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Ending Violence against Women and Children in the Philippines: Opportunities and challenges for collaborative and integrative approaches

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Executive Summary


While the fields working to end VAC and VAW have largely developed separately, recent reviews and analyses of large datasets have identified multiple intersections between VAC and VAW including: co-occurrence, shared risk factors, similar underlying social norms, common consequences, intergenerational effects, and the period of adolescence as unique period of heightened vulnerabilities to both types of violence. These intersections suggest that collaboration between the sectors is essential to a more effective prevention and response. Integration of certain aspects VAC and VAW prevention and response across services, programmes, and policies may also be advantageous.
However, there are key areas of divergence between the traditional approaches in the VAC and VAW fields that have created challenges to collaboration and may suggest some disadvantages to fully integrative approaches. To date there are no evidence-based or widely accepted integrative models.

This multi country study, commissioned by UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA, explored existing examples of collaboration and integration of VAC and VAW policies, services, and programmes, as well as challenges and future opportunities in the East Asia and Pacific region, with a focus on four countries – Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Viet Nam.

Key research questions This research initiative sought to answer following overarching questions through dialogues and interviews with relevant stakeholders in each country:

  1. What are the existing VAW and VAC policies, action plans, programmes (prevention) or services (response/support)?

  2. What are some examples of policies, action plans, programmes, or services where there is some evidence of VAW and VAC integration (i.e.: addressing both VAW and VAC at the same time)? Include any efforts to try to develop cohesive strategies or plans or collaboration.

  3. How do VAW-focused and VAC-focused stakeholders collaborate or interact? How do donors drive the VAW-VAC agenda?

  4. What are the areas of tension between VAC and VAW work? How do various stakeholders address areas of tension between VAW and VAC?

a. Under what circumstances are boy-children accommodated in places of safety?

b. How are adolescents’ complex needs met and rights protected?

c. How are mothers viewed and “processed” in VAC cases?

  1. What are some opportunities within the existing policies, action plans, programmes or services where integration and/or collaboration could be introduced or enhanced?

Key findings

Violence against children (VAC) and violence against women (VAW) affect the lives and welfare of millions of people around the world. Many women and children in the Philippines suffer multiple types of violence. The multiple negative sequelae of this violence can be long-lasting throughout the lifespan and across generations as well as impacting on individuals, relationships, communities, and broader society.

Agenda and priorities

• The Philippines has good quality national prevalence data on some forms of VAW and VAC; however, administrative data are poorly coordinated thus not allowing for a holistic picture to understand gaps between national prevalence and service delivery.

• There is no mechanism to ensure national prevalence data on VAC are regularly collected.
VAW data is regularly obtained from the National Demographic and Health Survey.

• While there are no data or studies to date on VAW-VAC intersections in the Philippines, stakeholders are aware of various important

intersections in vulnerabilities. Structured data collection protocols or studies would provide useful evidence for policy and programming.

• Improved access to and analysis of reliable data, as well as dissemination of findings, could assist in strategic funding or budget guidelines for the gender and development budget and the child protection budget.
Government, legislation and policy • Multiple government departments have a role in both VAC and VAW and serve on the InterAgency Council on Violence Against Women and Their Children (IACVAWC): Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Department of Justice, Department of Health, Department of Education, Department of Labor and Employment, Civil Service Commission,
Commission on Human Rights, Council for the Welfare of Children, National Bureau of Investigation, and National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women. This committee did not appear to drive specific integration efforts.

• The Philippine Commission on Women is the primary policy-making and coordinating body on women’s empowerment and gender equality.

• The Philippine Plan of Action to End Violence Against Children includes roles for DSWD, the Department of Education, Department of Justice, Council for the Welfare of Children and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

• The main pieces of legislation applicable to VAC and VAW are Anti Child Abuse Law (RA 7610),
Anti-Rape Law (RA 8353), and Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 (RA 9262).

• While there are councils and committees set up to address VAC and VAW and many service providers see both VAC and VAW survivors, there are no formal integration policies or programming guidelines.

Access to justice

• VAW desks at the barangay or village level facilitate access to justice and support services for VAW and VAC survivors primarily through referral to the Women and Child Protection Desk (WCPD) at police stations.

• Protection Orders, mediation, settlement, conciliation, or arbitration are remedies offered to survivors within the barangay level but the WCPD can refer cases for review to enter the court system.

• There are multiple barriers to accessing justice including a large burden on victims to collect evidence from multiple sources, long and drawn out justice procedures, lack of sensitive or protective judicial processes (especially for children), as well as economic and social stigma issues.

• There are no guidelines for examining intersections between VAW and VAC in any of the judicial or law enforcement protocols.

Response and support services

• There are referral guidelines for VAC and VAW survivors but these have not been integrated nor do they address intersectionality.

• While individual service providers may take an integrative approach when dealing with a VAW or VAC case, this is not protocol-driven. Most service providers called for a separation and specialization of VAC and VAW cases.

