Center for Human Rights, Gender & Migration Violence & Abuse

Center launches gender-based violence disclosure toolkit in Mexico

Written by Kim Furlow, Institute for Public Health & Julia Uyttewaal, manager of the Center for Human Rights, Gender & Migration

This summer, the Center for Human Rights, Gender and Migration officially launched its revised toolkit for service providers and humanitarian workers in Mexico. The toolkit offers guidance on how to approach the thorny issue of refugees’ and migrants’ disclosure of gender-based violence. Available in both English and now Spanish, the toolkit builds on foundational research in Guatemala and Mexico, a half-dozen piloting workshops, and continual feedback from local service providers, Mexican asylum authorities, and officers working with the UN Refugee Agency.

The toolkit launch also signals the beginning of an exciting new phase of work on this years-long project developed by Center Director, Kim Thuy Seelinger and Center Manager, Julia Uyttewaal. Thanks to generous funding from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the Center is embarking on an ambitious expansion of research and tool development related to gender-based violence disclosure among refugees and migrants around the world.

Why disclosure? As Seelinger has explained, “Disclosure is the gateway to access support and protection” for gender-based violence. Uyttewaal adds, “If someone does not share what happened to them, service providers are limited in what they can do to care for a survivor’s needs – be those medical, psychological, legal, shelter, or other needs.”

However, tools are only as good as the evidence shows. The center now plans to measure the toolkit’s effectiveness for supporting survivors’ ability to disclose their experiences and for supporting service providers’ efforts to safely enable this disclosure. To do so, the center is working with SIA Desarrollo, a team of expert evaluators, and several partners in Mexico to implement and evaluate the newly revised gender-based violence disclosure toolkit.

The center will also supplement existing research in Mexico with new qualitative research on gender-based violence disclosure in vastly different refugee and migration contexts: Greece and Kenya. Moreover, the center plans to survey humanitarian practitioners around the globe to learn about their experiences with and strategies for approaching gender-based violence disclosure. This new research is key to enhancing understanding of survivors’ capability, opportunity, and motivation to disclose harm such as sexual violence, since these can differ greatly depending on context. The displacement setting (refugee camp, urban area, rapid movement in a transit country), the type of harm suffered (rape, sex trafficking, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation), cultural mores and available services can all influence a survivor’s decision to disclose, or not.

Ultimately, new research findings and the results of tool implementation and evaluation in Mexico will serve the center’s overall aim of developing an adaptable gender-based violence disclosure toolkit for practitioners working in diverse humanitarian crises around the world.