Webinar #8: Updates from Around the Globe

82943GNWS COVID-19 Webinar Series

Speakers

  • Fatima Outaleb – Morocco
  • Ranjana Kumari – India
  • Onika Mars – Trinidad & Tobago
  • Vera Vieira – Brazil

Staffed by:

  • Ashley Slye – US NNEDV
  • Cindy Southworth – NNEDV

MENA

Fatima Outaleb talked about how the coronavirus crisis has dramatically increased domestic violence in Arab cities which were suddenly locked down and are ill-equipped to deal with the shutdown of travel and communication.

Women mainly work in the unstructured economy so do not have authorization to go out to work. However, men more than women are able to claim financial aid. Yet women have to find food and support their families.

The Ministry of Justice’s claim than domestic violence had gone down was exposed by activist who released figures showing reports of domestic violence had more than doubled after the lockdown.

Religious fundamentalist are proliferating rumors that COVID-19 is not real, while at the same time using the crisis to spread misogynistic, reactionary and hateful concepts.

Activists in Morocco used social media to publicize hotlines all over the country. Because of the lobbying work done by the network, the Ministry of Justice has created consultation platforms in local courts.

The pandemic has unveiled how far the MENA region is behind the rest of the world in progress towards gender equality.

Asia

Ranja Kumari talked about the silence of women, family pressure, and structural weaknesses in law enforcement and the justice system. These problems were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many women were already vulnerable are feeling suffocated, isolated and exhausted at now they have no space to breathe at home. Wife beating is very common, and accepted by 52% of women in India.

The National Commission of Women said 92,000 cases were reported to them after lockdown, double the figure before the crisis.

The government was unprepared to deal with the increase in domestic violence, and the virus response has been gender blind and shelters have been closed.

North America and the Caribbean

Onika Mars speaking from Trinidad and Tobago talked about how her organization, Women of Substance, has been working together with the police’s Gender-Based Violence Unit in response to the spike in domestic violence.

Women of Substance in partnership with another NGO is supplying free meals and food hampers to people affected, including single mothers.

So far Trinidad and Tobago only has 116 cases and 8 deaths. So far the government has handled the situation very well.

Latin America

Vera Vieira started by saying more than 50% of Brazil’s population of 200 million are of African descent, and they are suffering more from the pandemic. Yesterday over 1,000 people died from COVID-19.

The president is irresponsibly encouraging people to go back to work, and puts economic recovery above protecting people’s lives.

Domestic violence has increase 30%. Confinement has revealed the reality of sexual division of labor, in which women are responsible for most domestic work. Vera concluded that the future of Brazil is tragic.

GNWS webinar #7 “Fundraising to Keep Shelters Going during COVID-19”

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The seventh webinar in the GNWS series during the COVID-19 pandemic was on the topic of “Fundraising to Keep Shelter Services Going During a Public Health Crisis” on 6 May 2020 at 6:00 PM Washington, DC time.

Speakers

  • Cindy Southworth – NNEDV
  • Kaitlin Geiger-Bardswich – Women’s Shelters Canada
  • Ana Cruz – Asociacion Calidad de Vida (Honduras)
  • Riekje Kok – The Netherlands
  • Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi – Nigeria
  • Ang Jury – New Zealand

Delivering a consistent message and finding funders who identify with your cause are keys to funding at NNEDV. Cindy Southworth says it is important to first build a relationship with potential corporate donors by offering expert advice, tips on protecting staff who may be subjected to violence at home, and creating a peer partnership. NNEDV has seen an increase in funding during the COVID-19 crisis. Cindy added that a Facebook donation account is a useful source of revenue.

The Canadian National Network has seen a doubling in donations during COVID-19, with many new donors offering support. Kaitlin Bardswich said this was largely due to the Network’s high media profile in recent week, with the executive director appearing on television to talk about the issue of domestic violence during lockdown. The Network has been quoted in the media, published press releases, launched “make a mask” and “Giving Tuesday” campaigns, and worked on social media initiatives including Twitter storms by asking celebrities to share tweets. The Canadian government has also been very supportive, offering additional funding to support shelters.

The situation is very different in Honduras, where shelters are at capacity but lack government support. Most funding comes from international donors, said Ana Cruz. Shelters have produced social media info graphics to publicize their in-kind donation needs, including disinfectant, face masks and other supplies. During the crisis, shelter staff are working long shifts of 15 days a month.

