Webinar #5 on serving survivors with COVID-19

The fifth webinar in GNWS’s weekly series on “Serving survivors with COVID-19 – sharing success stories and challenges from around the world” took place yesterday, April 22 at 11:00pm Taiwan time.


  • Pat Vargas (Canada)
  • Margarita Guille and Monica Jasis (Mexico)
  • Famitam Outaleb (Morocco)
  • Lisbeth Jessen and Mette Mrarie Yde Poulson (Denmark)
  • Cindy Southworth (USA)
  • Ruth Ozery (Israel)
  • Adine Samadi (Sweden)
  • Joy Lange (South Africa)

Pat introduced the two kinds of shelters in Canada, crisis shelters which are communal living homes with shared facilities, and transitional housing, which are independent units. The shelter network was able to get funding from the government to help equip shelters with wifi, get computers for children so they could do their homework, and other supplies and resources to ensure the shelters stay open. Pat added that Canada’s shelters have adopted COVID-19 prevention practices from Taiwan.

Margarita reported that the consequences of special measures introduced by some Latin American countries are placing restrictions on shelter staff getting to work, limiting access to food, and increasing risks and stress for shelter staff. The Latin American shelter network RiRE has seen a drop in helpline calls in lockdown situations because it is difficult for women to reach out when they are being monitored by their abuser at home.

Monica gave some recommendation to deal with anxiety issues during the COVID-19 crisis, such as designating one provider per case, initiating counseling services first while explaining the new limitations on social distance, and then implementing COVID-19 prevention protocols.

Speaking from the MENA region, Fatima said the ABAAD Helpline has launched a #LockdownNotLockup campaign with banners held from balconies and messages of solidarity for victims, to raise attention about the increase in domestic violence, and ask the government to take action.

In Jordan, the #WeAreOneAtHomeAndOutside campaign has highlighted the role family members can play to change violent behaviors and stereotypical gender roles within the home. Jordan has kept their shelters open, but the residents must go through a government health check to enter the shelter.

In Denmark, Lisbeth and Mette reported that shelters also have a screening protocol, but have prepared additional space to house COVID-19 cases to keep them separate from other survivors.


  1. Our concern is how the lockdown is inhibiting the ability of women to call for help. How do women reach out for help in Canada and have any additional contact channels been opened?
  • Most of our crisis line are reporting lower numbers of call. However, in some areas, as soon as they increased the time of isolation, there was a rise in numbers.  Google reported a 70% increase on searches about domestic violence.  Some shelters are using texting to reach out. This is the question of the day!  How do we reach those women in isolation? How can we safety plan?  Perhaps we can start putting info on our websites. Some organizations are getting together to strategize on how to reach women… we just need to be careful not to put the woman in more danger.
  • Yes, I think it is a good idea to post information to websites. We are also creating digital communities for women where they have other kind of topics among them DV.
  1. How are people promoting safety when shelters and/or hotel vouchers are not available and technology is limited?
  • Some organizations have strategized around access to food through food banks—this may allow an advocate to connect with the woman and briefly safety plan. Advocates can also train food pantry workers in identifying signs of domestic violence and offering information. Puerto Rico recently launched a campaign addressing neighbors—where they should actively be promoting the safety of women and children and contacting police when they see or hear something.
  • In Minnesota, USA, the state domestic violence coalition, Violence Free Minnesota, developed materials to distribute to retailers deemed essential (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) that inform workers on domestic violence and supporting potential victims. Many organizations have also had information posted in bathrooms at these essential services. In Italy, they developed a new campaign to let people know DV shelters were still open. Campaigns could also be done in partnership with television and radio stations.
  • Prior to government issued lockdowns and as some places re-open, organizations have used this as an opportunity to reconnect with the education system (teachers, principals, etc.), providing them information on domestic and sexual violence services and the helpline number.
  1. Are there any Standards Operating Procedures, guidelines, or lessons learned on the management of shelters for survivors of GBV that people can share?
  • One is being developed for the Latin American region. A few organizations/countries have developed some, one is the Red Nacional de Albergues de Violencia Doméstica in Puerto Rico.
  • As information becomes available and best practices are recognized, we will share this information via the webinar series.

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