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WHO steps up research guidelines on violence against women: data collection helps inform policies and programs

Following a meeting of international experts in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization (WHO) intends to release upgraded guidelines for researching violence against women including the use of remote technologies.

Under the theme, “Re-visiting safety and ethical recommendations for in-person and remote research on violence against women,” WHO convened a meeting of expert advisers at its headquarters in Geneva earlier this month.

The gathering discussed and evaluated the use of remote data collection methods in violence against women surveys – its advantages, limitations, safety and other challenges and lessons learned.

The meeting was prompted by concerns regarding the increased flurry of research on violence against women that began during the pandemic.

Dr. Valerie Knowles from the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) was invited to attend. She was accompanied by Etoile Pinder from Sanigest International, a CSJP-contracted firm from the private sector.

“It was important to note that the pandemic upended the ability to conduct many of the standard research methodologies,” said Knowles.

“Out of safety concerns for both researchers and respondents, research was usually conducted using remote data collection methods, at times without proper attention to scientific standards, and without the safety and ethical protocols needed to ensure high-quality data collection while protecting the confidentiality and safety of the participants.

“In some countries, even with these limitations, there were many sweeping, authoritative statements made about violence against women during the pandemic.”

The WHO agenda aimed to identify key areas and aspects of its existing ethics and safety guidance/documentation that need to be updated, and to draft recommendations to address those gaps.

Once completed, the guideline is expected to be shared with all stakeholders involved in researching violence against women.

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