Welcome to Part 2 of our April 2023 Inspirational Interview with Elizabeth Dartnall, Executive Director of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) in South Africa.

Liz is a health specialist with over 20 years’ research and policy-making experience on health systems, mental health, violence against women, and violence against children. Having worked in several countries, in both government and research positions, Liz has a deep understanding of the policy process and the use of research to inform policy and practice. Since 2006, Liz has managed the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) and recently, with the support of multiple partners, launched SVRI as an independent NGO. Liz is committed to research and policy-making that is feminist, ethical, equitable, and partnership-based.

In this part of the interview, Liz discusses SVRI’s impact in changing how research into VAW is funded, produced, and disseminated–especially its efforts to direct research funds to lower and middle-income countries (LMICs)–as well as her organisation’s plans for the next five years. 

Part two of this interview was published April 2, 2023.

All photos are courtesy of SVRI.

6. What sort of impact has SVRI had on the approach and attitudes towards VAW on both the local level in South Africa and worldwide?

You could say we are contributing to shifts in the way research on VAW and VAC is conceived, undertaken, funded, disseminated, and put into action to achieve concrete, measurable, and sustainable change. One example is our granting work, through which SVRI has awarded more than USD $8 million to 75 research projects in 42 countries across the globe. We are committed to having the resources go to LMIC researchers in LMICs to ensure that we are helping to build evidence and research capacity in the places where the VAW burden is the highest and where the most work is needed to change the lives of women and children. All our grantees believe that their projects will impact the evidence base of gender-based violence (GBV) research and most of them have been able to forge relationships with decision-making stakeholders who have the power and resources to impact policy and practice on the ground. 


7. How do you think men and boys can help to end violence against women?

We know that men are the main perpetrators of violence against women and that this violence arises within and as part of patriarchal societies where gender norms normalise violence against women and girls. Engaging men and boys in violence prevention programmes can produce real world benefits. To be successful, this strategy must be implemented in an ethical and accountable way and centred on women’s and girls’ experiences and needs. It cannot be implemented just for the sake of involving men and as a silver bullet to end violence.

On the latest episode of our podcast, Taveeshi Gupta said: “We need to look at interventions and use them as an opportunity to have men critically reflect about their own privilege,” a sentiment we share.*

* Listen to the full discussion via episode 3 in the 2nd series of @TheSVRI podcast, in which Taveeshi Gupta, @equimundo_org & Emmanuel Karamage @rwamrec discuss engaging men and boys in violence prevention programmes.


8. Tell us about SVRI’s plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you have coming up in the next 5 years?

We see the next five years as being an extremely dynamic time for the organisation involving innovation, transformation, and expansion. We will:

  • continue to mobilise more resources to fund as many evidence building projects led by researcher/practitioners in LMICs as possible. 
  • continue to grow our capacity as a leading ‘go-to’ space for policy makers, researchers, funders, practitioners, and activists through the launch of a new website, increased social media communications, and sharing the incredible work being generated in the field through our weekly Update and other mechanisms.
  • seek to expand and strengthen our online learning platforms through adding new and exciting courses.
  • use our advocacy tools to promote increased and better funding for research that: acknowledges and addresses power dynamics; involves honest, transformative relationships between donors and grantees; and creates accessible and equitable processes that support priority driven research in LMICs led by LMIC researchers.

We also envisage that our work on wellness, resilience, and care, within the VAW and VAC field, will directly influence the field, leading to those working to address various forms of VAW and VAC being well and resilient and able to cope with the stress and trauma of this work.


9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support the efforts of SVRI to stop violence against women?

The Pixel Project’s supporters can support us by:

  • engaging with our resources including becoming members, downloading our podcasts, being part of webinars and events, or even taking our courses!
  • If supporters work in the field, they can let us know what works for them and the impact that our resources have on their work.
  • Writing and sharing a blog on your work.
  • Sharing their work, innovations, ideas, and connections so that we can continue to build a strong, collaborative, nurturing field where we are amplifying each other’s efforts and not duplicating them.


10. In your considered opinion, how can we end violence against women for good?

Ending VAW is difficult long-term work but we can do it through multi-faceted, evidence-based programming whilst at the same time continuing to provide survivors with access to quality, survivor-informed services. No single organisation, individual, or institution can end VAW on their own; we must have strong multi-sectoral partnerships pulling in one direction. This work must be led by strong feminist leadership, driven by principles around equity, ethics, human rights, inclusion and diversity, and grounded in a cooperative and nurturing field where collaboration, care, kindness, and support are key. 

There is no silver bullet. For sustainable change we must commit together to doing a lot, often, over a very long period of time, and what we do must be firmly grounded in the evidence of what we know works–and we know a lot. For example, research and VAW prevention in LMICs has shown us that successful programmes all seem to include the following: 

  • a strong theory of change that is grounded in the local context;
  • the use of participatory, group learning methods;
  • working with men, women and their families;
  • focusing on multiple drivers of violence;
  • rigorous implementation.

Current investment in VAW programming doesn’t match the size of the problem, with even less investment made on research into the issue. We must advocate for more resources for research on VAW, including political commitments and financing. Only by working together, by building evidence, supporting capacity strengthening, and promoting partnerships in the global south can we influence change and end VAW.