Accelerating zero-tolerance to Gender-based Violence in rural regions of Azerbaijan

22 January 2018

 Lack of innovations and improvement of family support centers for victims of gender-based violence are potential hassles in building the violence-free society in Azerbaijan. Introducing updated standards and models, assistance centers strive to establish smooth and mild mechanisms for victims clinging to a glimmer of hope to save their lives from abuser’s clutches.

“Very frequently we are being informed about violence in the vicinity after a while. In most cases sufferers are frightened and suppressed by deeply rooted stereotypes and social taboos that to speak up against batterers” says Sayyad, a social worker of Goygol Family Support Center (FSC). “We witnessed the unpleasant case when stepfather abused his daughter several times, but the girl was silent because of pressure by relatives. They were scared to be excluded from the community, but never thought about the health of this young girl,” recalls Sayyad the anecdote from the life of her support center.

The Family Support Centers in Azerbaijan might prevent a lot of gender-based violence cases if they have had appropriately and duly prepared operating procedures, particularly when rates of gender-based violence are prevalent in some regions of the country. The statistical observations conducted by UNFPA CO and covering 9500 households in the urban and rural areas across the country have revealed that 4.2% of surveyed were subjected to violence. The specific gravity of 15-29 years old young people amongst the aggrieved people was 33.2 % countrywide. In light of these figures, the clear response mechanism was still absent in many of Family Support Centers.

Within the “Combating Gender-based violence in Azerbaijan” project UNFPA has initiated a four-day capacity building training for the staff of eleven regional FSCs of the State Committee for Family, Woman and Children Affairs and NGOs accredited to provide support and shelter services to victims of domestic violence. Training was held by Ayshe Akin and Ezgi Turkchelik. The main aim of the training was to advance knowledge and skills of staff of support centers in providing services for victims of GBV/DV given the findings of the capacity assessment of Family Support Centers and NGOs conducted by the UNFPA Country Office. 

UNFPA training introduced professionals to approximately 20 sessions on the subjects such as hidden manifestations of gender-based violence, recognition of the psychological condition of the victim, templates of forms to be filled in to build referral and response mechanisms and so on. Risk assessment and safety planning were new subjects which participants got familiarized with. By the request of the participants which was raised during the “expectations” sessions on the first day, the practice of service provision in Turkey and experience of other developed countries were presented.

“Although we had some forms fully compliant with international standards, to mitigate the effect of the violence on victims, we will integrate more precise and comprehensive forms of risk assessments and safety planning upon arrival to duty stations. The standardized documents demonstrated by trainers today are perfect. I discovered a couple of blunders we had in forms and manners in treating violence victims,” highlighted Zemfira, an officer of one of the regional Family Support Center. She recalls the case when an occurrence of the physical harassment incidence was unveiled through social media.

 “With the prompt of the internet and social media, we need more tools to work in social media. These tools should be handy and able to assess potential victims so that we can refer them to relevant support bodies. People talk to us online, fearing the consequences of visiting our center. Only by chatting on social media with our community we were able to amplify our voice about this taboo topic.”

In addition, participants obtained information on short-term and long-term protection orders, identifying victim/survivor’s needs and developing an adequate individual plan, coordination and collaboration with other agencies, building and increasing victim’s trust and keeping confidentiality, working with children of the victims, how to interview and listen to the children accompanying victims, as well as on how and where to refer women who are experiencing violence.