In Nigeria, shelters are also struggling to stay open. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi reported that NGOs are struggling to persuade the government to give coronavirus control measures a gender perspective. Abiola has been able to raise a small amount of money (US$3,000) but most help is coming from local communities, with households opening their homes to survivors of violence when shelters cannot cope with the demand.

Meanwhile, as lockdown measures are being relaxed in the Netherlands and New Zealand, shelters are preparing for a new phase in the crisis, and a possible surge in demand as women who were unable to report domestic abuse while under lockdown can now leave their homes to seek help.

Reference materials

Evaluation

This brief 2-3 minute survey will help GNWS develop future webinars in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We appreciate your feedback.

Register for upcoming webinars

Webinars will now occur on a bi-weekly basis. The next is scheduled for 20 May 2020. Register at the links below.

 

Webinar #5 on serving survivors with COVID-19

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.

Speakers:

  • 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.

Q&A

  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.

Register for upcoming webinars here:

Is it safe for shelters to use Zoom?

Is it safe for shelters to use Zoom?

With people locked-down at home while COVID-19 rages around the world, the online meeting and webinar platform Zoom has become incredibly popular. At the same time, concerns over the application’s security issues have also hit the headlines.

Speaking at today’s GNWS Webinar on using technology (which was also held on Zoom), Erica Olsen from the US National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) said she frequently uses Zoom for internal work conversations and connecting with family and friends.

However, NNEDV does not recommend using Zoom for confidential conversations with clients, because (like many other applications) Zoom requires a download to your mobile device, which leaves a footprint that an abusive partner could find.

Although in theory it is possible to join meetings without downloading Zoom, it can be a very complex process. If an application has to be downloaded, it leaves a trace on your phone or device, so if the device is monitored by the abusive partner it will be visible.

The other problem is Zoom collects information about users, especially on its free service. There have been allegations of conversations being recorded and kept. So users need to be aware that Zoom is a third party company, over which you have no control.

On the plus side, because of the storm of negative media coverage over the past few weeks, Zoom has worked to make some of these concerns less problematic.

In terms of data that Zoom collects, including IP addresses, Zoom has a more secure option, but you have to sign into its business associate agreement to enjoy these. If you don’t have a corporate account, it may cost you quite a lot more.

NNEDV and other civil rights organizations are pushing for Zoom not to charge extra for privacy.

Zoom-bombing is also a concern. This is when someone takes over the screen of a group conversation with inappropriate content, or shouts inappropriate things in an open meeting. This can be avoided by changing the privacy settings. See NNEDV’s guidelines for preventing Zoom-bombing for details.

It is important to note that NO product is without risk, which is one of the reasons that NNEDV does not endorse products. Products are also constantly being upgraded, so their privacy, access, and security features will not be the same from week to week.

Depending on the survivors needs, the platform that will cause the least harm may be not be easily identified right away. It is important that with whatever product we use, we give survivors all of the information they need up front to make an informed decision.

Sometimes the low-tech solution is the best. If a phone call or a text message does the job, there is no need to go for the latest video conference application.

Being able to make an informed decision, means that survivors know the pros and cons of using the product in light of their situation. They need to understand the risks, and be given all of the information about how a platform may collect or share information.

 

Report on Webinar #4 “Using Technology to Support Victims during a Public Health Crisis”

Report on Webinar #4 “Using Technology to Support Victims during a Public Health Crisis”

Webinar 4 in the series of weekly online meetings organized by the Global Network of Women’s Shelters (GNWS) took place on Wednesday, April 15 at 6pm ET Washington DC. The topic was “Using Technology to Support Victims during a Public Health Crisis”. A total of 199 people from 40 countries joined the webinar.

Speakers:

  • Cindy Southworth, National Network to End Domestic Violence (USA)
  • Erica Olsen, National Network to End Domestic Violence (USA)
  • Karen Bentley, WESNET (Australia)
  • Malathi Das, SCWO, Singapore
  • Anthony Carlisle, Garden of Hope, Taiwan
  • Maria Munir, National Shelter Network, Ethiopia
  • Lise Martin, National Shelter Network, Canada

Repeating last week’s topic for a different time zone, the webinar addressed the question of how to use technology to help victims of gender-based violence within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers discussed good practices for online counseling, using technology safely, and protecting victims who are confined to their homes.

