemy). This violence against males is based on socially constructed ideas of what it means to be a man and exercise male power. It is used by men (and in rare cases by women) to cause harm to other males.

As with violence against women and girls, this violence is often under-reported due to issues of stigma for the survivor – in this case associated with norms of masculinity (e.g. norms that discourage male survivors from acknowledging vulnerability, or suggest that a male survivor is somehow weak for having been assaulted). Sexual assault against males may also go unreported in situations where such reporting could result in life-threatening repercussions against the survivor and/or his family members. Many countries do not explicitly recognize sexual violence against men in their laws and/or have laws which criminalize survivors of such violence.

Gender based violence and LGBTI

The term ‘gender-based violence’ is also used by some actors to describe violence perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons that is, according to OHCHR, “driven by a desire to punish those seen as defying gender norms” (OHCHR, 2011). The acronym ‘LGBTI’ encompasses a wide range of identities that share an experience of falling outside societal norms due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. OHCHR further recognizes that:

“lesbians and transgender women are at particular risk because of gender inequality and power relations within families and wider society.”

Homophobia and transphobia not only contribute to this violence but also significantly undermine LGBTI survivors’ ability to access support (most acutely in settings where sexual orientation and gender identity are policed by the State)


Women, Girls and GBV Women and girls everywhere are disadvantaged in terms of social power and influence, control of resources, control of their bodies and participation in public life—all as a result of socially determined gender roles and relations. Gender-based violence against women and girls occurs in the context of this imbalance. While protection actors must analize different gendered vulnerabilities that may put men, women, boys and girls at heightened risk of violence and ensure care and support for all survivors, special attention should be given to females due to their documented greater vulnerabilities to GBV, the overarching discrimination they experience, and their lack of safe and equitable access to humanitarian assistance.

Protection actors have an obligation to promote gender equality through humanitarian action in line with the IASC ‘Gender Equality Policy Statement’ (2008). They also have an obligation to support, through targeted action, women’s and girls’ protection, participation and empowerment as articulated in the Women, Peace and Security thematic agenda outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolutions. While supporting the need for protection of all populations affected by humanitarian crises, this TAG recognizes the heightened vulnerability of women and girls to GBV and provides targeted guidance to address these vulnerabilities—including through strategies that promote gender equality.

Find out more: http://www.gbvguideliness.org/

Topic 2: Human rights-based approach

A rights-based approach integrates international human rights and humanitarian law norms, standards and principles into plans, policies, services and processes of humanitarian intervention and development related to violence against women.

  • Is multi-sectoral and comprehensive.
  • Involves many actors and stakeholders (state and non-state).
  • Must be addressed within the context of the prevailing political, legal, social and cultural norms and values in a country or community.

A rights-based approach also seeks to empower women and girls.  ‘Empowerment’ implies that women are powerful in the face of adversity and approaches must build on that. Empowerment programming involves building the tools and resources necessary on an individual and community level to strengthen women and girls’ ability to make life choices that affect their social and physical well-being. These choices include decisions regarding their sexual health, livelihoods, continuing education and the use and control of social and economic resources. This requires programmes to work with men and entire communities to create an environment where women and girls are supported to make these decisions safely. It also means building the capacity of communities to identify and change the structural environment that enables violence against women and girls to continue. It requires long-term engagement from the outset of an emergency through until peace and development have truly come to women and girls. Examples of empowerment programming include: ensuring access to information in the earliest days of the emergency, supporting women’s choice in using the family planning method they want to use, working with men in Village Savings Loan Associations to allow women to have more voice in the home and reduce violence, and creating a larger environment where women can move around safely (Source:  IRC FAQs, 2011)

Too often, emergency response is limited to addressing practical, short-term emergency needs, through service delivery. Without minimizing the value of these services or their importance, they do not always fit within a framework that protects and promotes the rights of beneficiaries, like a rights-based approach would do. A rights-based approach is particularly important when working on (Violence Against Women and Girls) VAWG, which cannot be addressed without working on basic gender equality rights and its root causes.

As demonstrated in the table below, a rights-based approach invests beneficiaries as ‘rights-holders’, creates an avenue for their voices to be heard, and enables them to play an active role in rebuilding and development – as opposed to providing support or services on an assumed needs basis and having no say in what action is taken.

