By Tenzin Manell, Associate Director, Money and Livelihoods, Women’s Refugee Commission
Gender-based violence (GBV), including intimate partner violence (IPV), is a global scourge, including among displaced people. For several years, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) has investigated whether giving money to victims of GBV alongside case management will improve their protection and well-being. Survivors can, among other things, use money to pay for shelter away from abusers and access medical or legal services essential to their recovery.
In partnership with CARE Ecuador and Ecuadorian NGOs CEPAM, Mujer y Mujer and UNTHA, WRC recently concluded an evaluation of a GBV program integrated with cash assistance focused on supporting IPV survivors. The project, which took place in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from February 2021 to May 2022, was funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) program of Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (Elrha). It supported 150 survivors of IPV, including cis and trans women who are migrants, refugees and Ecuadorian nationals. The evaluation examined several outcomes and impacts, including economic agency, well-being, and access to services. It included 93 survivors in the cash pool – where survivors received $100 in cash through an ATM, with cash referrals built into GBV case management. Twenty survivors were part of the control group, where survivors received traditional GBV case management without the cash component.
We found that the cash-based GBV case management program model reduced IPV and improved economic capacity. VPI survivors in the cash group reported making more money in the past 30 days (an overall increase of 15% over the evaluation period); being able to avoid returning to an abusive partner; having greater financial control and decision-making within the household, which in turn led to a sense of autonomy and empowerment; and greater autonomy. Access to legal services was obtained, which helped to mitigate and, in some cases, prevent future exposure to domestic violence.
One of the Ecuadorian IPV survivors who received money said, “I feel like a queen now. I swear, I was understated when I was with the father of my children. I’ve been beaten, I’ve been abused, I’ve been yelled at, abused. But now, as I tell my children, with money I am the queen, because with money you can pay your expenses.
The control group relied more on coping strategies like borrowing money from family or friends and identified external factors, for example, GBV social workers as driving change; the cash group, on the other hand, more often identified itself as being in control.
We found an increase in reported incidents of domestic violence – 34% – over the evaluation period among members of the cash group; however, it was not caused by the money. This was likely due to both increased awareness after case management among GBV survivors and an increase in COVID cases in Guayaquil – when women have to stay indoors with their abusers, they may be at increased risk of exposure to GBV, including IPV.
Although our study shows that money can support recovery from GBV, money alone is not enough. GBV case management has been life-changing and life-saving for both payment and control groups. Psychological counseling and survivor workshops significantly reduced survivors’ exposure to domestic violence and increased their knowledge of rights and self-esteem, improved their skills in identifying patterns of abuse, and enhanced their sense of empowerment.
Both the payment and control groups experienced improved mental health and increased autonomy, self-esteem, and resilience, and were more confident in standing up to and separating from their abusers. Not only have one-on-one GBV case management services been critical to survivors’ recovery, but activities such as art workshops that brought survivors together have helped reduce their sense of isolation, sense of empowerment, their access to a support system and their capacity. to dismantle internalized abuses.
Participants in the cash group were able to cover more of their basic needs compared to the control group, improving their well-being, as well as that of their children. Domestic violence survivors in the cash group also increased their access to health care, including psychosocial support. Their physical, mental and psychological health has improved, as have their relationships with their children.
Silver will not suit all survivors, but if it does, it can change and save lives.
The project “Building Evidence on Integrating Cash and Voucher Assistance within GBV Case Management to Strengthen IPV Response for Urban Migrants and Refugees” is funded and supported by Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) program, a grant mechanism grantmaking that improves outcomes for people affected by humanitarian crises by identifying, developing and sharing more effective, innovative and scalable solutions. Elrha HIF is funded by aid from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Elrha is a global charity that finds solutions to complex humanitarian issues through research and innovation. Visit www.elrha.org to learn more.”