Dec 4, 2019

Ending GBV: Leave No Survivor Behind

Erin Thomas, Research & Policy Coordinator just finished a trip to Niue to continue the work ICAAD started in 2017 around assessing gender-based violence in Niue, and we’d like to share a few of her notes from the field with you:

Fakaalofa lahi atu ki a mutolu (Hello all, in the language of Niue)

The 2017 ICAAD report, Assessing Gender-based Violence in Niue, revealed several challenges and opportunities for understanding GBV in small communities. With 1,600 people on Nuie and many more living in New Zealand, there are unique challenges for reporting and addressing GBV.

In October, I returned to Niue as a part of my master’s thesis at the University of Auckland, work with ICAAD, and in partnership with the Government of Niue. The goal of the trip, funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is to explore both the formal spaces as well as the informal family spaces for dealing with GBV in terms of disclosure, accountability, gossip/talk, and education.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a sensitive topic to discuss. My research in Niue is aimed at not only understanding the spaces in which GBV can be discussed, but also identifying and expanding new spaces through innovative qualitative methods. While most seek out quantitative data on prevalence, we sometimes forget the power and truth in narrative. The stories we tell ourselves and others drive us in our decision-making; they are literally how we make sense of the world.

My goal in this fieldwork is to elevate narrative as data. Data that in many ways has already been analyzed. Through family tree mapping interviews, I’m learning about how women make sense of their relationships, their roles in the family, and the meanings and consequences of GBV at different points in time.

Understanding the formal processes is important, but we know there is a lot that goes unreported. Further, data points like prevalence rates of different types of violence only tell us so much. While prevalence studies can provide useful data points, narratives are what connect the dots. Coalescing those narratives can provide a clearer picture of how disclosure, accountability, talk, and education related to GBV play out in a small community like Niue. It might also provide us with more qualitative tools to understand GBV in other places and further gender justice.

The fieldwork involves two parts. In the first part, I interviewed 27 key government and community leaders to understand the formal spaces for dealing with GBV and possible avenues they see for improving gender justice. In the second part, I used an innovative interviewing method involving 14 women to explore indirect experiences with GBV through family tree mapping. I will return mid-year 2020 to present a report to the Government of Niue and to meet with key government and community leaders to discuss pathways forward.

Tulou, fakaaue lahi. (Thank you)


Additionally, Erin in collaboration with Megan Lee Candolfi published an article on OpenGlobalRights: Is climate change worsening gender-based violence in the Pacific Islands? In the Pacific Islands, gender inequality and gender-based violence are exacerbated by climate change, including through natural disasters, migration, and displacement. But these changes do not have to be inevitable.

Please read the full article here:

In our next report, we'll detail Erin's work in Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Photo: Jeff Tan/The Pacific Climate Warriors (Some
Photo: Jeff Tan/The Pacific Climate Warriors (Some


Sep 6, 2019

Replicating TrackGBV in Latin America

ICAAD Looking to Replicate TrackGBV in Latin America: Building Partnerships

In late 2018, ICAAD presented TrackGBV on a panel on GBV research methodologies at a conference in Mexico City, which was hosted by the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) and the Swedish Embassy. During the presentation, we emphasized that TrackGBV provides a template for systemic change using data to drive systems and behaviour change in a relatively short period of time. The presentation garnered the interest of a number of local stakeholders who were interested in seeing TrackGBV replicated in Latin America. 

Since that time, ICAAD has been engaging in discussions with AUWCL. Along with Clifford Chance and AUWCL, ICAAD will conduct strategic assessments to determine which Latin American countries hold the most promise for the initial phases of TrackGBV. AUWCL has strong connections in Chile, Columbia, and Mexico and emphasised how important this work could be for the newly formed gender units in specific court judiciaries. Moreover, AUWCL already works closely with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in Costa Rica, which provides a significant opportunity for widespread adoption of TrackGBV if the initiative is supported by the Court. 

Additionally, ICAAD is cooperating with a Chilean non-profit organization La Fundación Henry Dunant América Latina/Instituto Internacional Henry Dunant (FuHD/IIHD). The Foundation has developed an International Diploma Course on Human Rights following a judgment at the IACHR that found that the Supreme Court of Chile had violated the rights of a lesbian woman to live free from discrimination when the court revoked custody of her children. The IACHR ordered Chile to make reparations and adopt “legislation, policies and programmes” to prohibit discrimination against vulnerable groups, and the Diploma Course seeks to respond to the Court’s order by training graduate students and professionals working in the public sector. ICAAD is laying the foundation for engagement in Latin America through its partnership with FuHD and will have opportunities through the cooperation agreement to integrate TrackGBV training into the Diploma Course.

