Video and Q&A from the “Coronavirus and women’s shelters: Planning, preparation and response to the COVID-19 pandemic” webinar

The Global Network of Women’s Shelters (GNWS) and Asian Network of Women’s Shelters jointly organized a webinar on “Coronavirus and women’s shelters: Planning, preparation and response to the COVID-19 pandemic” on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. 8-9:30PM Taiwan time. 

Seven hundred people from all over the world registered for the webinar. The following is the video of the event and answers to some of the questions posted online by participants. We are planning to hold another webinar at 6PM Taiwan time on Wednesday April 1.


  • What happened to the financial resources of the shelters? Did they completely stopped or the government took part?
    In Taiwan the government has continued to support shelters as normal, and helped supply them with free thermometers, masks and alcohol sanitizer. Other equipment such as gloves, protective clothing, visors etc must be purchased by the shelters.
  • Does the shelters with their own resources took care of the costs of caring for those who are infected?
    Officially the government should do that, but in practice there are some gaps in what they give.
  • How did you manage the behaviour challenges, anxiety, acting out?
    GOH has counselors and spiritual counselors who visit the shelters to provide support and prayer for the residents.
  • What kind of support/collaboration did you need from your government?
    The government needs to help prepare quarantine facilities for confirmed cases, and alternative accommodation if the shelter has to be evacuated.
  • Are you reusing masks? Or did everyone get fresh masks daily?
    In the shelters the government provides free masks. For the public, the government is rationing masks, everyone can buy 3 a week. Most people are reusing masks for 2-3 days before disposing them.
  • What type of masks are provided and what training?
    Medical masks, not N95 respirators, but good enough for general use. Training is the same as WHO recommendations – use with good hand hygiene, don’t touch the front of the mask, etc.
  • In Alberta we are being told to only use masks on those who are infected or suspected of infection.
    Taiwan is producing 13 million masks a day, but even then the government is still rationing them to the public. In countries where there is a shortage of masks, we can understand why the authorities are channeling them to health workers and suspected cases only.
  • How many times per day do you apply sanitation measures?
    It is done in the morning, lunchtime, and afternoon/evening. Surfaces that everyone touches, including handles, switches, tables, computer keyboards, etc are sterilized with alcohol spray. Floors in the clients’ rooms are done with bleach in the morning and evening.
  • Was this structure for response already in place before?
    Yes, since the SARS crisis these protocols have been ready. Every winter the government also provides free influenza vaccines to shelters, and N95 masks for children who develop a fever.
  • Are there any contingency plans if you end up with a lot of survivors? The distancing may be difficult if the shelters are at full capacity or even more.
    We are making plans for two possible scenarios – either move everyone to a separate care center for quarantine, or if there is enough space keep everyone in the shelter in separate spaces.
  • What are the testing policies in place. Universal testing, weekly testing, testing after symptoms, testing only of those in vulnerable populations?
    In Taiwan there is testing for (1) suspected cases, (2) people who have been in contact with confirmed cases, (3) anyone coming in from overseas.
  • Is food served with disposable utensils?
    Some shelters are using disposable plates etc, others give residents their own utensils which they wash themselves.
  • What can we do if we are receiving push back from funders on protocol? For example, we are being told that we are violating residents’ rights by taking clients temperatures and that if we quarantine clients on one certain level of the shelter this could be discrimination that is an issue we are facing. Please send us the info and we can help raise awareness on our social media sites and other networks.
  • In USA we are not allowed to ask clients these questions because of VAWA rules. So how do we really stay safe?
    So far this hasn’t been an issue in Taiwan. We would need to defer to our colleagues in North America for advice on client confidentiality regulations.
  • Hello from Ontario, Canada. We are not on official lockdown yet. Most people are practicing self-quarantine. Because we are not on lockdown, we are reluctant to enforce that women stay in shelter. How would you recommend we move forward? Is it ethical to enforce self-quarantine on women in shelter for the safety of all there?
    See above.
  • Hello from Slovakia, I have a question about child custody and visitation rights: if and how do your governments or courts deal with the question of visitation rights of abusive men who have court decisions defining their visitation rights and insist on seeing their children and/or taking them to their households for the weekend or longer period of time in case of joint custody? Are there any regulations on that in any of the participating countries?
