Taking a cautious approach to address gender-based violence (GBV), which is a non-traditional area for Asian Development Bank (ADB) assistance, ADB approved a grant of $750,000 from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) for a pilot project on Establishing Women and Children Service Centers (WCSCs) in Nepal in July 2009. Successful implementation of the pilot phase in 5 districts, also supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the government of the United Kingdom, served as a springboard for expanding the project to 15 additional districts. The expansion was financed by an additional grant from DFID and ADB’s Gender and Development Cooperation Fund and Technical Assistance Special Fund.
The project supported the implementation of the government’s plans, policies, and legal framework to reduce the vulnerability and helplessness of women and children victims and survivors of GBV in 20 districts of Nepal with a high incidence of GBV. GBV was prevalent and resulted from the unequal power relationship between genders in Nepalese society. It included physical violence, polygamy, forced abortion, rape or attempted rape, sexual exploitation, and trafficking.
The project aimed to improve access to legal protection and social support services, increase the likelihood of reintegration into mainstream society of women and children who had suffered from GBV, and help the victims get access to justice. It had five components: (i) civil society consultations and awareness-raising in communities, (ii) establishment of 20 WCSCs, (iii) institutional capacity strengthening of Nepal Police in dealing with crimes against women and children, (iv) strengthened coordination between district WCSCs and other services, and (v) effective project management and monitoring and evaluation.
At completion, the project achieved most of its output targets. It successfully established the central WCSC in Kathmandu and 20 district-level WCSCs, through which, it was able to significantly increase the provision of support services to GBV victims such as protection, mediation, complaint filing, psychosocial counselling, case registration, legal counselling, and referral. It strengthened the capacity of these WCSCs and the Nepal Police in dealing with GBV cases and enabled the reintegration of the GBV victims and survivors into their families and communities by initially providing temporary accommodation at the WCSCs, and food and transport support. The mobility provided by the project vehicles also reduced the response time for the police to attend to reported incidents.
The project successfully conducted public awareness activities that contributed to a better understanding of GBV and the reporting of GBV cases to the police without any fear, as well as the changed public perception about gender-related violence. Consultations and knowledge-sharing with civil society organization (CSOs) mobilized CSO support for and helped enhance the project interventions. GBV-sensitivity training and capacity development given to the police improved their services and accessibility and approachability. Consistent follow-up by WCSCs on GBV cases helped ensure the safety of victims and survivors.
Significant output deliveries enabled the project to achieve all its outcome targets. Crime reporting has improved, resulting in an 89% increase in reported GBV crimes during the first 2 years of implementation, against the 30% target. Confidence in WCSCs and supporting agencies rose from 44% in 2014-2015 to 79% in 2017-2018. Also, 69% of the crimes reported in 2014-2015 and 2017-2018 were handled satisfactorily by WCSCs and supporting agencies, against the 60% target; and 53% of women and children survivors who reported crimes were reintegrated into their families or communities in 2017 against the target of 50%.
Most importantly, the project has established mutual trust and partnership between WCSCs, the Nepal Police, and civil society in combating GBV in the project districts. Timely service, the use of courteous language, patient and considerate behavior by police personnel at WCSCs, and the support extended by network members were key to the remarkable trust and confidence developed by the project among GBV victims and survivors and their families. In addition to WCSC-based work, GBV network members also delivered other crucial support services, including processing vital registration and citizenship certificates, assisting in income generation activities, and arranging temporary shelters and referral services. The WCSCs and other police units have also counselled the perpetrators and even detained them, in some cases leading to physical violence stopping completely.
The project had the Ministry of Home Affairs as executing agency. It had two implementing agencies, both from the Nepal Police Headquarters: (i) the Crime Investigation Department, and (ii) the Women and Children Service Directorate.