South Africa_Georgia_GBV Innovation project

Nov 1, 2017

Young women are most vulnerable to gender-based violence - 35% of women globally are estimated to have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their life. Photo: Omar Lopez/Unsplash

To act or not to act? Could behavioural insights help to understand and address Gender-Based Violence in Georgia and South Africa?


What do you do when someone you know, or can see or even suspect is being physically or verbally abused by their intimate partner, family or a stranger? Do you stand by and let it happen or do you act to stop the violence to report it or to call for help? Most people simply do nothing.


Gender-based violence (GBV) is not a new issue but it is probably more prevalent than most of us think. Around the world, 35% of women are estimated to have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their life.[1]


Georgia and South Africa are not the exception in the high GBV prevalence.   


In 2016, the Georgian emergency management centre hotline received 18,163 calls on domestic conflict compared to 5,447 calls in 2013 (Georgia’s total population is 3.7 million)[2]. A UN Women study conducted in Tbilisi, Kakheti and the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti regions of Georgia in 2013 showed that 77.8 % of respondents believe domestic violence occurs very often or quite often, while 66.8% know a victim and 56.3% personally know a perpetrator.


In South African official statistics reports one in five women experienced physical violence by any partner, though NICRO suggests only one in twenty rape cases are reported to the police. The cost and economic implication of GBV is significant; it is estimated that GBV costs the South African economy a minimum of ZAR 42 billion every year (USD 3 billion) – or 1.3% of its Gross Domestic Product.


These significant figures are likely the tip of the iceberg; societal and cultural stigma condones the ill treatment of women and girls, and fear of further violence and unconcerned law enforcement often prevents women and girls from reporting. Due to its high prevalence, in many communities, GBV has been “normalised,” so prevention and response interventions that target the victims are often ineffective. We think it is necessary to shift our focus to men, boys and the bystanders (a neighbour, a colleague, a family member or witness) who could intervene and potentially prevent GBV.

Normally, these bystanders seem uncaring or unable to report or take any action. UNDP Georgia and South Africa, in collaboration with UN Women in both countries, are proposing to focus on changing the behaviour of bystanders to address or respond to GBV. We want to do this by firstly understanding why people who witness GBV often do not try and respond to it – why do they behave the way they do? We then want to equip bystanders with information, skills and tools to enable them to report or act against GBV and to also identify early signs of GBV before it happens and to stop it from happening.


This joint study is a great opportunity for two very different countries with a common challenge to learn from each other. Georgia team is excited to partner with ServiceLab the only public-sector innovation laboratory in Georgia. The study is an opportunity for ServiceLab to develop expertise in the Behavioural Insights methodology which the Government could use to design policies and programs that take human behaviour into account. In South Africa, the team looks forward to the capacity building component of this initiative which will equip local partners with skills and tools to respond in a more timely manner to signals of GBV and the team will replicate this initiative in other parts of the country. The study and its findings will potentially be used to develop the UN Joint Programme on Gender.


Do you think understanding bystander behaviour can help to address GBV? We want to hear your views. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.











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