• Women and Child Protection Units (WCPU) are usually based within hospitals; however, again, there are not specific integration protocols that provide guidance on managing the various intersections between VAC and VAW but rather that adult and child survivors can access services from this Unit. The intake form for VAW cases includes a query on the children’s welfare. There is collaboration between medical doctors, social workers, and police officers under WCPU; however, they are unable to complete forensic rape examinations because they do not have the facilities or kits available.

• There are few shelters available to women and children and most of them are consistently at or over capacity. Many shelters house both domestic violence survivors and trafficking victims. The shelter provides various services including psychological, livelihood strengthening, social services, medical and dental, dietary services, and orientation to the laws that protect women in the hopes that the women will be able to live independently and seek help if they experience violence again.

Few shelters will accept repeat visits from the same survivor. The shelters are not designed for children.
However, in some cases women arrive with their children and the shelters are forced to accommodate them. They generally do not accommodate boys over age 7. There are Havens for Children (separate ones for girls and for boys) but these homes are also for children in conflict with the law, trafficking victims, or orphans thus are not ideal for children having to leave violent homes with their mother. There are no recovery or support services for children within the women’s shelter.

• Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable because neither the children’s home nor the women’s shelter has the capacity to serve such cases. Therefore, they are often sent to shelters run by non-governmental organiztions (NGOs) if such support is needed.

Humanitarian emergencies

• As in other countries, humanitarian emergencies appear to offer good opportunities for innovation and collaboration on VAC and VAW issues; however, this rapid partnership work does not usually translate into ongoing cohesive and collaborative programming.

• A recent example in the Philippines is the response to Typhoon Haiyan during which GBV Watch Groups led by women were initiated by a local NGO to patrol communities to enhance protection of women and children. These Watch Groups are continuing in the communities and there are plans to initiate them in other communities in rural areas.

• It would be useful to conduct a postemergency analysis to glean lessons learned and key success strategies to collaborative and innovative efforts that address both VAW and VAC in an integrative way.

Prevention programming

• Many stakeholders interviewed for this study considered secondary prevention approaches – for example early identification of and intervention with victims to prevent an escalation or recurrence of violence – as the main effort to prevent VAW and VAC.

• Awareness-raising was the most commonly described approach to primary prevention of VAW and VAC; however, this approach has been shown to be ineffective in preventing violence.

• Economic empowerment of women (especially survivors of violence) was a prevention strategy used by some NGOs and shelters but no evaluation data on prevention of either VAW or VAC were available for these.

• There are some prevention programmes engaging men lead by MSWD and DSWD.

• UNICEF Philippines has supported some positive parenting programmes to prevent VAC but these have not addressed VAW prevention.

• UNFPA worked with the Department of Education to operationalize school-based Comprehensive Sexuality Education, under the mandate of the national Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law. The curricula is in accordance with international standards and includes components covering gender-based violence and gender equality.

• UN Women is supporting a Safe Cities project to reduce sexual harassment in public spaces.

• Some NGOs have engaged in various prevention projects including addressing problematic gender norms within religious communities to prevent VAW, and preventing online exploitation of youth.

• While prevention programming is, theoretically, a key opportunity for integration of VAW and VAC work, most prevention programmes lack strong evaluations of outcomes and impact available, thus making it difficult to understand the effectiveness of different approaches.

Further, VAC and VAW projects tend to focus on different sets of outcomes making it difficult to gain insight into integrative, accelerative, or cross-cutting impacts on both VAC and VAW.

Integration of VAW and VAC approaches

• It appears that collaboration has worked best when VAW and VAC stakeholders come together on a specific issue (e.g., statutory rape, humanitarian crisis) rather than more broad. This means that there are no overarching efforts at dealing with areas of divergence to develop an overall integrative way forward. This focused kind of collaboration also means that some areas of convergence or synergy between VAW and VAC work may be missed.


• In general, the study participants suggested that integration was not an approach they felt was ideal and there were repeated calls for separated, specialized policies, services, and programmes to address VAC and VAW.
However, given the lack of resources as well as the existence of several services that address both VAC and VAW, it seems that pursuing some integrative or collaborative VAC-VAW approaches are warranted.

• Services and programming for adolescents is a particular gap in the Philippines. Generally, adolescents are considered children under the law. More advocacy, research, and innovation is needed to meet adolescents’ needs with regard to VAC and VAW.

• Intake forms and referral guidelines could be reviewed to prompt integrative case management for VAW and VAC survivors.

• VAW and VAC stakeholders, including UN agencies, may engage in a mapping activity to understand the various approaches they are taking and find synergies or strategic opportunities for integration or other kinds of collaboration. This activity could lead into work to develop a theoretical framework of integrative VAC-VAW approaches that are relevant and feasible within the Philippines taking into account the varied resources and needs in different parts of the country.

• Staff at WCPUs, WCPDs, and the VAW desks would benefit from on-going training and capacity building in both VAW and VAC issues - it appears that separate, specialist units are unlikely and therefore service providers will have to continue to work with both VAC and VAW survivors.

• Improvements in both national prevalence and administrative data collection and management could provide opportunities for research on adolescent issues, and intersections between VAC and VAW. The availability of reliable and high quality data could inform ongoing policy, programming, and service work to comprehensively and effectively address VAC and VAW in the Philippines.