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Research calls for preventive approach to gender-based violence in Senegal


Despite laws and a constitution that guarantees gender equality, women in Senegal still experience high rates of violence. Critics point to an ineffective legal system that doesn't focus on prevention, where police rarely intervene, and where few cases come to trial. While several studies have been conducted on gender-based violence in Senegal, few have focused on the accountability of public authorities, the legitimacy of public structures, or the effectiveness of laws.

IDRC-supported researchers at the Groupe d’Etudes et de Recherche Genre et Sociétés (GESTES) conducted a nationwide study aimed at making Senegal's public institutions more accountable. Their research looked at the root causes and impacts of violence against women and also assessed the effectiveness of existing strategies to prevent and combat gender-based violence. Their work has identified key strategies to strengthen civil society and public organizations engaged in preventing violence against women. The study's recommendations are now being used to develop and implement prevention strategies, programs, and policies nationwide. As a result of the study, Senegal now has the evidence to inform a national implementation strategy for prevention as a response to gender violence. 

Creating a bank of reliable data

Reliable data on gender-based violence is crucial to the development and implementation of laws, policies, strategies, and appropriate preventive measures. However, much of the research on this issue focuses on the type of violence, taking little account of geography, demographics, and socio-economics. The research carried out by GESTES sought to fill the data gap, through a national study that also examined specific socio-cultural, religious, economic, and geographical factors.

Using knowledge to inform the response

The research found that preventative measures are not currently being implemented or functioning in Senegal. 

With the release of the study, institutions fighting gender-based violence in Senegal now have solid evidence to inform their strategies and policies. For example, higher-education institutions, under the guidance of the GESTES project team, signed an agreement with GESTES to develop an overarching prevention strategy for universities in Senegal. This effort has focused on developing and implementing the "Violence against Women: Zero Tolerance" charter.

Uptake of the results by civil society, grassroots actors, and women's organizations as well as state and international institutions active in Senegal is occurring. For instance, uptake of the research has led to the inclusion of gender-based violence as one scientific dimension that will be supported by Senegal’s FIRST (the Fund for Scientific and Technical Research).  

And according to the research team, civil society organizations, in particular the National Committee for Fighting Violence against Women in Senegal (CLVF), now have solid knowledge to build on and advance their advocacy efforts and to demand political strategies and programs to prevent gender-based violence.

Recommended innovations

Among the research recommendations:

  • Need for a paradigm shift from current strategies addressing gender-based violence that are based on repression, reparation, and victimization. Instead, promote a more preventive approach with particular emphasis on strengthening the capacity of public structures.
  • Need to address the lack of disaggregated data, according to several criteria (gender, age, geographic location, socio-professional activity, etc.)

The research team also developed and tested a mobile-phone based platform, "Web-SMS," which can be used to report incidents of violence against women. 

Read more about the Preventing Gender-based Violence in Senegal project 

Read recent project reports (in French):