On feminist friendship and feminist work: Making Waves member Emma Bell and her evidence reviews

One of the truly wonderful things about being part of an international, intergenerational feminist collective like Making Waves is seeing all the different ways women are bringing their skills, interests, passions and expertise to our movements for the rights of women, girls and gender-diverse people, and to support the transformation of gender power dynamics and gender norms.

In this blog, I want to profile Making Waves member Emma Bell and talk about one aspect of her work to support change.

Emma is an independent consultant focusing on HIV, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence and violence against women and girls, and feminist and women- and girl-led movements and networks. I should declare an interest here – I’m very lucky to co-consult with Emma on many projects we do together and with other members of Making Waves, and love our feminist friendship. But here I want to highlight her work in producing evidence reviews.

Emma is a queen of the evidence review. These evidence reviews are commissioned by people in decision-making positions, and are used to inform programming. They often influence what happens, and what funds are spent on, so they are pretty important.

Emma’s most recent evidence review looked at the evidence around different models of ‘one-stop centers’ to respond to gender-based violence. You can read it here:

Bell, E (2022) Research Query: One Stop Centers – Models, Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) and Guidance. GBV AoR Helpdesk. Gender Based Violence in Emergencies.

So what is in an evidence review?

Here’s a bit of a summary, using Emma’s latest review as an example.

In this case, the review gives a short history of one-stop centers, or OSCs, to provide some context about the original aims and intentions of this approach to GBV. It explains that in the US and UK, sexual assault response and referral teams were first developed in the 1970s with the objective of facilitating reporting and medical examinations for survivors, coordinating investigation and support services, and preventing survivor retraumatization when seeking care.

A little further along in the history, the vision of a Family Justice Center model was first proposed in 1989 in San Diego, California. It was believed that women who had experienced violence would have an easier time receiving needed services if they only had to go to one place to get all the necessary help as the current system was too hard for survivors to navigate. It was not until 2002 that the Family Justice Center opened in San Diego, a center where survivors of domestic violence could now come to one location to talk to an advocate, get a restraining order, plan for their safety, talk to a police officer, meet with a prosecutor, receive medical assistance, counsel with a chaplain, get help with transportation, and obtain nutrition and pregnancy services counseling.

In 2003, President George W. Bush announced the creation of the President’s Family Justice Center based
on the San Diego Family Justice Center model. The $20 million initiative began a movement toward more colocated, multi-disciplinary service centers and specifically set out to create fifteen additional Family Justice Centers around the United States. In 2006 the National Family Justice Center Alliance was launched as a program of the San Diego Family Justice Center Foundation and in response to the increasing demand for technical assistance from existing and developing Centers across the world.

Elsewhere, the original OSC was developed in a tertiary hospital in Thailand and aimed to provide acute
services to survivors of violence. OSCs were established in Malaysia in 1994, and the model was replicated
throughout South East Asia and Western Pacific regions. It has now been widely implemented with donor
support in several African countries, and similar models are emerging in Latin America. The majority of OSCs are hospital-based, typically within tertiary care facilities, while others are standalone centers that provide basic health services on-site and referrals for specialized and emergency services. Some OSCs are more strongly linked to the judicial system as in the case of the OSCs in Mongolia, Zambia, Delhi, Namibia and the Women’s Justice Centers in Latin America. They may be managed by the government or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or a combination.

In her review, Emma looks at the evidence about these different kinds of OSCs, including:

  • the strengths and challenges of the different models,
  • what is needed to create an environment in which OSCs can be effective,
  • the importance of aspects such as friendly, welcoming and respectful environments, trauma-aware care, sensitivity around HIV and responsiveness to intersectional needs, and
  • what factors can hinder the good implementation of the OSC model and stop it from achieving its intended results.

She provides examples of different kinds of OSC in practice, and lessons that can be learnt from their experiences. She also examines some of the Standard Operating Procedures for OSCs in different countries and contexts, and draws out good examples.

Finally, she briefly compares OSCs to the ‘Women and Girls’ Safe Spaces‘ that are part of some humanitarian responses and seek to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in ways that are holistic and gender-transformative. She highlights the core feminist ethics and principles governing ‘Women and Girls’ Safe Spaces’.

This is a systematic and measured way of reviewing existing evidence on an issue and drawing out lessons that can inform the actions of decision-makers, funders and programmers. It includes the kind of ‘formal’ evidence that is published in peer reviewed journals, and also the evidence produced by women’s rights organisations and women- and girl-led networks and movements (we are not so keen on the term ‘grey literature’ that is often used in academic and scientific circles to describe this kind of evidence – we think of it as lived experience literature that is woven from women’s lives). In all this, Emma upholds citational justice by drawing on and referencing the knowledge and priorities of women living with HIV in all their diversities and their networks and organisations, as well as the wider women’s movement.

So why write a blog about this? 

Feminist and gender-transformative work is so important, but is not always very visible. We are keen to show some of this work.

We also want to show what Making Waves members are doing that upholds the Generation Equality commitment we made last year, to advocating for and taking intersectional feminist and gender-transformative approaches to our work on HIV, collectively and individually. We committed to:

  • Highlighting in our work the links between gender inequality, GBV, HIV, SRHR and bodily autonomy, for women, girls, trans and gender-diverse people.
  • Researching and advocating on: feminist leadership (including young feminists) and feminist movements in the HIV response; funding and support for feminist HIV leadership and movements; and the importance of feminist HIV leaders and movements within Generation Equality actions to catalyse change for gender equality.
  • Amplifying gender-transformative and intersectional feminist work on HIV of organisations Making Waves members are part of, including Salamander Trust (Global), 4M Mentor Mothers (UK), Positive Young Women Voices (Kenya), Jacquelyne Ssozi Foundation (Uganda), Young Positives (South Sudan), Sinar Sofia (Malaysia), and other feminist networks of women, girls and gender-diverse people living with and affected by HIV.

Internally, we committed to:

  • Sharing intersectional and intergenerational feminist reflection, learning and insights amongst members of the Making Waves network, especially in relation to the links between HIV, VAWG, GBV, SRHR and bodily autonomy, mental health, and feminist leadership and movements.
  • Collectively and individually committing to feminist values and intersectional and intergenerational approaches in our work on HIV, especially in relation to the links between HIV, VAWG, GBV, SRHR and bodily autonomy, mental health, and feminist leadership and movements.

This blog, and Emma’s work, aligns with our Generation Equality commitment. Of course our commitment doesn’t stop here. Look out for more Making Waves blogs that share the importance of feminist friendship, our intersectional and intergenerational feminist reflection, learning and insights, and the links between gender inequality, GBV, HIV, SRHR and bodily autonomy, for women, girls, trans and gender-diverse people.

Written by: Fiona Hale

Peer reviewed by: Lucy Wanjiku Njenga, Luisa Orza, Joyce Ouma, Nunu Diana Alison, Martha Tholanah, Anne Mugo, Alice Welbourn.

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