Karen talked about the need to ensure survivors were not leaving footprints on their mobile devices for abusers to follow. Shelter workers should check their clients are following safety protocols and regularly remind them to be vigilant. You should not assume that if sending text messages was safe last week it will be okay this week.

Reporting from Canada, Lise said the government has pledged C$50m to protection of survivors of domestic violence, including C$26m for 575 shelters. Most of the funding is flexible, and is being used by shelters for staff expenses, emergency relief for survivors and other expenses.

In Canada, shelters are using hotels with a member of staff being onsite 24/7 for support. In Quebec, for mothers in shelters, visitation rights for the abusive parent have been suspended. The shelter network has launched a poster campaign in pharmacies and supermarkets to reach survivors trapped at home.

Malathi updated the webinar on the situation in Singapore, which has seen a 33% increase in calls to the domestic violence hotline compared to the same period last year. Caused by factors related to the COVID-19 crisis, loss of income, and the partial lockdown, the increase in demand for help is putting a strain on social services.

In Taiwan, Anthony said the collapse of service industry was affecting women in particular. At the Garden of Hope, some 40 clients are on “unpaid leave”. Social workers have stopped all face-to-face meetings, which puts clients who are vulnerable to abuse at home in greater danger.

Anthony said that the government is concentrating on controlling the outbreak, which has been very successful so far. Unfortunately prevention of domestic violence is currently not a priority.

Erica addressed concerns about the safety of Zoom. Although NNEDV regularly uses Zoom (including this webinar) Erika said she would not recommend it for confidential conversations with clients because like many other video conferencing applications, it is difficult to use without downloading, and thus leaving a footprint on a mobile device.

Speakers also addressed the issue of using of code words (like “mask 19” in France) to alert pharmacists when making a call within earshot of an abuser. Unfortunately these code words also become widely known to perpetrators, so as a result some survivors are now unable to call their pharmacy for essential medication.

Q&A

Below are the questions asked in the Q&A box during the webinar with answers provided by the speakers.

  1. How secure (if at all) is using any type of video, chat, or text line for private client advocacy or therapy sessions given the recent concerns with security breaches and hacking. Is there a product you all endorse?No product is without risk and for this and many reasons, NNEDV does not endorse products. Products are continuously changing and we cannot verify if their privacy, access, and security features will be the same.

    Depending on the survivors needs, the platform that will cause the least harm may be not be easily identified right away. It is important that with whatever product we use, we give survivors all of the information they need up front to make an informed decision. Being able to make an informed decision, means that survivors know the pros and cons as it relates to their situation in utilizing the product. They will also understand the risks, and also be given all of the information about how a platform may collect or share information.

    It also means that you all need to consider your confidentiality obligations. For organizations in the USA: many products promote that they are HIPAA compliant, but that compliance isn’t the end all be all for programs governed under VAWA/FVPSA/VOCA. While again we cannot say if something is compliant or not, you can analyze if the features of any product has the abilities to meet your confidentiality needs. We have a Comparison Chart where we list products programs can assess if it would be a good tool for them.

  2. Hi, are there any specific videocall services that are recommended as considered safer to use with clients? What are your thoughts about using Skype and Facetime?If a survivor reaches out to you via these platforms then it is okay to engage, but it is important to let them know the risks and issues with doing so in that way. If you all are wanting to reach out to survivors then you are obligated by law to do this a thoughtful and to do this as safe as possible for survivors. It is important to use tools that have privacy, accessibility, and security in mind. We have a Choosing a Vendor Checklist that you can use to help you think about the features that Skype and Facetime have and use it to guide you in deciding if those tools will work for you. We have not had the capacity to do a deep dive into either one of those tools, but the vendor checklist will get you started.
  3. Are there legal ramifications to having conversations in less private ways, like over text or video conference?  Is this a form of waiving privilege?  I wonder if it opens the conversations up to easier subpoenas.It’ll be important to look at your privilege statute to see how and when privilege can be waived. Unless there is a conversation about specific legal information (a conversation that should remain between the professional and the survivor) in front of other people (say a group call, for example), it’s likely that the privilege will still stand. Regarding subpoenas, if you are a program that is funded by VAWA, FVPSA, or VOCA – a subpoena is not an exception to your confidentiality obligations. Anyone can send in a subpoena, but you still cannot share identifying or individual info about a survivor without a valid court order (signed by a judge) or when mandated due to a state statute. We do always want to make sure that we’re not using a third-party platform that has access to and retains the content of conversations, such as online chats. If they retained the information, a subpoena could be sent directly to them.

