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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2015 Bangladesh: VAC Evaluation: Bangladesh Case Study

Executive summary

Protecting Children from Violence: A Comprehensive Evaluation of UNICEF’s Strategies and Programme Performance, Bangladesh Country Case Study

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Some 90% of all children in Bangladesh have been subjected to physical violence at least once in their lives.  Violence is common at home and in public areas, including schools. Three-quarters of all children interviewed in a survey in 2009 reported that physical punishment of children occurred in their homes.  For working children, one-quarter reported that physical violence took place in the workplace. Violence is common against both boys and girls, including sexual violence.  There is considerable awareness of the high levels and worrisome nature of Violence Against Children (VAC) in Bangladesh, including problems associated with socially sanctioned violence (that is, violence that is deemed to be acceptable and not violent) and high levels of non-socially sanctioned violence (that is, violence that is deemed to be unacceptable in terms of local social norms).  The 2013 Children’s Act includes actions designed to guide the development of child protection systems, strengthening the enabling environment, improving coherence in the legal and policy arenas, and building local, capacitated structures on the ground.  The Act has been carefully aligned with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 


UNICEF commissioned an independent evaluation to assess (a) the adequacy of UNICEF’s global and regional strategies in protecting children against violence and their application at the national level, (b) UNICEF’s leadership, leveraging and convening roles, and (c) the design, implementation and results of UNICEF-supported programmes addressing VAC, considering aspects of both prevention and response, (d) identify dominant programme models being implemented in various contexts and to (e) provide forward-looking conclusions, lessons and actionable recommendations. The evaluation concentrates on VAC in the family/household and the community, including both the public and private spheres. This includes sexual, physical and mental violence as well as harmful traditional practices and deliberate neglect and/or maltreatment by the caregiver. The evaluation does not cover self-inflicted violence, child labour and child marriage prevention, but does include VAC within these settings. The analysis of results through country programmes focused mainly on systems strengthening, social norms change, monitoring/research/evaluation/use of data, as these were the key result areas for addressing VAC in the MTSP. In addition, this evaluation looks at advocacy, leadership and partnerships and at equity as cross-cutting issues.

The evaluation provides concrete inputs to a forthcoming management review of the CP Strategy and to implementing the child protection objectives within the 2014-2017 strategic plan. Furthermore, it informs UNICEF’s positioning and future direction with regard to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG target 16.2 that reads “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children”. At the country level, the evaluation informs country-level policy and programme development and response over the coming years.

The current report covers one of four in-depth country case studies.


Following an extended review of country and international documentation, two weeks of intensive fieldwork was conducted in Bangladesh, comprised of interviews with key informants and focus groups with a wide range of individuals. These ranged from senior and sub-national Government officials, to international and national NGO representatives, from UNICEF and other UN staff, to community-based committees, groups and children.

The evaluation considered child protection programming beginning with the previous country programme, as well as the 2012-2016 current Country Programme.  For the 2012-2016 period, the Country Programme Outcome for Child Protection is “by the end of 2016, children, women and youth, especially those from the 20 selected districts, demand and benefit from effective social protection policies and improved services aimed at eliminating abuse, neglect, exploitation, and trafficking”.  Five approaches were noted to achieve this intended outcome:

  1. Systems to prevent and respond to violence improved.
  2. Programmes implemented to prevent and respond to violence with good coverage.
  3. Systems of justice for children improved.
  4. Social acceptance of practices harmful to children reduced.
  5. Disaggregated baseline data on child protection indicators incorporated in national development plans and reports to the committee on the rights of the child.

Findings and Conclusions:

The evaluation concludes that UNICEF/Bangladesh has integrated VAC into child protection programming targeting priority groups, including girls in child marriages, children subject to corporal punishment at school, and children in exploitative labour.   It has worked with a number of community-based actors in priority locations to reach these children.  And it has made progress in terms of the overall enabling environment, including supporting passage of the 2013 Children’s Act.  It has also focused on improving formal systems of child justice and protection for children who have been subjected to violence.   

Despite the emphasis on systems strengthening as the core of country office implementation, for child protection and VAC programming this has been undermined by a funding system and cycle that is still project based, affecting fundraising, fund allocations, staffing, and field projects.

On the whole, only relatively small numbers of children affected by VAC have been reached via UNICEF programming, due to key constraints associated with the following:

  • Despite agency commitment to systems strengthening, within child protection there has been scarce attention to the linkages between project activities and overall systems strengthening;
  • Insufficient attention to the less formal elements of child protection systems, and on building on positive social norms; 
  • Inadequate results monitoring across programme areas;
  • Weak focus on working across sections in UNICEF and with other UN agencies in VAC programming;
  • While there are what appear to be some high quality projects in the field, efficiency is undermined unless the UNICEF/Bangladesh-supported actions are adapted and adopted by Government and civil society.


  1. Continue to devote resources and attention to policy implementation and compliance with the requirements of the Children’s Act, linked to the CRC.  Institutional strengthening should continue to be a key priority. 
  2. UNICEF/Bangladesh should assess and continue mapping the child protection system , including formal and less formal actors and system components, and including potential actors who may have a more important role to play in future child protection programming.  The Theory of Change should be fully elaborated.  Endeavour to improve partner organisation results monitoring.  Strengthen results monitoring within the Child Protection Section. 
  3. UNICEF/Bangladesh should wind down child protection activities that do not contribute more broadly to systems strengthening, unless there are other reasons for retaining these activities. 
  4. UNICEF/Bangladesh needs to design VAC programming that encompasses more formal and less formal systems that affect VAC, covering both prevention of violence and the response.  Expanded systems mapping represents an important opportunity in this regard, with specific attention to understanding the roles, responsibilities, power bases, and potential for local actors. 
  5. UNICEF/Bangladesh should devote more attention to programming actions designed to strengthen positive social norms and build responses that rely on these positive norms, dealing with the social and economic factors behind negative social norms and changing the discussion in this regard, and considering the sustainability of interventions in terms of government buy-in and efficiency of expenditures.  
  6. UNICEF/ Bangladesh Child Protection Section should lead planning actions designed to yield integrated VAC programming for the next programme implementation period from 2017.

Lessons Learned:

  1. UNICEF/Bangladesh has committed itself to a systems strengthening approach to all of its programming, including child protection.  VAC programming has been integrated into child protection, and plays a prominent role.  However, project activities are not clearly connected to the strengthening of overall child protection systems. In a situation where few children in need are reached through formal child protection mechanisms (e.g., removal from the risk environment, finding a place of safety, prosecuting offenders, protecting children in trouble with the law, etc.), the focus on enabling formal systems, while critical, is insufficient, without considered attention to less formal systems. 
  2. For VAC, there are information gaps that hamper programming. Results monitoring is uncommon in project activities and in terms of the effects of policy and legal developments, especially with projects supported by UNICEF/Bangladesh.  Programme design during the period under investigation reflects a weak evidence base.  However, in the period following the evaluation, the Child Protection Section focused time and resources on the development and evidencing of a Theory of Change guiding child protection programming overall, which reflects a substantial improvement on the previous situation.  There are particular weaknesses in monitoring systems in government and among some of the smaller non-state actors which needs focused attention if UNICEF/Bangladesh’s commitment to results monitoring wants to translate into improved results monitoring.  
    [see more in Executive Summary]

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Child Protection - Violence and Abuse



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