Works toward outcome goals


Works toward outcome and process goals
Emphasizes meeting needs Emphasizes realizing rights
Recognizes needs as valid claims Recognizes that rights always imply obligations of the State
Meets needs without empowerment Recognizes that rights can only be realized with em­powerment
Accepts charity as the driving motivation for meet­ing needs States that charity is insufficient motivation for meet­ing needs
Focuses on manifestations of problems and im­mediate causes of problems Focuses on manifestations of problems and immedi­ate causes of problems
Involves narrow sectoral projects Involves intersectoral, holistic projects and programmes
Focuses on social context with little emphasis on policy Focuses on social, economic, cultural, civil and politi­cal context, and is policy-oriented

Source: UNFPA, 2012, Managing Gender-based Violence Programmes in Emergencies. E-Learning Companion Guide, page 90, available in EnglishFrenchSpanish, and Arabic.

Applying a rights-based approach to VAWG responses in conflict/post-conflict settings can strengthen the accountability of all humanitarian actors including the UN and governments by promoting participation and inclusion; in turn, this can reinforce a culturally sensitive and non-discriminatory response to emergencies. By understanding the social factors that influence decision-making during conflicts, and actively recognizing and analyzing changing roles and vulnerabilities of women and men, a rights-based approach can mitigate the short-term and long-term negative effects of a crisis situation (UNFPA and Harvard School of Public Health, 2010).

Mechanisms for assisting ‘rights holders’ to claim rights include:

  • Sensitization/awareness of rights holders and duty bearers
  • Advocacy to duty bearers
  • Participation and empowerment of rights holders
  • Ensuring national legislation and legislative oversight mechanisms
  • Reporting obligations to UN monitoring mechanisms (narrative reports/data)
  • Civil society “shadow reporting” (for example, on CEDAW) (excerpted from UNFPA, Curriculum Guide GBV Coordination Course, p 81)

Tool: UNFPA and Harvard School of Public Health. 2005.

A Human Rights based Approach to Programming:  Practical Information and Training Materials – this Manual provides step-by-step guidance on how to apply a culturally sensitive, gender-responsive, human rights-based approach to programming in each of UNFPA’s three core areas of work: population and development, reproductive health, and gender. It also covers how to apply such an approach in the context of a humanitarian emergency. The pdf includes a facilitator manual.

For more information on integrating a rights-based approach to addressing and preventing VAWG, see:

Topic 3: Intervention strategies

Once an assessment has been completed, organizations must decide which issue(s), gap(s) or problem(s) they will target with their programming — this is the “problem definition” stage in the Project Cycle.  When the key problems have been defined, organizations and individuals can begin to develop intervention strategies.

VAWG programme design must determine the most critical gaps that an organization can reasonably, ethically, and safely fill.  Intervention strategies should be selected based on:

  • the characteristics of the community and the targeted participants
  • the institution’s capacity to carry out the programme and its experience
  • the geographic setting and the stage of the emergency
  • the experience of other actors working in the same setting, or with similar interventions; good practice models can be used and modified if needed.

Interventions should also be inclusive of monitoring and evaluation strategies that will be in place throughout the duration of the programme and will allow the organization to see if activities are on track and help identify any unanticipated problems or barriers and quickly mitigate risks.

Even in the early stages of a humanitarian crisis, intervention strategies should also, whenever possible, consider how to ensure sustainable programming by taking into account models for longer-term interventions. (See Section IV:  Strategic Framework for Longer-term Interventions.)

Coordination with other VAWG actors is essential in identifying the particular added value of an intervention, as well as in reducing the risk of replicating programming, making the most of limited resources, and working towards a comprehensive prevention and response action plan. (See Section  V:  Coordination as Key Component of Addressing VAWG.)

While every setting will present unique challenges that must be considered when developing intervention strategies, there are some challenges that are generally consistent across settings and should be taken into account, as identified below.

