While information can attest to the severity of need and call people to action, it can also be collected, stored and shared in a way that violates safety and ethical standards for data collection. These challenges are particularly acute when it involves survivors of gender-based violence. Not only is survivor consent often missing in the data collection process but identifying details about the survivor and service provider are also often shared.
To meet the demand for data while protecting survivors and service providers, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), UNFPA and UNHCR collaborated to create a data management system that would enable service providers to safely and ethically collect, store, analyse and share data on reported incidents of gender-based violence. This inter-agency initiative is known as the Gender Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS). With the help of a consent form, the system emphasises survivors’ control of their information beginning with the initial client meeting.
The GBVIMS also provides a mechanism for service providers to share compiled data in a safe and ethical manner through the development of an information sharing protocol that clarifies what data will be shared, with whom, and for what purpose.
Taking into consideration the resources available in humanitarian settings, the GBVIMS was developed to employ simple, long-existing technology. By using Excel as the hub of the system, instead of an elaborate database, the technology can be more easily utilised in the field, in particular in settings where there is infrequent access to the internet and computer skills may be basic. Utilising simple resources such as Excel ensures the system’s sustainability even with staff turnover. Furthermore, to accommodate the need that some offices have to transfer files between locations, IRC developed a carbon copy data intake form that allows the safe transfer of paper files, removing all identifying information but still allowing for data entry.
The challenge ahead is to ensure the systematic uptake of the GBVIMS that will allow the humanitarian community to establish new norms for client protection and generate valuable information.
The GBVIMS tools and more information about the system can be found at www.gbvims.org