    There isn’t a lockdown in Taiwan at the moment so we haven’t had to face issues of rights and ethics yet.
  • In Mongolia we have very few cases and no community transmission yet, so now is truly the time for preparation. What are some things you wish you did before outbreaks? Hopefully, we can learn from your experience and prepare well. Thanks.
    Prepare supplies and resources, including food, train your staff, residents and children, teach and practice social distancing. The most important thing is sanitizer hand wash and masks.
  • What’s the possibility of having more domestic violence and how to handle it?
    This is a real possibility. Employers need to check up on staff working at home to make sure they are safe. The social welfare system also needs to deliver heightened protection services.
    Comment from a participant: In Lazio and Campania we are experiencing a dramatic decrease in phone calls and access of women subjected to SGBV, 80% less than usual. We activated all possible alternatives to phone calls, and promoted them online, to allow women to contact us through emails, SMS, WhatsApp, Messenger and even social media as Telegram and Tictoc. As for migrant women, survivors of SGBV, including human trafficking, we are sending messages and videos in different languages to provide information on the lockdown measures and the possibility to ask for help. We agree that this is the moment to push for authorities to apply the laws on protection measures for women, believing survivors and forcing men to leave houses.
  • I have a question about local communities with high underserved populations, e.g., rural, indigenous. Have your shelters accepted new clients and if so, how can underserved communities access the shelter, e.g., transportation to shelter, acute trauma medical needs, separation from abuser if necessary, etc., when under a government-ordered lockdown?
    So far thankfully we haven’t faced this situation in Taiwan yet.
    Comment from participant: In the midst of the crisis, people with oriental features belonging to north east part of India are forced to flee and look for alternate shelters. They are suspected to be carriers of the virus and hence asked to vacate rented places. Housing / rights to reside are being violated. Government, police are being strict with such perpetrators of such abuse. Racism, discrimination and abuse are off shoots of the pandemic which will require long term support.
  • Do you recommend moving to a model where essential staff live in shelter?
    No. We wouldn’t recommend that unless the staff were quarantined with the residents.
  • Have domestic violence shelters made any changes in their policies with rape crisis centers?
    So far no.
  • Are you providing food for the women who are being housed outside of the shelter?
    Not at the moment, no.
  • Would he be possible to email a script of this after?
    Yes, we will send out an email with the recording and transcript
  • How do counsellors reach out with psycho social care to women in distress?
    Social workers and counselors have cut down or stopped home visits and transferred to using video conferencing or telephone calls.
  • What are you doing to prevent the crisis and spread and to support clients with programming in the shelter?
    At the moment, education, hygiene, distancing, health checks, communicating online etc.
  • Is it better to medically examine women survivors of violence before we can provide shelter services for them, or is it better to ask that they have an isolated rooms until the health is confirmed?
    In Taiwan we are following the protocol of temperature check and TOCC questions before entering the shelter, then get a test if they are suspected, and either send them for medical treatment or isolate in the shelter. Please see the presentation slides for details.
  • Some children from children shelters went home only the orphans are left with us. So what measures could be taken when they come back?
    In Taiwan shelters would follow the same protocol as above.
  • We only have one medium/long term shelter in Solomon Islands. If there is a confirmed case in shelter, does the entire shelter need to close while everyone is quarantined for 14 days? And how then would we ensure service continuity?
    If the shelter has the space to allow residents and staff to stay safely apart then it can become a quarantine center, if not, then we suggest contingency plans for alternative accommodation such as a hotel.

Presentation slides and other documents:

Other resources


  • Ni Hsin, Mustard Seed Mission (MSM), Taiwan
  • Anthony Carlisle, The Garden of Hope Foundation (GOH), Taiwan
  • Chi Hui-Jung, Global Network of Women’s Shelters
  • Cindy Southworth & Erica Olsen, National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), USA
  • Marcella Pirrone, D.i.Re, Italy
  • Margaret Augerinos, Center for Non-Violence, Australia
  • Fatima Outaleb, UAF Shelter, Morocco
  • Margarita Guille, Red Interamericana de Refugios, Mexico
  • Maria Munir, AWSAD, Ethiopia

Many thanks to NNEDV for hosting this event.