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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
8 March 2016


The Gender Unit in UNRWA works to embed learning in its practice to ensure quality of the services provided to Palestine refugees and their compatibility with a changing context. In this perspective, the Agency's work to address gender-based violence (GBV) included building a framework to measure results, developing lessons learned from field practices and providing space to exchange best practices, challenges and successes with key partners.

UNRWA sought to embed learning in GBV programming in two main ways: i - staging official learning events in the form of learning workshops and, ii- opening up boundaries for participation, beyond the gender taskforce and the GBV focal points, by establishing a Community of Practice (CoP).23 The GBV CoP met on a bi-annual basis to reflect with others on practices, successes and challenges. The approach to gain insights goes beyond a single linear lecture of the outcomes of the referral. It looks at combined variables, indicators and results and brings different perspectives and multi-layered analysis together to find the best context-fitting solution to challenges.

UNRWA organized the first workshop in March 2010 that drew on regional experiences in addressing GBV and specifically on building referral systems,24 as well as the processes involved and the challenges met. The development of an indicator framework for the Agency's referral systems was another step in the learning process and that allowed the definition of common measures for results across all UNRWA field offices.

The eight learning workshops organized between 2010 and 2014 continued to bring together staff from all UNRWA field offices with practitioners and experts on GBV from different organizations. This community of practitioners had flexible boundaries but involved a constant nucleus of UNRWA staff working on GBV and was open to national, regional and international organizations involved in GBV programming in the Middle East.

Learning from Others

Learning from others was particularly valuable for UNRWA, it contributed to building the Agency's approach in three ways:

• It contributed to the Agency's reflection bringing increased and nuanced evidence to results. For example, the lessons shared from the Palestinian framework to address violence against women (VAW) highlight the need to focus on the health system in responding to GBV survivors which corroborates UNRWA results.

• It brought practical examples from other organizations on how challenges are tackled mainly when resistance from staff and community made the challenge seem insurmountable.This is clearly demonstrated in how UNRWA partnership with ARDD Legal Aid in Jordan has helped the Agency overcome challenges related to mandatory reporting laws in Jordan which had made staff reluctant to report GBV cases fearing that they would have to go to the police and possibly court.

• It allowed bringing and discussing innovative approaches that could be adapted by UNRWA.This is the case for the prevention section where UNRWA is looking into systematizing its interventions and building a comprehensive Lframework addressing the different levels of prevention.

This learning document highlights UNRWA experience in addressing GBV between 2009 and 2014. UNRWA has put in place referral pathways in 114 locations within its five fields of operation by the end of 2014; training was provided to 7,499 staff between 2011 and 2014. This resulted in 6,972 survivors identified and 7,677 services accessed by the 3,778 survivors who gave consent to referrals.

Further, the document brings together the various discussions and reflections on the data and processes that took place during these years through the learning workshops. The discussions focused not only on practical challenges and successes in addressing GBV, but also integrated more strategic questions based on a combination of the results achieved by UNRWA, measured through the indicator framework, and compared to the practice of others at the level of processes. The questions raised addressed differences in the number of identified survivors across UNRWA fields of operation and their links to the field context, to the model of referral and to previous work on GBV. Another issue was to what degree was there resistance from UNRWA frontline staff to address GBV as compared to staff in large public service-providing institutions and what has been the impact of this on the roll-out of the referral system. Furthermore, another issue discussed was the effect of threats from members of the community and staff's legitimate concerns towards their safety and security on their readiness to address GBV as part of their work as health care providers, social workers or educators.

The document provides elements of discussion and pragmatic solutions to challenges in addressing GBV in the context of resistance. It does not provide clear cut answers to all questions, but intends to bring together evidence from UNRWA and results from other agencies. It documents lessons learned around challenges and successes in addressing GBV to be shared with the wider CoP working on GBV.

The document is structured around four chapters. The first chapter recalls the overarching multisectoral approach and presents the process of building referral systems in UNRWA through the different field-specific models and ends with a review of experiences in the region and the challenges faced. The second chapter provides a snapshot of the data collected through the Agency's tracking systems in the fields and the indicator framework. The chapter offers insights to better understanding the typology of violence experienced by Palestine refugee survivors, survivors' needs and the services accessed. The data also provide opportunities to identify gaps in services for GBV survivors and to look into the adequacy and efficiency of the processes that make up the Agency's response to GBV. The chapter ends with an analysis of the challenges experienced during the last four years of implementation. The third chapter looks into the various GBV prevention efforts pursued by UNRWA and the need for systematization as well as the need for building evidence to show the results and impact of prevention activities. It provides examples from interventions implemented by UNRWA and others and reflects on the need to develop a theory of change (TOC) and a chain of results that will allow for the tracking of pursued and generated changes. The document concludes with a summary of the lessons learned during this whole process and defines the way forward for the coming years.

23 Garvin, D."Building the learning organization:' Harvard Business Review. 71.4 (1993): pp. 78-92.
24 UNRWA. Community of Practice in Building Referral Systems for Women Victims of Violence. UNRWA, 2010. Web. 4th Nov. 2015. <

Complete document in PDF format (Requires Acrobat Reader)

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