Interview: “Data collection is essential for informing work to end violence against women”
Lirie Dina is a lawyer at the Center for Civic Legal Initiatives (CCLI), an Albanian organization that provides free psycho-social and legal services to women survivors of violence and advocates for improving legislation in the field of violence against women and gender equality. Since 2020, Dina has provided free primary and secondary legal aid to vulnerable groups in society, particularly women who have experienced violence. She has also been engaged in monitoring the implementation of the law on measures against violence in family relations and the law on legal aid guaranteed by the state. In this interview, Lirie Dina highlights the crucial importance of data collection for advocating to end violence against women – a pillar of work undertaken within UN Women’s regional programme on ending violence against women “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds,” funded by the European Union.
How important is data to inform advocacy work to prevent and respond to violence against women?
Data enables us to assess the situation related to violence against women in any given country. It reveals to policymakers and state and non-state actors the gravity of the problem and provides comprehensive information on the prevalence, causes and consequences of all types of violence against women. It is essential for developing effective legislation, creating strategies and protocols for the implementation of legislation, and advocating for where and how to target funding and support. Data also informs policymaking and the development of tools to prevent violence against women and protect potential victims. For instance, according to recent reports, domestic violence in rural areas is barely reported. As a result, we are conducting several information sessions in rural communities to raise awareness on the latest amendments to relevant legislation, how to report domestic violence and the rights guaranteed by the law on measures against domestic violence. Using data within advocacy or awareness-raising efforts can help show women they are not alone and encourage other survivors to report their cases and access services.
Can you give us some examples that led to positive results?
One of the purposes of collecting data is to identify and share good practices. For example, we monitor the usage of international standards by the Judicial District Courts, as intended by the Istanbul Convention, and use that data in trainings organized by CCLI for judges, lawyers and civil society representatives to demonstrate how lawyers and judges can utilize and refer to those standards in their work.
In 2021, CCLI monitored the implementation of the law on measures against domestic violence, specifically risk assessments and the issuance of preliminary protection orders in Tirana, Durres and Shkoder. The monitoring process helped us identify practices not in compliance with legislation and also served as on-the-job training for police officers to fill the gaps in the risk assessment process. Eventually, it resulted in strengthened coordination among actors managing cases of domestic violence.
How can we use data gathered from monitoring the implementation of the domestic violence law?
Data collection from monitoring the domestic violence law is essential for informing the work and approach of the authorities when it comes to preventing and responding to violence against women. In particular, it creates better coordination by identifying and improving practices not in compliance with national legislation and international standards, as well as identifying good practices that can be shared with authorities at local and central levels. Monitoring data is used to design new policies to protect and support victims, such as social services, health-care services, social welfare, legal services and other specialized services. Systematic data collection, which is done on a regular and long-term basis, serves as a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of existing policies whether they are working towards preventing and combating domestic violence.
In addition, the Istanbul Convention obliges state parties to collect disaggregated relevant statistical data at regular intervals and support research in the field of all forms of violence. In this sense, data collection supports the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
What are currently the main challenges and areas of opportunity in collecting data and putting data to work for advocacy?
There are many difficulties when it comes to institutions collecting official data on cases of domestic violence. Some institutions have set up data collection and processing systems, while others have not. For example, we encounter many difficulties in obtaining domestic violence data from the judicial system. Meanwhile, in municipalities, due to high staff turnover, there is a lack of human resources responsible for registering data.
Since much of the data on domestic violence relies on survivors’ self-reporting, the first challenge relates to the shame and stigma survivors often face in coming forward, as well as the inadequacy of services to address survivors’ needs.
Despite the difficulties in obtaining official data, CSOs have the opportunity to conduct their own data collection exercises, both to support their own work and to inform advocacy efforts with state and local authorities.