Working to Advance Health Equity in Africa



How do we conduct SGBV research in conflict and post-conflict settings?

HEARD in partnership with the University of Birmingham will conduct a methodological workshop to structured around a series of presentations and discussions aiming to address these questions and to result in the development of new methodological tools for research on SGBV which is both locally sensitive and inclusive. 


Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) remains a massive problem worldwide and the widespread international attention to it has sparked a range of high profile policy responses. The impact of these policy responses, however, has been limited, as is evidenced by the apparent failure to reduce rates of SGBV. In several regions (including parts of Africa), rates of SGBV even seem to be increasing. This failure to make an impact on SGBV leads to a number of unanswered questions about the nature of this violence, its extent and underlying causes. These questions require an urgent response in order to plan policies and actions which can have a real impact on eliminating SGBV.

The difficulties in researching SGBV are multiple, ranging from epistemological questions of definition and categorisation, to methodological issues about how to reach marginalised individuals and communities, for whom the issue of SGBV is exacerbated by various other forms of discrimination and exclusion, and how to carry out research which will do more than merely describe the occurrence of SGBV in an effort to gain a greater understanding of its determinants and effects.

Our research focusses on the Great Lakes Region of Africa which has been at the centre of much of the international discourse and ‘interventions’ by international organisations and NGOs to ‘combat’ or ‘prevent’ SGBV. However, many of these policies and programmes have focused on narrow conceptualisations of SGBV – as rape and sexual violence as a result of conflict. The failure to look beyond this narrow definition has led to interventions and actions to prevent SGBV which are not adapted to the local context and which may misunderstand issues of gender norms, identities and sexual orientations in the Region. It is thus a priority to resituate research on SGBV within local contexts and to undertake research which provides a comprehensive understanding of gender and violence. Local researchers are the best placed to provide new and better answers to the epistemological and methodological questions which remain to be answered.

Download the workshop booklet


Questions to be addressed in this workshop include:

1. How can we define and understand gender/gender-based violence to provide a useful tool for research that takes into account all of the local issues concerning gender norms, identities, sexual orientation, etc? How can we find a conceptualisation that is inclusive and encompasses all of the varied forms of violence based on gender without creating a conceptualisation which is so large that it loses all its research and policy significance? What are the differences/intersections between SGBV and violence against women?

2. How can men and masculinities be anchored within research frameworks and policy actions on SGBV? There has been much discussion about the need to “include men” but how can we build a theoretically robust framework of understanding that takes into account men’s roles as both perpetrators and victims of SGBV?

3. Who are the victims of SGBV who have been ‘forgotten’ or rendered invisible by current frameworks of research and policy-making? Why are these individuals or communities invisible in the research? And how can we reach out to include them using both ethical and inclusive methodologies?

4. How can we provide better research evidence on what has worked in reducing/preventing SGBV? So far, there has been no rigorous research evaluation of many of the programmes/interventions claiming to prevent SGBV. One of the difficulties in this is that these programmes are often based on the principle of behavioural or norm change which is hard to measure. How can we carry out research to understand what really works in preventing SGBV? And how can research point to ways in which to ‘scale-up’ those interventions which are found to be successful?

5. How do current funding/intervention models impact upon definitions and understandings of SGBV? And what should be done to change these models to provide a more relevant framework for funding/intervention to effectively tackle SGBV in the Region?

In attempting to provide answers to the above questions, priority will be given to local researchers from the countries in the Great Lakes Region who are the best placed to understand the key issues relating to SGBV within their Region, and to be able to lead future research and to design policies to have a real impact on elimination of SGBV.


  • Dr Jill Steans (University of Birmingham, UK) | Expertise: SGBV; theorizing gender and sexuality
  • Professor Nana Poku (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, SA) | Expertise: HIV/AIDS; global health; human security; political economy.
  • Professor Jane Freedman (University Paris 8) | Expertise: refugee and asylum; SGBV
  • Dr Claire Somerville (Graduate Institute, Geneva) | Expertise: Methodologies; gender issues in global governance; global health; knowledge transfer
  • Professor Tony Barnett | Expertise: Infectious diseases; HIV/AIDS; global health

Workshop partner organisations

  • UNDP Africa
  • Positive Vibes (Namibia based) | Extensive practical expertise in networking with consultants and NGOs working on LGBTI rights and health (HIV) across Southern Africa
  • ISIS-WICCE (Uganda based) | Partner Organization: ISIS-WICCE (Uganda based) | Extensive practical expertise in women’s human rights, armed conflict, violence
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