Gender-based violence (GBV) 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.  (IASC Guidelines 2015)


#StepItUp4Gender, #PledgeForParity is the theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2016


Beyond just talking, purposeful action needs to be taken by women and men together to advance gender parity.  The focus of IOM’s intervention in 2016 as co-leader of the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster is contributing to the prevention of and response to GBV throughout its interventions in camp and camp-like settings.

Why is addressing GBV important?

GBV is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world and a persistent and universal issue across all cultures, social groups and nationalities, particularly in displacement settings. Whilst men, women, boys and girls are exposed to GBV, women and girls are found to be disproportionally affected due to unequal power relations between women and men in societies, particularly with regard to their rights, socio-economic status, etc.

Recent global figures indicate that approximately 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime whilst it is estimated that 1 in 5 women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Beyond physical and sexual violence, GBV can also take a number of other forms including psychological abuse such as threats of harm, humiliation or isolation and economic violence such as controlling access to money, food, transportation, clothing, shelter etc.

During emergencies, such as conflicts or natural disasters, women, girls and other vulnerable groups such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) are increasingly at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse due to a number of interrelated factors. For instance, people’s privacy will be affected where homes and infrastructure have been destroyed.

Women and girls often have to share latrines, bathing and sleeping areas with the wider camp population. These areas, often overcrowded and poorly lit, can expose them to rape, sexual harassment and other forms of GBV. It is therefore the responsibility of all humanitarian actors to mitigate and reduce the risk of GBV. In this regard, it is just as important for camp managers to ensure that camps are equipped with secure, well-lit and sex-segregated bathrooms, as it is for health professionals to provide survivors of rape with clinical management in camps.  

What role does IOM play?

IOM is committed to ensuring that the particular needs of all migrant women, girls, men and boys, are identified and addressed by mainstreaming GBV prevention and risk mitigation measures; providing gender-sensitive assistance; and addressing the needs of survivors of GBV in the aftermath of conflicts or natural disasters.

Over the last three years, IOM has been actively involved in the Call to Action on Protecting Girls and Women in Emergencies, a unique multi-stakeholder initiative that brings together donors, UN agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders to commit to achieving landmark changes to better prevent, mitigate and respond to GBV through all stages of the humanitarian response.

Why are Camp Management and Coordination key elements in IOM’s actions to prevent GBV?

IOM has achieved significant goals under the ‘Call to Action’ in a number of fields, including CCCM, a crucial sector to mainstream GBV prevention and mitigation. Camp managers constantly interact with beneficiaries during emergencies and as such are well positioned to assist with both the monitoring and referral of specific needs of women, girls and other vulnerable groups to other actors intervening in camp and camp-like settings.

The Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) is a system designed to regularly and systematically capture, process and disseminate information to provide a better understanding of the movements and evolving needs of displaced populations, whether on site or en-route. It allows IOM to collect sex and age disaggregated data, population profiles and information on general needs and service provision to provide a more holistic understanding of the protection context in a given site.

Specific indicators informing GBV risks have been integrated into the DTM tool, in particular, in relation to site layout and infrastructure, security, women’s knowledge about the availability of GBV services in camps and camp-like settings and their active participation in such services.

By incorporating these indicators, the DTM tool aims to better identify the risks of GBV occurring, thereby ensuring that camp managers and other humanitarian actors are well informed of the vulnerabilities and needs of different groups.

Moving forward, IOM is working on the incorporation of GBV prevention and mitigation guidelines in all stages of camp management by enhancing the capacity of CCCM, Shelter and site planning actors to identify, prevent and mitigate GBV risks. IOM has designed different training programs to build the knowledge and skills of DTM enumerators, national authorities and camp management staff to better anticipate, recognize and address the protection concerns of women and girls.

This initiative seeks to train participants on all aspects of GBV prevention and response interventions that those working at the front line, such as CCCM actors, should be able to carry out, should they come across GBV risks.

IOM is also rolling out practical guidance specifically designed for camp managers and other actors intervening in camps and camp-like settings to practically implement minimum standards to mitigate GBV risks in their interventions. Through this range of activities, IOM seeks to better protect and assist women and girls from the onset of emergencies through to the recovery phase.

“Training with international colleagues and (national) counterparts is always more informative, provides a wider perspective on CCCM-GBV. By mainstreaming GBV, CCCM has rediscovered its original charism or spirit which is protecting the most vulnerable in the camp/displaced population.”

– Quote following a GBV Training workshop in Moshi, Tanzania

Why we need to act

All people affected by disaster or conflict have the right to receive protection and assistance to ensure the basic conditions for life with dignity. GBV is a grave human rights violation often resulting in substantial physical harm or death, as well as psychological and emotional trauma. For GBV survivors who have suffered abuse, the recovery process can take years, and may also transcend generations. Stigma associated with GBV can lead to social exclusion and honour killings. As humanitarian actors, it is our primary responsibility to take action to address and minimise human suffering whenever possible, and as such, preventing and mitigating GBV must be an integral part of all humanitarian responses.