Safe Families: understanding how violence can impact WASH


“Safe Families” is a community gender based violence reduction training package developed by International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) and Oxfam in the Solomon Islands. The Western Pacific Sanitation Marketing Innovation Program (WPSMIP) is the first project to pilot the training outside the Solomon Islands. So far two pilot training sessions have been held, one in Fiji and the other in Vanuatu. The feedback from the pilot training with WPSMIP staff will contribute to the development of a second, Regional Edition of the training.


The root cause of violence against women is grounded in inequality between men and women. Just like the rest of the world, gender inequality is widespread in the South Pacific. Gender inequality affects the health and welfare of women and girls through violence against women, lack of decision-making power, and unfair divisions of work, and leisure. Violence against women results in many negative outcomes for women, men and children. It negatively affects health and significantly impairs social and economic development. The website illustrates how violence can occur in the area of sanitation and hygiene:


The Safe Families training packages discusses violence against women in an  ‘ecological framework’ that consists of four connecting (concentric) circles that interact with each other to cause this violence. The inner circle represents the biological and personal history that affects a person’s behaviour in his/her relationships. The second circle represents the immediate context in which gender based violence takes place – usually in the family or other intimate relationships. The third circle represents the institutions and social structures, both formal and informal, in which relationships occur– the village, community, workplace, social groups. The last outermost circle is the economic and social environment which includes the social and cultural norms.

imageAn ecological approach to violence against women argues that no one factor alone “causes” this violence but rather that a number of factors combine to raise the likelihood that a particular man in a particular setting may act violently towards a woman. In the ecological framework, social and cultural norms such as those that assert men’s natural authority over women – combine with individual level factors – such as whether a man was abused himself as a child – to determine the likelihood of gender based violence. The more risk factors are present, the higher the likelihood of violence.

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The “Safe Familes” training was piloted with the WPSMIP staff through an action learning process where each staff member had to  facilitate a different session, which involves learning and reflecting on the material. After each session reflection and feedback is then done by the facilitator and the group to capture what was good about their facilitation skills and what needed improving. So by the end of the training the participants have had in-depth discussions about violence in families and communities, and also gained valuable experience in how to facilitate the “Safe Families” training package.


All the WPSMIP team staff are involved in the “Safe Families ” training, as gender and social inclusion is mainstreamed throughout the program. Personal reflection and learning cover the walls of the training room. At the end of the training each of the staff members are asked to reflect on how they will integrate the “Safe Families” activities into their work. Below is a reflection from David Coulon, WASH in Schools Officer for Live & Learn in Vanuatu, on how he considers the “Safe Families” training important for his work.


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