31 Aug - 24 Sep 2021

Addressing domestic violence during COVID-19 through family strengthening programmes

filipemeirelles Family for Every Child • 31 August 2021

Domestic violence has been described as the “shadow pandemic” of COVID-19. The accompanying lockdowns and restrictive measures used to contain the spread of the virus, are also connected to increased risk factors for intimate partner violence and child abuse. Since the beginning of the pandemic, local civil society organisations worldwide have been working to prevent and address domestic violence during COVID-19, including by delivering new family strengthening programmes

Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD) in Sri Lanka, is one such organisation responding to this issue in their community. They implemented approaches aimed at supporting families to spend quality time together, and helped address underlying factors of patriarchal culture by concurrently working with men. They facilitated this through family recreational packs, a ‘Happy Family Programme involving home gardening and a social media outreach campaign to engage men as agents of change in their households and communities. Their programmes have seen positive effects as a result of more quality time, improvements in communication and sharing of household duties. You can download a package of learning about FISD’s approach via the latest How We Care Series: Prevention of Domestic Violence During COVID-19.

Civil society organisations have rapidly adapted to implement programmes and activities to reach children and families at increased risk of family violence; discussion and exchange on what is working on the ground is vital to help more organisations respond to this issue. Let’s use this discussion thread to explore preventative, family strengthening approaches to responding to the domestic violence pandemic. Tell us:

  • What programmes and initiatives have been implemented in your context to help strengthen family relationships and reduce the likelihood of violence during COVID-19?
  • What questions do you have for your peers about implementing family strengthening programmes?
  • What challenges have you faced?

Please comment below!

About the moderator: Champa Gunasekera is the Chairperson/General Secretary at Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FISD) in Sri Lanka. FISD has worked to prevent and respond to domestic violence for the past 10 years. Access a package of learning about their work addressing domestic violence during COVID-19 here. You can also access packages of learning from Bangladesh and Guyana.

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Fran Mhundwa Family for Every Child

Thank you for sharing this Champa. This sounds really interesting! I was wondering - does the programme target violence against children specifically vs against women/mothers/female care-givers? 

Champa Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FSID) Moderator

Hi Fran, Thanks for your interest. The program specifically targets on violence against women and girls in general with a focus on overall benefits to family and community, as such prevention of domestic violence through the happy families model ensures that children are safe and that they too actively engage in changing family power structure through children led activities. 

Fran Mhundwa Family for Every Child

Champa, that really sounds great. The involvement of men as allies and an important part of the solution is a great strategy. Keep up the great work!

Georgina Etheridge

Thank you [~47] this is such brilliant work from FISD. You have clearly taken a wide-ranging and creative approach by working with whole families during the pandemic to strengthen relationships. What plans do you have to continue this work in the future and maintain the positive momentum you have built up?

It was also fascinating to learn more from your recent podcast episode https://changemakersforchildren.community/topic/conversations-care-epis…

I know that Praajak in India have been doing some excellent work in this field also, such as their Kabaddi for Empowerment programme, tackling entrenched gender stereotypes, and associated study circles, to combat discrimination and violence. [~86]  ChildLinK too with their Building Family Bonds workbook. [~51] 

Champa Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FSID) Moderator

Hi Georgina, Thank you for the encouraging comments.

The program itself is based on the community empowerment model. There are plans in  row to build individual capacity and knowledge of both women and men (including youth and children) in target locations through creative awareness visuals to support discussions on thematic areas like Selfcare, online Family relationship strengthening programs and online training programs on SGBV and case management. Village Alert Groups and Women Collectives have been created in project areas and these groups have been undergoing capacity strengthening processes through capacity development, knowledge building on SGBV, service coordination with service providers , case management, network-building and sharing of good practices and learnings. These groups are also engaging men and boys as allies  and as community response groups in villages with constant coordination with government service provision mechanisms such as divisional level and district level Vigilante Committees. Even during the pandemic , the women led  community groups were quite active and are been further strengthened to integrate the ongoing work with other CBOs and women societies at community level and women federations at district levels, though influencing (incorporating these value systems and sensitivities and mechanisms )  their organizational mandates and action plans.

Nicole Ristic Family for Every Child

Hi [~47] thank you for sharing this. I'm wondering what the response has been like from different family members (kids, fathers and mothers) at a conversational/practical level?  Thanks so much again!

Champa Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FSID) Moderator

Dear Nicole,

Engaging in activities as a family together was quite new.   During the online conversations with the communities we could listen to some positive stories.

There were many males who claimed that they did not feel going out drink alcohol.

There were few others who said they enjoyed helping their spouses in house chores

Some men said they enjoyed working together as a family valuing family time together.

There were women who said they were happier at home.

There were children who expressed that they were very happy having a violence free home environment

Lopa Bhattacharjee Family for Every Child

Hi Champa, thank you for sharing such an interesting model of FISD in preventing domestic violence through the approach of strengthening families and contributing to a safe and nurturing environment for children in their families. [~47] - how do you think we can bring the attention to children within the context of violence in family settings because as we know often have a direct impact of violence through either witnessing or experiencing themselves? 

Champa Foundation for Innovative Social Development (FSID) Moderator

Hi Lopa,

Thanks for your question. Our  programme mainly aims at prevention of violence. We work with both children and adults. It is a long slow and careful process we take them through. On one hand we provide opportunities for children  through child clubs to gain knowledge, skills and attitudes to be able to protect themselves as well as others from violence. In this we would  facilitate to make them understand on different types of violence, protecting themselves, protecting others, resilient factors,  life skills and  service providers, etc. Simultaneously,  we capacitate parents on the same lines through the Child Friendly Committees and other platforms who take responsibility to the community protection mechanism.  This is an effort to  minimize violence as much as possible in every setting.  We also provide information on good parenting, family  and community relationship building skills. This process leads towards capacitating a resilient child, family and community.  There are many positive outcomes  where certain amount of behavioral change towards children is observed. The challenge is to sustain and or improve the positive non violent behaviour  towards children once we exit from the community. Strengthening the Child Friendly committees and other platforms  is seen as an answer.

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