Indivisibility of Accountability and Empowerment in Tackling Gender-Based Violence: Lessons from a Refugee Camp in Rwanda


Ho, Anita, and Carol Pavlish. 2011. “Indivisibility of Accountability and Empowerment in Tackling Gender-Based Violence: Lessons from a Refugee Camp in Rwanda.” Journal of Refugee Studies 24: 88–109.

Authors: Carol Pavlish, Anita Ho


Informed by the capabilities approach and our own ethnographic research study conducted in collaboration with an international non-governmental organization that manages a Rwandan refugee camp, this article argues that accountability and empowerment play a dual and conditional relationship in human rights protection. On the one hand, accountability cannot be ensured when people lack the power to make their own choices and demand their rights; on the other hand, assurance of accountability and good governance is essential in empowering people and promoting their capabilities. Focusing on participants’ perspectives on the public health problem of gender-based violence, this article critiques the current accountability framework with its emphasis on transparent policy, surveillance mechanisms, and response to violations. Applying research participants’ experiences and suggestions, we expand the meaning of accountability to incorporate the capabilities approach in creating an accountability-enabling environment. This article argues that, in order to promote accountability with the aim of advancing the rights of women and girls, an empowering environment is needed that not only provides a formal process of holding perpetrators answerable for their actions but also enables people to demand their rights. The article ends by providing recommendations for agencies in furthering their work in promoting accountability and human rights.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugee/IDP Camps, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Governance, Justice, NGOs, Rights, Human Rights Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2011

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