Local Anchor Groups: A localized approach to address gender-based violence
The GBV Innovation Programme brings together international NGOs and local actors to foster knowledge sharing around effective gender-based violence and economic recovery programming.
The GBV Innovation Programme
The BPRM-funded “Advancing Economic Empowerment of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Survivors in Humanitarian Settings through Evidence and Localized Action for Gender Transformative Change” programme, also known as the GBV Innovation Programme, is taking a novel approach to addressing GBV in displacement settings. Implemented by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), the programme seeks to generate evidence on effective models for integrated GBV and Economic Recovery programming, using a localized and gender transformative approach.
The programme’s aims are inspired by the shortcomings in humanitarian response systems around improving economic opportunities for GBV survivors. Short-term funding cycles often prevent projects from pursuing longer-term objectives like transforming harmful gender norms to prevent GBV and ensuring economic empowerment for survivors. Further, there is a persistent lack of collaboration between humanitarian agencies and local organizations, despite the fact that local actors are often the first responders in times of crisis and best positioned to address the long-term needs of women and girls.
To address these shortcomings and better reach people of concern, the GBV Innovation Programme is championing localization—defined by the IASC as the meaningful engagement and leadership of local and national actors in humanitarian response—as a key mode of action. Programming that is led by local organizations can increase access to hard-to-reach groups, enhance the design and delivery of services with context-specific expertise, and build local capacity for sustainable change.
To ensure localization, the project works jointly with local actors to share knowledge and build capacity between national and international organizations. As a first step, Local Anchor Groups (LAGs) composed of international organizations, national organizations, and local authorities implementing GBV and/or Economic Recovery activities were established in the four target countries: Jordan, Lebanon, Niger, and Uganda.
In this blog post, the GBV Innovation Programme team reflects on the successes, challenges, and resulting recommendations for engaging with local partners from the LAG establishment process in Lebanon so far. We hope that sharing our experience will inspire colleagues and partners to consider how they can incorporate a localized approach in their own programmes.
Establishing a Local Anchor Group in Lebanon
In Lebanon, securing economic empowerment opportunities for GBV survivors is particularly complex. Therefore, for the GBV Innovation Programme, it is especially key to work with local organizations to ensure that the nuances of GBV survivors’ experiences are fully considered in programme design.
The country is facing a severe financial crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19 and the 2020 Beirut Port explosion. Economic opportunities for all people in Lebanon are increasingly limited, with disproportionate effects on vulnerable groups who already face heightened barriers to employment. For example, refugees are only legally allowed to work in a limited number of sectors, restricting their employment opportunities. Further, refugee women are often excluded from legal protection against labor exploitation and lack access to financial services like borrowing money or having a bank account. These many layers of marginalisation create a difficult and unsafe path to employment for refugee women, making it challenging for those experiencing or at risk of GBV to secure financial autonomy from perpetrators.
To establish a LAG in Lebanon with the expertise to address these barriers, the DRC Lebanon office mapped and reached out to stakeholders with a focus on local actors and women-led organizations. A LAG was then formed with six local organizations and five international NGOs. As a first step, the members of the LAG completed initial capacity self-assessments to identify organizational strengths and gaps. Informed by the results of the assessment, the LAG collectively created an action plan to strengthen member organizations’ technical and operational capacities. Ultimately, the LAG will develop, implement, and test a localized theory of change for integrated GBV and Economic Recovery programming.
In the early stages of forming the LAG in Lebanon, many of the project’s intentions for bringing together national and international organizations have been realized—local organizations are very engaged during LAG meetings and have voiced that they welcome the chance to share knowledge with peer organizations outside the constraints of formal humanitarian coordination structures. Further, the initial capacity assessments revealed complementary expertise among LAG members, creating an ideal environment for participatory capacity development activities and cross-organizational learning. LAG members will therefore drive capacity development and work together to strengthen each other’s capacities through participatory workshops.
The LAG in Lebanon has also experienced some challenges. First, staff turnover among member organizations has led to delays in planning capacity development sessions and moving forward with programme implementation. Second, many member organizations have limited resources, which sometimes hinders their ability to participate in LAG activities. Third, effective engagement requires involvement from leadership or staff who have the ability to implement LAG learning in their respective organizations.
Upon reflecting on successes and challenges experienced by the LAG in Lebanon, we have come up with the following general recommendations for international organizations to engage effectively with local partners:
- Foster programme ownership and accountability among local partners. Engage local partners in as many aspects of the programme as possible, including decision-making and strategy development processes.
- Work with staff at different levels of the organization to obtain institutional buy-in for activities. It may be helpful to ensure that the proposed focal point has some level of decision-making power within their organization, so they are able to implement relevant learning from the partnership.
- While technical or sector-based capacity exchange may be the main purpose of engaging with local actors, international organizations should also consider providing opportunities to strengthen internal organizational capacities like budgeting and fundraising, enabling local organizations to secure funding from donors and ensure sufficient resources to implement programmes sustainably.
Supporting women's economic empowerment can have a transformative effect on gender norms and GBV in displacement-affected communities. However, humanitarian actors cannot do this safely unless they have a comprehensive understanding of local market opportunities and existing barriers to participation. All four of the GBV Innovation Programme countries have different factors that make it difficult for GBV survivors to achieve economic empowerment, which is why the programme works so closely with local organizations in each country to ensure a contextualized approach.
We will continue to share our experiences on localization, gender transformation, and integrated GBV and Economic Recovery programming on this blog page. We welcome feedback and discussion around our approach to establishing Local Anchor Groups as a key component of the programme. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our programme coordinators for more information.
Joakim Daun (DRC) - [email protected]
Aditi Bhanja (WRC) - [email protected]