Next week

The next webinar in this series will be on “Serving women with COVID-19: What are the lived experience around the world?” to be held on April 22 at 11:00AM EST. Please register here.

Resources:

Webinar#4: Using Technology to Support Victims

Webinar#4: Using Technology to Support Victims

Webinar 4 in the series of weekly online meetings organized by the Global Network of Women’s Shelters will take place on Wednesday, April 15 at 6pm ET Washington DC (Thursday April 16 at 6am Taiwan, 8am Australia, etc.). The topic will again be “Using Technology to Support Victims during a Public Health Crisis”.

Register Here

Repeating last week’s topic for a different time zone, the webinar will address the question of how to use technology to help victims of gender-based violence within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers will discuss good practices for online counseling, using technology safely, and protecting victims who are confined to their homes.

 

Webinar #3: Using Technology to Support Victims

Webinar #3: Using Technology to Support Victims

The third in the series of weekly webinars hosted by the Global Network of Women’s Shelters (GNWS) took place on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at 9:00 AM Washington, DC, USA time. This time the topic was “Using Technology to Support Victims During a Public Health Crisis”.

The webinar addressed the question of how to use technology to help victims of gender-based violence within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presenters

  • Cindy Southworth, National Network to End Domestic Violence (USA)
  • Erica Olsen, National Network to End Domestic Violence (USA)
  • Karen Bentley, WESNET (Australia)
  • Paula van den Boom, SafetyNed (Netherlands)
  • Pille Tsopp-Pagan, Women’s Support and Information Center (Estonia)
  • Uma Shah, Saathi (Nepal)

Regional Updates

  • Joy Lange, St. Anne’s Home (South Africa)
  • Alicja Switon, Women Against Violence Europe

NNEDV presented their well-established tech accessibility program, which was ready to go when the coronavirus crisis hit. Erica said survivors should be offered multiple options, including text, chat, phone, and e-mail.

Karen shared good practices for online counseling, such as stabilizing the camera, using hand movements, dressing in the same way you would when visiting clients, and paying attention to the background. Helping clients understand that the session is over is also important, so as not to leave clients hanging.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia, there has been a huge increase in demand for the free smartphones WESNET offers survivors of violence, Karen said, adding that there is currently a market shortage of cheap smartphones.

Paula reported a 20-50% increase in domestic violence in locked-down European countries. We will only know full extent of the crisis after lockdowns are lifted, and women who were not able to make reports can get out of their homes. WAVE is currently conducting a survey into the situation.

In the Netherlands “intelligent isolation” is being promoted, which means teachers and social workers actively check on vulnerable children and women.

Pille noted that in Europe at the start of the pandemic helpline calls dropped, but later increased dramatically. This is a trend that has been noted in other disaster situations.

Resources from the Webinars

Q&A

What are the best programs for distance counseling with clients?
What’s going to work best for your program and the survivors you work with may be different than what works for someone else. What is available also changes by country. I’m not sure where you are located, but you can find some information and choosing and implementing digital services at the following links.

Do you have any recommendations for text lines our service can use? We are also getting less calls but have had a dramatic increase in violence in our community.
One option that many programs are looking into is ResourceConnect. They have a secure chat option as well as a text option built from a privacy by design framework so the company does not have any access to information or content shared.

We want to make sure facilitation with survivors is engaging, easily understood, and effective. What are some recommended tools or strategies to think through when deciding on platforms or applications to engage with survivors?
Here are some links from TechSafety.org on mobile advocacy using mobile phones and other mobile devices.

Previous Recordings

Below are the links to register for the upcoming weekly webinars with the Global Network of Women’s Shelters:

Registrants of the three webinars already held will receive an invite to join the GNWS announcement list if they are not already subscribed. This list is used to share information on upcoming webinars and other information.