In order to address issues related to data and information needs, a VAW database was piloted in the six districts of the project. The database built an evidence base regarding the violence affecting women in 44 unions under six Upazilas of six districts. The Women Development Forum, Union Facilitation Teams (Local Youth), members of REOPA WCG and the BRAC Palli Shomaj (Village Federation) collected field data. BRAC, as the field partner, compiled this information was compiled and shared it with the respective Upazila and District Women Affairs Officers. One aim was to strengthen the coordination of information between the demand side (community members, UP/Upazila Standing Committee, Upazila/District Women Affairs Offices) and the supply side (DLAC and District Administration including police, hospitals, shelter homes, BRAC and other NGOs). The pilot testing intervention under the project actively involved the respective six Upazila Women Affairs Officers (UWAOs) and the corresponding six District Women Affairs Officers (DWAOs) who were reporting monthly on VAW incidents to the district administration and to the central level.
As a result of this pilot initiative, data was collected on the number and type of incidents (such as acid attacks, rape, murder, physical torture, dowry, early marriage, family conflict, suicide and hilla marriage4) as well as the type of support provided (such as court cases by DLAC, counselling and legal aid by BRAC, shalish5 by the UP, and others). From September 2012 through May 2013, a total of 811 incidents were reported from 44 unions and were included in the pilot database.
Working through the REOPA programme allowed direct access to the WCG members, many of whom endured various forms of violence in their lives. Over 97 per cent (23,638) of WCG members received training as a part of the BRAC Community Empowerment Programme, including medical aid, counselling and rehabilitation. They were also made aware of their rights under Bangladeshi law, and that common cultural practices such as beatings or child marriages are illegal. Over 23,800 REOPA WCG members received a service card each with a hotline number and information related to obtaining immediate support if faced with violence. As a result of their participation in the training, the women became aware of issues such as gender-based discrimination; the concept, categories and causes of VAW; steps to take for prevention and protection against violence; and relevant laws. A positive outcome of the training was that 90 per cent of the participants reported understanding
that women must be free from these injustices in order to fully enjoy their rights and to effectively participate in society. After receiving the training, the WCG members also reported becoming more confident about asserting their rights.
Capacity-building activities also targeted District-level officials and were attended by District Commissioners, Additional District Commissioners, Upazila Executive Officers, police superintendents, civil surgeons and judges. Over 4,900 district, Upazila and local government officials and members received sensitization and capacity-building support so that they could provide counselling and survivor support.
Over 4,900 UP members received training on VAW issues, and all of the male UP members participated. The objective of the training was to sensitize elected representatives about gender-based discrimination and VAW in the family and society, so they have the capacity to prevent violence and to be able to take effective steps to provide emergency support to survivors.
The capacities of 2,335 local youth (Union Facilitation Team members) and 1,003 elected women leaders on VAW were enhanced so that they could act as whistle-blowers in their communities to bring justice for women who did not know what actions to take if a survivor of violence approaches them and solicited support. They also became sensitized about different laws related to VAW in Bangladesh and are able to give guidance and aid to the survivors through knowledge of immediate measures to take in cases of violence and about the types of facilities available.
Popular theatre was also used as a tool for information dissemination to the rural population. BRAC staff assisted local artists to develop community dramas focused on the issue of VAW. Over 535 popular dramas on VAW, human rights and women empowerment were staged in villages where 178,629 community members attended and heard key messages on how to respond to VAW.
4 Temporary, often forced marriages
5 Traditional system for informal dispute resolution.