Update on Sexual Harassment Toolkit

In 2017, ICAAD in partnership with The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) and the law firm Manatt Phelps organised the first ever train the trainers workshop to raise awareness on combating sexual harassment in the workplace. The training targeted key stakeholders and agencies to strengthen implementation of laws and policies.

The 3-day training workshop was supported by the Australian Government, the United States Embassy in Fiji, and implemented through the We Rise Coalition. It was especially timely as it coincided with the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, with Nov. 25th marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and December 10th marking Human Rights Day. The training was held from Nov. 27- 29, 2017 at Victoria Palms Hotel in Suva, Fiji.

As part of our impact assessment, we received feedback on how the training has been leveraged locally in Fiji. Over the last two years:

  • FWRM has received 10 requests for training;
  • FWRM and other partners have drafted or enhanced existing sexual harassment policies;
  • FWRM provides two types of service options: 1 hr. Awareness training and a multi-day full training package. These services allow FWRM to create an earned-income stream to tackle an extremely pervasive issue in Fiji.

Going forward, we will continue to monitor the impact of the sexual harassment training program and assess whether it makes sense to replicate the training in other Pacific Island jurisdictions.

Jun 10, 2019

Providing GBV Expertise and Cited by a President

Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) Group of Experts Meeting 

Sisters For Change (SFC), on behalf of the EJA, invited ICAAD and other senior legal and policy experts to Singapore in April to share their technical expertise and personal experiences on the impact of discriminatory laws on women and girls within the Commonwealth, including the Pacific Island region where ICAAD has a significant gender-based violence (GBV) focus.
The Meeting included expert-led technical presentations on reforms within constitutional, criminal, anti-discrimination, and equality law, with key developments in reform of personal laws and sexual offence legislation. The nine independent legal experts included: 
  • Aruna Narain, Supreme Court Judge of Mauritius and CEDAW Committee Member, Mauritius
  • Chaloka Beyani, Professor of Law at the London School of Economics and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, U.K.
  • Aileen McColgan, Professor of Law at the University of Leeds and Barrister at 11KBW, U.K.
  • Marion Bethel, Attorney and CEDAW Committee Member, Bahamas
  • Florida Kabasinga, Managing Partner at Certa Law Chambers, Rwanda
  • Dianne Hubbard, Director of the Gender Research & Advocacy Project at the Legal Assistance Centre, Namibia
  • Sharon Murdock, Legislative Drafter at the Office of Legislative Counsel, Northern Ireland
  • Vrinda Grover, Supreme Court Advocate, India
  • Hansdeep Singh, Co-Founder of ICAAD, U.S.A.

SFC has also commissioned ICAAD to provide legal research regarding how gender bias and stereotyping link to GBV in the Pacific Island region. This has been part of ICAAD’s ongoing 6 year initiative on TrackGBV and a presentation/ report will be delivered at the EJA Commonwealth Asia High-level Dialogue in Malaysia later this year. 

Compacts of Free Association (COFA) 

On May 17, 2019, ICAAD Advisor Erin Thomas’ publication: Compacts of Free Association in FSM, RMI, and Palau: Implications for the 2023-2024 Renewal Negotiations was cited by the President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr., in an op-ed published in The Hill. In her piece, Erin points to critical issues stakeholders have raised regarding human trafficking, adoption policies, and COFA migrant rights among other important human rights issues. 

Some of the above-mentioned policy gaps span several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly 10 (reduced inequalities) and 17 (partnership for the goals). Holistically, the existing COFA agreements represent the type of inequity that SDG 10 seeks to address. SDG 17 promotes inclusive and participatory decision-making at the international, national, and local levels. Developing transparency on both sides will allow for a more equitable process and outcome for the renewal negotiations.

The issues within the existing agreements also involve SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) and limited access to justice regarding redress for nuclear testing and environmental destruction. This impacts targets and indicators including SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 3 (good health and well-being). Finally, SDG 10 and 8’s targets for responsible migration policies are important considering the limited provisions for COFA migrants in the U.S. and U.S. territories.

Thoughts on CSW 2019 

ICAAD Fellow, Megan Lee Candolfi, published a blog piece on her experience at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) earlier this year.

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