Designing Intervention Strategies

Key Challenges Possible Solutions Relevant Tools/Guidelines
Short Funding Cycles:  In conflict-affected settings, particularly in the early stages of an emergency, funding opportunities are often available only in short cycle
Sustainability of Interventions:
Ethical and Safe Approaches
Coordination and Referral Strategies/Processes
‘Taking Programming to Scale’

SMART objectives

Objectives are statements of expectations or results that will be achieved during the programme. This means understanding what the project promises to accomplish and measure. Objectives must be ‘SMART’:

  • Specific: identifies concrete events or actions that will take place
  • Measurable: quantifies the amount of resources, activity, or change to be expended and achieved
  • Appropriate: logically relates to the overall problem statement and desired effects of the program
  • Realistic: provides a realistic dimension that can be achieved with the available resources and plans for implementation
  • Time-bound: specifies a time within which the objective will be achieved (excerpt from Khan, 2011, pg. 16).

VAWG indicators are often divided into three categories: output indicators, outcome indicators and impact indicators:

  • Output indicators: illustrate the change related directly to the activities undertaken within the programme (e.g. percentage of traditional leaders in community x who completed the training on international human rights standards on VAWG)
  • Outcome indicators: relate to change that is demonstrated as a result of the programme interventions in the medium-to-longer term (e.g. the number of decisions in the informal justice system of community x related to VAWG that reflects a human rights-based approach)
  • Impact indicators: measure the long-term effect of programme interventions (e.g. the prevalence of VAWG in community x). (Excerpted from DFID, 2012a, pg. 19.)

Often, output and impact indicators have proven most relevant for VAWG programmes operating in humanitarian settings because monitoring takes place over a relatively short time period.

Sustainable development goals

In order to get a full view of the elimination of gender inequality we need to look at the problems we face in international level. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. During the training course participants were presented with all  17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. The 5th goal is “Gender equality”. As stated by United Nations:

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.

Take a look at some videos explaining how the goals are related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice and how they interconnect and in order to leave no one behind.

Discovering local reality: field visits

During the training course participants were not only learning and sharing good practices from their own countries, but also had field visits to:

  • Human trafficking center
  • Orphanage: Daddy’s Home
  • The school of blind children

Participants were able to discover local reality and discuss the ways human-rights based approach to tackle the problems could be used. Participants organised workshops with children, introducing themselves and countries they are from as well as promoting intercultural learning as a tool to contribute to peace and justice in a diverse world. Intercultural competence is the ability to behave and communicate in appropriate and and effective ways in intercultural situations, based on one’s attitudes, knowledge and skills.

“In the end, intercultural competence is about our relationships with each other and ultimately, our very survival as humankind, as we work together to address the global challenges that confront us in this century.”

— Darla K. Deardorff

Non-formal activities took place where participants had a chance to interact with locals, take a look at some beautiful moments:

Further work: creation of local projects

On the last day of the training, participants were working on the projects in their country teams, creating strategies on implementation of activities to empower women in their local communities or internationally.

After visiting Daddy’s home Lithuanian team got an idea that there should be definitely more people willing to support young children and infants from the orphanage remotely or even think about the adoption. For this reason the website was created and the press release published in one of the biggest Lithuanian media channels (https://www.15min.lt/pasaulis-kiseneje/naujiena/pasaulis-tavo-akimis/tarpkulturinis-isivaikinimas-kai-motina-del-vaiko-nukeliauja-tukstancius-kilometru-1084-1058814)

Check out the website: https://www.female-rights.com/careandshare/

Senegalese team were contributing to further development of the initiative started during the previous training course in Senegal – Braiding culture, to help young girls who got pregnant to sustain themselves in a Kullimaaroo center. You can find the website here: https://www.female-rights.com/braiding/

Instagram account here: https://www.instagram.com/braidingculture/

Indian team prepared a big plan for adolescent life skill education for Dalit children. It has been more than 70 years since independence of India but the fundamental rights envisaged in the Constitution of India have still not been fully reached the Dalit community.

The project is aimed at working towards life skill and personal development of Dalit young girls that they are empowered to articulate and stand against any abuses that prevents the girl’s personal development.

Find the description of the project here.

Honduran team was creating a plan for empowerment of women coffee sector. They have selected the Community of Agua Salada.

The objectives of the project are:

  • Promote the rights of women in at least two peasant communities in the coffee sector;
  • Train women on the subjects of entrepreneurship and self-esteem;
  • Provide jewelry workshops for peasant movements.

Click here to find out more.

Material to download:

  • International Law and the Issue of Violence against Women – click here.
  • Violence against the women in India – click here.
  • Elimination of Violence against Women & Girls – click here.