Domestic Violence Counseling Service Project

Together with Australian Aid through Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women), Women United Together Marshall Islands (WUTMI) are endeavoring to reduce domestic violence and expand support services for women who are survivors of domestic violence through the establishment of the first ever domestic violence counseling service in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). This initiative is underpinned by the objectives of the Pacific Women RMI Country Plan.

Despite the magnitude of the problem of domestic violence in the RMI, there are currently no specialized domestic violence support service in operation. However, there are a number of indicators of the increasingly urgent need to institute a domestic violence crisis/counseling service in the RMI. Evaluations from two recent domestic violence projects undertaken by WUTMI have recommended that a domestic violence service be researched and established to provide support to the women and children identified as experiencing or being at risk of experiencing domestic violence. Further, the establishment of the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act 2011 has increased the need for there to be a coordinated and integrated response to domestic violence at the systemic level, accompanied by individual and systemic advocacy for the provisions of the Act to be fully implemented. Recent media highlighted that while cases of domestic violence being bought to the High Court are still remarkably low relative to the rates of domestic violence in the RMI, 2014 has seen a 400% increase in cases reported to authorities compared to the total for the three years prior. Recent research has found that of those women who report their experience of domestic violence to authorities, 66% are dissatisfied with the response they received. Where a woman reported the domestic violence to a family member, friend or neighbor, 55% received no help from those they reported to.

Slowly, women experiencing domestic violence have started to approach WUTMI for assistance. Although deeply committed to the safety and well-being of these women and continuing to provide what support their resources will allow them, WUTMI are currently unfunded and lack the infrastructure and capacity to provide the level of assistance that is required to sufficiently support these survivors of violence. Investment in developing a support mechanism for survivors of domestic violence through a service that is trusted by women and the broader community is urgent.

With the commencement at WUTMI of the DFAT-funded PACTAM Domestic Violence Counseling Service Advisor, efforts to progress towards meeting the Pacific Women RMI Country Plan are underway. Utilizing a participatory project management approach, a training needs assessment and consultation framework has been developed to inform the counseling service program design and the development of a domestic violence monitoring and evaluation framework at WUTMI that will be synchronized with the government of the RMI’s plans for domestic violence data collection. However, the success of this project and the PACTAM assignment will be significantly jeopardized without the initial six-month operational budget outlined within this proposal.

Domestic Violence in the RMI

Domestic violence (intimate partner violence) is endemic in the RMI. Recent comprehensive research has shown that 51% of ever-partnered women between the ages of 15 and 64 years report having experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes. Forty-eight percent of women report experiencing physical violence perpetrated by a partner, while 21% report experiencing at least one act of intimate partner sexual violence. Twenty-one percent of women who reported experiencing domestic violence had physical injuries as a result. These included scratches, abrasions and bruises (72%), eye injuries (34%), burns (19%) and broken teeth (18%). Almost half of these women (46%) reported suffering injuries more than five times as a result of domestic violence. Of those women who reported experiencing intimate partner violence, more than half (55%) never told anyone about the violence, and 91% did not report their experiences to any formal support services (e.g. Police, women’s services, health services or hospital, church, social services). Those who did report the domestic violence (n=45) did so because they were severely injured, their life had been threatened or they could not endure the violence any further.

According to the Demographic Health Survey conducted in the RMI in 2007, over half of all women (56%) and men (58%) surveyed agreed that violence against women was justified under specific circumstances. This finding has been reinforced by the more recent research which found that as many as 75% of all women who participated agreed with the statement that a husband could use physical violence against his wife if she was unfaithful, and 65% agreed a man could use physical violence against his wife if she didn’t complete the housework, while 38% agreed with the statement that a man could use physical violence against this wife if she refused to have sex with him.

The RMI Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act was proclaimed in 2011, which made domestic violence a crime and introduced a range of protections for victims of domestic violence. However, the provisions of the Act are yet to be fully implemented, and have resulted in only a small increase in the number of incidents of domestic violence being reported to the Police and proceeding through the criminal justice system.

Project Objectives

The objective of the Domestic Violence Counseling Service Project as outlined in the Pacific Women RMI Country Plan 2014 – 2017 is to:

Reduce violence against women and expand support services through the establishment of a domestic violence counseling service.

Activities identified as contributing to this include the provision of technical assistance to WUTMI to develop a detailed, costed domestic violence support service program design, establish a relationship with Fiji Women’s Crisis Center that allows WUTMI to benefit from their training, mentoring and support, develop protocols and guidelines for delivering the crisis/counseling service, and implement the service in the RMI.

Australian Aid, via the PACTAM program managed by Australian Volunteers International, has provided a technical advisor to assist with achieving the outcomes of the project. The objectives of the technical advisor’s assignment (2014-2015) are:

    • To provide technical assistance to WUTMI in the development of a domestic violence counseling center.

    • Strengthen the capacity of WUTMI staff in domestic violence counseling.

    • Establish a monitoring and evaluation framework for the counseling service to assist with ongoing quality controls of the service.

It is expected that the combination of these efforts will result in a fully operational domestic violence counseling service implemented in the RMI by the end of the full three year project.

Project Design

The domestic violence counseling service project has been designed based on participatory project management and community development principles. This approach to the program design is seen as essential to gaining community investment and ownership over the service end-product, while ensuring that the service is designed to meet the needs of the community. Some particular challenges faced by the domestic violence counseling service model can only be met by the expertise of local community members and those with previous experience in trying to both access and deliver support and assistance. Further, tethering the project to community development principles will assist to mitigate the impact of colonialist assumptions and impositions on the program design.

