The Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW) hosted a seminar from 21-27 July, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand focusing on efforts to work towards more responsive and effective shelter management in the Mekong countries. APSW is a non-government, charitable organisation who for over 30 years has scoped activities to cover the provision of welfare and social and economic empowerment of women as well as the prevention of violence and advocacy for gender equality.
Banteay Srei, Executive Director, Sok Panha participated in the week-long seminar to help build the capacity of industry peers and of Banteay Srei to provide better support services to women and children who experience violence, particularly family violence in order to facilitate empowerment. The main objectives of this seminar were to provide a forum for managers of women’s refuges and shelters to exchange best practice methods and challenges in dealing with the organisational response to family violence; to provide them with the tools to create positive change in the care and empowerment of survivors and to jointly develop a framework and benchmarks for good practice in the provision of support services for women’s shelters and refuges.
Banteay Srei currently runs and operates a Safe House which serves as a refuge for women and girl survivors of gender based violence in Battambang and a Peace Centre which provides counseling support for both women and men, especially a referral service for women and girl survivors in Siem Reap. In this capacity, Banteay Srei was recognised by APSW as key player in providing organisational support for GBV survivors and as such Sok Panha was invited to represent efforts being made in Cambodia alongside 3 other national candidates and 4 representatives from each of the other Mekong countries including Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Country representatives included women’s shelter and refuge managers from both the government and non-government sectors, providing a collaborative approach to improve services and current case management strategies.
The organisers of the 5-day seminar delivered training, information and facilitated discussions around providing a more in-depth understanding of domestic violence, addressing case management approaches, counselling, rehabilitation programmes, empowerment strategies, handling of perpetrators, effective support services for survivors and multidisciplinary collaboration and networking in order to deliver a stronger and more integrated response system for survivors of domestic violence. Participants then went onto learn about effective organisational responses, focusing upon strengthening organisational capacity and providing appropriate tools for effective responses at the individual and organisational levels. Best practice frameworks were then developed as a group to provide a guideline for effective provision of support services for survivors of violence.
Key points for consideration for Banteay Srei following the seminar have been highlighted below by Sok Panha
- Within the Mekong region, where human trafficking is rife, a network between shelters and partner organisations could be implemented to increase international co-operation and support to improve service support and trafficking prevention
- Improved collaboration between government and NGO shelters needs to be addressed and the methods and processes of improving such collaboration needs to be considered
- Partnership is needed for the shelters between state actors, non-state actors, private sectors and the media
- Private shelters providing psychological counselling and therapy can also play their part in strengthening service provisions for survivors of gender based violence
- A regional workshop should be considered to bring together women NGOs from different Mekong countries to learn and share information about empowerment for women through entrepeneurship
- In a bid to increase collaboration between a variety of partners working in this field, a 24 hour hotline service could be considered which would provide a mechanism to share resources between different partners facing challenging cases
- Education on family planning and safe abortions needs to be considered as a service provision at the Safe House
- Partner collaboration could be utilised to advocate for government policy or laws to implement requiring perpetrators of gender based violence to receive counselling and address the route causes of abuse. Through collaborative partners, a system could be implemented whereby complaints can be filed at every level throughout the organisational chain until perpetrators respond to such policies and laws
- For Banteay Srei’s Safe House, a children care programme needs to be explored further
- As part of the empowerment process, services at the Safe House and Peace Centre can be implemented to develop service strategies directly with clients so that they are part of the decision making process
- A women survivors network movement could provide additional peer support for survivors of GBV
- Education needs to be delivered to communities to raise awareness of the services provided by network members about provisions and shelters available to GBV survivors
- The seminar focused well on shelter support by stakeholders but further consideration needs to be given to community based action against gender based violence
- Domestic violence between intimate partners was a key focus at the seminar but attention also needs to be paid to violence against women from other family members and community members
- Women with disabilities need to be considered to ensure that shelters are available and accessible to survivors of this minority group who also experience gender based violence
- The care and protection of shelter staff is paramount to the effective operation of shelters, perhaps best practice in providing this could be explored further such as the implementation of standardised security risk policies or procedures being drafted
- Appropriate staff need to be sourced and trained to provide services with considerations being made for their social outlooks eg. Are shelter staff members feminists? In their core belief structures, do they believe in equality for women?
- Case managers need to be identified in Banteay Srei’s Safe House and Peace Centre projects, all partners will be involved in cases as intervention is needed but it is necessary to ensure one staff member oversees case management system as a whole to ensure the process provides consistent and necessary support to survivors
- Training for shelter staff on case management needs to be considered as well as attendance at the 2013 Asian Conference for Women’s Shelters.
Overall, this seminar proved to be a very informing and dynamic forum, providing excellent networking opportunities to key figures working in the field of empowerment for women and service provisions to survivors of GBV. Banteay Srei would like to thank the organisers for hosting Sok Panha at the event and looks forward to collaborating with regional government and non-government partners in the future to improve organisational service provisions and show solidarity and support to women and girls who are survivors of violence or gender inequality at every level.