Gender-based violence (GBV), including intimate partner violence (IPV), is a global scourge, including among displaced people. For several years, the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) has been looking at whether giving survivors of GBV cash alongside case management will enhance their protection and well-being. Survivors can, among other things, use cash to pay for shelter away from abusers and access medical or legal services essential to their recovery.
In partnership with CARE Ecuador, and Ecuadorian NGOs CEPAM, Mujer y Mujer, and UNTHA, WRC recently wrapped up an evaluation of a cash assistance-integrated GBV program focused on supporting survivors of IPV. The project, which took place in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from February 2021 to May 2022, was funded by Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (Elrha)’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) programme. It supported 150 survivors of IPV, including cis and trans women who are migrants, refugees, and Ecuadorian nationals. The evaluation looked at several outcomes and impacts, including economic agency, well-being, and access to services. It included 93 survivors in the cash group—where survivors received US$100 in cash via ATM, with cash referrals integrated into GBV case management. Twenty survivors were in the control group, where survivors received traditional GBV case management without the cash component.
We found that the cash-GBV case management program model reduced IPV and improved economic capacity. IPV survivors in the cash group reported having earned more money in the past 30 days (a 15 percent overall increase over the evaluation period); being able to avoid returning to an abusive partner; having greater financial control and decision-making within the household, which in turn led to feelings of self-reliance and empowerment; and greater autonomy. Access to legal services was attained, helping to mitigate and in some cases prevent future exposure to IPV.
One of the Ecuadorian IPV survivors who received cash said: “I feel like a queen now. I swear to you, I was minimized when I was with my children’s father. I was beaten, I was abused, I was yelled at, mistreated. But now, as I tell my children, with money, I’m the queen, because with money you can pay your expenses.”
The control group relied more on coping strategies like borrowing money from family or friends and identified external drivers, for example, the GBV case workers as the driver of change; the cash group on the other hand more often identified themselves as the being in the driver’s seat.
We did see an increase in reported incidents of IPV—34 percent—over the evaluation period among members of the cash group; however, this was not caused by cash. It was likely due to both an increase in awareness following case management among survivors of GBV and an increase in COVID cases in Guayaquil—when women need to remain indoors with their aggressors, they can be at increased risk of exposure to GBV, including IPV.
While our study shows that cash can be supportive of recovery from GBV, cash alone is not enough. GBV case management was life changing and lifesaving for both the cash and control groups. Psychological counseling and survivor workshops significantly reduced survivors’ exposure to IPV and increased their knowledge of rights and their self-esteem, improved their skills in identifying patterns of abuse, and enhanced their feelings of empowerment.
Both the cash and control groups experienced improved mental health and increased autonomy, self-esteem, and resilience, and were more confident to stand up to and separate from their abusers. Not only were one-on-one GBV case management services key in survivors’ recovery, but activities such as art workshops that brought survivors together, were instrumental in their reduced sense of isolation, sense of empowerment, access to a support system, and capacity to dismantle internalized abuse.
Participants in the cash group were able to cover more of their basic needs compared to the control group, thus improving their well-being, as well as that of their children. IPV survivors in the cash group also increased their access to healthcare, including psychosocial support. Their physical, mental, and psychological health improved, as did their relationships with their children.
Cash will not be appropriate for every survivor, but when appropriate, it can be life changing and lifesaving.
The “Building Evidence on Integrating Cash and Voucher Assistance within GBV Case Management to Strengthen IPV Response for Urban Migrants and Refugees” project is funded and supported by Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) programme, a grant making facility which improves outcomes for people affected by humanitarian crises by identifying, nurturing and sharing more effective, innovative and scalable solutions. Elrha’s HIF is funded by aid from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Elrha is a global charity that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation. Visit www.elrha.org to find out more.