The project design will also be informed by action research processes, whereby we will be attempting to understand how to design a service to respond to the rights and needs of survivors of domestic violence, while also trying to address domestic violence.

The six month period affected by this grant will be a vital time in the project. The recruitment of a Domestic Violence Counseling Service Project Coordinator to work alongside the Domestic Violence Counseling Service Technical Advisor will be of the highest priority. Together, these two staff will drive the development and implementation of the project activities.

Work has already begun to prepare for a series of consultation workshops with women who are survivors of domestic violence, general community women, and leaders and duty bearers from eight islands targeted for the consultation phase – Majuro, Wotje, Jaluit, Mili, Arno, Ebeye, Aur and one remote outer island to be identified. During the six month period, it is anticipated that 25 participatory consultation workshops will be held with a minimum of 100 participants, the majority of whom will be women. The consultation workshops will target existing community groups, such as the University of the South Pacific Weaving Circle, the young women’s activist group FU7 and the Women with Disabilities Advisory group in Majuro, in addition to WUTMI chapters and women’s church groups in the outer atolls. During these consultation trips, local leaders and representatives of local authorities will also be sought out for key informant interviews and/or to participate in consultation workshops. Some individual consultations have already taken place, and are being used to inform the content and scope of the broader consultations, as are the design documents and experiences of sister services in Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga.

The outcomes from the consultations will be collated in a report, and the findings will provide the primary source of evidence for the program design document of the domestic violence counseling service.

Simultaneous to the consultations, a Training Needs Assessment (TNA) will be underway. The TNA will focus primarily on WUTMI staff (including Executive Committee members, and chapter leaders and members where it is possible to reach them), with some external service providers identified as first responders to domestic violence also being invited to participate. TNA methods will include a questionnaire, focus groups discussions and observations. A report on the TNA will focus on identifying key content for a first responders training curriculum, which will be implemented as core training for all WUTMI staff and later promoted as essential training for external service providers. During the six month period of this grant, it is planned to implement at least three training workshops for WUTMI staff and Executive Committee members related to the outcomes of the TNA and as pilots for the curriculum for the domestic violence first responders/core staff training.

An important activity during this period, which will underscore both the above processes, is a study tour to Fiji and Hawaii, where both project staff will attend the Fiji Women’s Crisis Center (FWCC) regional training program as well as their ‘attachment’ week. We are also in the process of negotiating a study tour the FWCC sites and observing service delivery. On the return trip to the RMI, staff will stop over in Hawaii to visit local domestic violence services that will be engaged to assist with supporting Marshallese women evacuated to Hawaii (or the USA mainland via Hawaii) from the RMI due to high risk related to domestic violence. This study tour will be vital to gain insights into how domestic violence services in Pacific island countries operate on a daily basis and are inclusive of women experiencing domestic violence who live in remote locations and outer islands.

Entwined with the activities outlined above, there will be a keen focus on reviewing current internal and external domestic violence monitoring and evaluation (M&E) methods and processes, with the aim of developing and implementing a domestic violence M&E framework for WUTMI (a framework to be implemented with the eventual domestic violence counseling service, as well for the interim period). This M&E framework will also be integrated with external domestic violence data collection and reporting methods.

Project Monitoring and Evaluation

During the six month period of this grant, there are two arms of reporting related to this project. These are reporting to Pacific Women/DFAT on the outputs and outcomes of the project, and reporting on the progress of the PACTAM assignment to Australian Volunteers International (AVI).

Reporting to Pacific Women/DFAT

Within 6 weeks of the end of the funding period, WUTMI will provide a monitoring and evaluation package to Pacific Women that will include:

    • Project activity report, including an assessment of progress towards the expected outcomes for the whole project.

    • An evaluation of the training curriculum and workshops.

    • Report on the consultations, including recommendations for the domestic violence counseling service program design.

    • Interim domestic violence support service procedures and service delivery data, including one case study (if available).

    • Financial acquittal.

Reporting to Australian Volunteers International

Assignment progress reports (mid- and end of assignment) will be submitted to AVI as outlined in the Domestic Violence Counseling Service Advisor position description, using the tools provided. The first report is due in April/May.

Project Budget January – June 20151

The allocated project budget for January to June 2015 is AUD$80,000 (approximately USD$69,255). The proposed expenditure is outlined in the attached budget. The most significant costs for this period of the project include salary for the Domestic Violence Counseling Service Project Coordinator, per diem for national and regional travel for up to four staff, and costs associated with implementing the consultation workshops.

The budget also has one line item for emergency assistance. These funds will be used by WUTMI to assist with transport, clothing and food for any survivors of domestic violence who contact the service for assistance in the interim period from the start of the project to the domestic violence counseling service being fully operational.

WUTMI has a policy of applying a 15% administration levy to all grants received. This levy contributes to the salary of core staff (Executive Director, Finance Officer) and central administration costs such as rent, utilities & office supplies2.

Note, that the budget will be adjusted as required in response to the USD$/AUD$ exchange rate at the time the grant is received by WUTMI.

1 This proposal and budget relates only to the project period 1 January 2015 – 30 June 2015. The ongoing project operational budget is yet to be confirmed.

2 The application of the Administration Levy is standard across all projects, and is not to be seen as a substitute for the funds allocated to WUTMI for organizational capacity development in the Pacific Women RMI Country Plan.

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