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We are a consortium of two organisations, Social Development International (SDI) and Syria Bright Futures (SBF). Our project is aimed at exploring the barriers that prevent older age people and people with disabilities from accessing and benefiting from gender-based violence (GBV) services in North West Syria.

When we wrote the proposal, we were confident that reaching out to targeted communities and beneficiaries will make it easier to find the needed information for addressing these barriers.

For our research, we designed the initial interview questions and focus group discussions to be more general, moving onto more specific ones later. This allowed the participants/interviewees to talk about different topics that concerned the targeted groups, people with disabilities and older people. Eventually, we could discuss what prevented them from accessing protection services.

Because we thought that exposure to GBV is one of the most serious risks that this group may face, we were confident that participants will talk amply about the barriers. However, the task did not prove to be as easy as it had appeared.

The challenge we faced was that participants, most of whom were people with disabilities, older people and leaders of organisations for people with disability, wanted to talk in detail about topics that were a priority to them, and not necessarily about the specific barriers that hindered their access to GBV services.

Research challenges

Availability of basic services for people with disabilities and older people

This includes services such as food, shelter, and health required by all communities. But also includes specific services and needs of people with disabilities and older people such as assistive devices and special medical assistance. Lack, low quality and unjust distribution of these services took a long time of the interviews and focus group discussions.

Quality of GBV services

Participants stated that these services were either not present or not well communicated to most of the population. If present or known by the community, negative impressions about the quality of such services posed to be a barrier. This could mean that people who need such services may still not want to access them.

To conclude, before specific ones, the more common barriers need to be discussed for people with disabilities and older people.

Lessons learned

We need to redesign interview questions and focus group discussions, and target more diverse participants for better reach and for effectively gathering the information we need.

We need to include in our research report a considerable amount of information about the general living condition of people with disabilities and older people and the general barriers of accessing GBV services in the targeted context.

We are confident that these factors can play an essential role in preventing people with disabilities and older people from accessing services including GBV.

Written by Dr Mohammad Abu Hilal

Midad Organization, local partner of the project SBF, facilitating Focus Group Discussions

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