The SAFE project takes a rights-based approach to raise awareness about women’s and girls’ rights through a combination of messages on prevention, service provision and proposed legal and policy reforms. Prevention messages focus on bodily integrity and decision-making in intimate life. Issues of choice and consent are highlighted as essential elements in enabling women’s and girls’ self-determination over their lives, and in particular, to realization of their rights to health and to freedom from violence.
SAFE employs a multi-sectoral intervention to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and to combat violence against women and girls (VAWG). The strategy is to create stronger and more effective demand for services for addressing SRHR issues, and for ending violence against women by raising awareness of rights and remedies, and by creating an enabling environment in the community for prevention and punishment of such violence. Awareness raising occurs through face-to-face meetings, through advocacy and networking services, and by working with mentors and community leaders as change makers. Knowledge of rights and available health and legal services – on the door step of most members of the community– involves deploying a holistic approach with multi-level and multi-sectoral interventions.
Core Activities in SAFE include
- Awareness Raising
- Increase awareness among community members regarding SRHR and VAWG
- Create demand for health and legal services on SRHR and VAWG
- Provide relevant information and referrals to those requiring health, legal or related services
- Create community environment less conducive to denial of SRHR and VAWG
- Providing health and legal services to ensure these rights—services are provided at fixed centers that are accessible
- Networking and advocacy: Lobby for law, policy and procedural reforms in favor of SRHR and right to live a violence free life
- Evidence gathering through collaborative action research:
- Qualitative formative research
- Quantitative survey
The awareness-raising focuses on rights-based framework for addressing SRH issues and violence against women and works in three domains:
- freedom from violence;
- sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescent girls;
- legal provisions ensuring these rights.
In each area, a key focus would be on women’s rights to exercise choice and consent.
The awareness raising activities start by engaging community members, local leaders and identifying change makers from the community. Marie Stopes has organized meetings in the community and formed groups of adolescent (aged 10-14) and unmarried women’s groups (15-29), married women’s group (aged 15-29) and unmarried men’s groups (aged 18-35) and married men’s groups (aged 18-35 Two hundred groups were formed per site making the total group number 600. Each group consists of fifteen members on average. In each site there are 150 groups of females aged 10-29 and 50 groups of males aged 18-35. Regular sessions are held with each group with varying frequency.
Three implementing partners- Marie Stopes, Nari Maitree and BLAST — conduct these group sessions. The group meetings focus on discussions on SRHR issues and life skills; right of a young woman to live a violence free life; and legal provisions for addressing violence including rights within the family, and the rights to consent and choice with regard to marriage, sex and childbirth. The sessions are conducted separately with women and men as mixed groups usually inhibit participation and open discussion. The awareness raising activities are based on curriculum and materials developed jointly by Marie Stopes, BLAST, Nari Maitree and the We Can Campaign under the guidance of icddr,b and the Population Council.
Community Mobilization by Nari Maitree (We Can Campaign)
Awareness raising sessions have been supplemented by community mobilization efforts by Nari Maitree, by the formation of community groups (e.g., local ward commissioners, leaders of youth clubs, teachers etc) as well as training and orientation targeted to them. Meetings with community leaders are held in the three project sites with the objective to: 1) increase support from the community leaders in implementation of project activities; 2) provide victim support; and 3) support decreasing violence against women.
Nari Maitree enrolls change makers from three project sites through group sessions and community campaigns. The change makers share the information received from group sessions and community campaigns with other community members. They also encourage community members to access legal and health services as needed. They also conduct sessions of informal discussions in courtyards, at tea stalls or rickshaw garages on VAW and gender related issues. Nari Maitree actively engages members of women’s and men’s groups in arranging these campaigns, encouraging them to change their own attitudes and practices, and seek to foster such change in others.
The community-wide campaigns against violence against women are led by Nari Maitree, applying the model already developed by the We Can Campaign. Nari Maitree actively engages slum dwellers in community-wide campaigns through celebration of national and international days, distribution of posters, installation of billboards, street plays, and public screening of documentary films. The campaign activities on important days included mobile van campaign, cultural events, video shows, banner campaigns, issue based dialogue and competitions, reflecting dialogue with change makers. The change makers participate in organizing community campaigns (e.g. Mobile van campaign, Banner campaign, video shows, etc.).
Service provision- SRHR and Legal
SAFE OSC (One Stop Service Centers)
Awareness raising activities are backed up by provision of health and legal services to women survivors of violence from One-Stop Service Centers. Establishment of OSCs in each project site is one of the major achievements of SAFE. The SAFE OSCs are focal points for the dissemination of information and advice, service provision and referrals. The services are provided by Marie Stopes and BLAST. When necessary, Nari Maitree (We Can Campaign) refers women to these centers. Referrals are also provided for other services depending on the need. Marie Stopes provides SRH services such as access to contraceptives, menstrual regulation (MR), counseling on STI/RTI and HIV and treatment of STI/RTI, and finally, referral of victims of sexual violence to public health facilities. BLAST provides legal services (advice, mediation and litigation, as well as referrals wherever appropriate) to the clients.
To access services SAFE Group ID cards and referral slips are distributed among individuals within the community. SAFE ID Cards are given to the group members, while referral slips are given to non-group members from the project sites for accessing health, family planning and legal services from One Stop Service Centers.
SAFE works through a strong referral system with other local NGOs and medical service providers. Clients are referred to the OCC depending on the nature and gravity of sexual and physical violence from the SAFE One Stop Service Centers. Based in the Dhaka Medical College, the OCC provides a medical services, legal aid, psycho-social counseling and rehabilitation and reintegration services in collaboration with certain NGOs. The list of these NGOs and OCCs have been provided and circulated among those likely to be affected by such violence through booklets distributed in the group sessions and also through the information desk of SAFE OSC.
One Stop Hotline
Services can also be obtained by directly calling the SAFE hotline numbers noted on the SAFE ID cards provided to group members during the awareness raising sessions. BLAST operates the hotline which is available 24/7 and enables first hand screening and a confidential and secure service to the affected person.