Programming Essentials, Monitoring & Evaluation
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Last edited: July 18, 2013

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Quantitative (or numerical) data provide comparable data on “who” and “how much.

Quantitative methods are ideal for comparing across similar interventions, across different regions, or before and after an intervention is carried out. They also form the basis for statistical analysis.

Methods for collecting quantitative data:

  • Surveys: Population-based or household surveys that ask women about their experiences of violence are considered the most reliable method for obtaining information on violence against women in a general population. Population-based surveys use randomly selected samples and their results are therefore representative of the larger population. Because they include the experiences of women regardless of whether they have reported the violence, such surveys are likely to give a more accurate picture than administrative records. This makes them useful for measuring the extent of violence against women, monitoring trends over time, building awareness and developing policy. When studies in different countries use similar methods to measure violence, it is also possible to compare the risk of violence that women face and understand the similarities and differences between settings.
  • Service provider records (health, justice, social service records): Information collected routinely through agencies that come into contact with women who have suffered violence is known as service based data. It includes records from health centres, police stations and courts, public services and other support services for survivors of violence. Service-based data can be used to monitor the number of women seeking assistance from various agencies and can identify how many women in specific populations have sought support due to violence. This can facilitate estimates of the need for such services and their costs. It can also quantify the need for training among service providers and contribute to evaluating the response of agencies to which women turn for help. (United Nations, 2006)
  • Demographic data: refer to the characteristics of a population commonly used in government policies and planning, including for example, sex, age, income, disabilities, mobility, marital status, number of children, education, home ownership, employment status, and location (e.g. urban/rural), among others. Race or ethnicity and religious background information may also be collected, though these characteristics of identity are often controversial for political and social reasons. This type of disaggregated data, together with surveys on violence against women, can help deepen understanding of which women and girls face the greatest risks of or experience different forms of violence, in addition to, which men face the greatest risks of or perpetrate violence.


The most comprehensive source of demographic data in most countries is the population and housing census. A population census is defined as the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and publishing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specific time, to all persons in a country or in a well-delimited part of a country. A population census collects data on basic demographic and social characteristics of the population such as age, sex, marital status, place of birth and place of usual residence. It may also include questions on literacy, school attendance, educational attainment, economic activity status, occupation and number of children ever born, among others. It is, therefore, a rich source of data for examining differences between women and men and for studying specific population subgroups such as elderly women and men or those living in rural areas.  A population census also provides the basis for a sampling frame, so that when smaller-scale surveys are conducted, the findings can be extrapolated to the greater population. (United Nations Secretariat, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2006)

The Demographic and Health Survey (and Domestic Violence Module) is one example of this method.

Demographic data has also been used by the World Bank in conjunction with its Living Standards Measurement Survey, providing some data on prevalence of domestic violence and female genital mutilation/cutting across wealth quintiles and urban/rural residence. See, Socio-economic Differences in Health, Nutrition, and Population within Developing Countries: An Overview.


Administrative records are another important source of information for studying differences between women and men on a broad range of topics. Statistics on employment and unemployment, education, health, criminal justice, vital statistics and other data are periodically produced from administrative records. One of the most widely used administrative record systems is the civil registration system. Although the primary purpose of civil registration is to meet legal and civil requirements, it is an important source of sex-disaggregated information on births, deaths and marriages. When functioning properly, civil registration systems allow countries to produce periodic reports on vital statistics, such as number of live births by sex; number of deaths by sex and age; number of deaths by cause; marriages by characteristics of each spouse and many more.

For many countries developing the capacity to produce basic demographic statistics on a regular and timely basis (every five or ten years) remains a challenge. At the minimum, this would require the implementation of a population and housing census and the setting up and maintenance of a well-functioning civil registration system. Both require significant resources, technically trained civil service staff and long-term commitment from the highest levels of government.

(United Nations Secretariat, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2006)

  • Pre/post intervention tests: True experiments are different from other designs because all participants are randomly assigned from a single population to either experimental or control groups. Random assignment of individuals (such as service providers or clients) or other study units (for example, clinics, villages, or districts) in experiments is different from random sampling in surveys. Random sampling ensures that the individuals in the study are truly representative of the population from which they are drawn. The purpose of random assignment is to ensure that the experimental and control groups are truly comparable to each other. Different techniques can be used to randomly assign study units, ranging from tossing a coin or rolling dice to using a table of random numbers or a computer-generated process. Although random assignment is the preferred technique, it is not always possible for ethical, programmatic, or other reasons.

In the pretest-posttest control group design, participants in both the experimental and control groups receive a pre-test: an initial measurement or observation of the knowledge, attitudes, behaviors or practices – most commonly done with a questionnaire, survey or actual test. The experimental group then receives or participates in the programme intervention, while the control group does not receive or participate in the intervention. After the intervention period is completed, both groups receive a post test - a second set of measurements or observations involving the exact same survey, questionnaire or test. Since the experimental group received or participated in the intervention, the hypothesis is that the post-test would reveal changes (in knowledge, attitudes etc) in the direction hoped for. Also, since both the experimental and control cases were randomly assigned, you would expect that the “scores” on the pre-tests would be equivalent for both groups. Because both groups were equivalent at the beginning of the experiment, you can feel confident in attributing any differences between the experimental and the posttest to the effect of the intervention.  (Adapted from Fisher and Foreit, 2002.)


The diagram below represents a true experimental design called the pretest-posttest control group design.







Challenges and limitations of quantitative methods (United Nations, 2006)

  • The development of surveys that can lead to comparable, meaningful data requires specific expertise. More work is needed to ensure greater uniformity and comparability in the collection and reporting of data on violence against women. Many of the estimates for intimate partner violence are not comparable because of differences in how violence is defined and measured. There are gaps in geographic coverage, populations addressed and types of violence measured.
  • Service provider records are often not systematically collected, difficult to access, not disaggregated by sex, incomplete or inaccurate, or inconsistent. While this type of data may be useful for gauging changes in delivery of services, it cannot be used as an accurate account of how many women/girls are suffering abuse, since many do not report it or seek any service (health, police or legal). Service-based data cannot be used to measure the prevalence of violence since in most societies very few abused women report violence to the police or support services, and those who do tend to be the most seriously injured.
  • Pre/post intervention tests need to be conducted with the target population receiving the intervention, as well as a sample control group with similar characteristics. It is often challenging to define and identify this group. There are also ethical considerations around involving women who may be experiencing violence in a control group that does not have access to services.
  • Proper analysis of data also requires specific expertise. Errors in analysis often lead to improper conclusions and findings.


Sources of quantitative information:

Survey Module for Measuring Violence against Women (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). This module has been developed and tested to enable countries to collect a minimum set of information to measure the prevalence of physical, sexual and intimate partner violence contained in the Report of the Friends of the Chair of the United Nations Statistical Commission on Indicators on Violence against Women. The module has been tested in Armenia, Georgia, Mexico, the Republic of Moldova and South Africa. The survey instrument and guidance for implementing the survey are available in English.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women presents initial results based on interviews with 24,000 women in 15 sites and 10 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Peru, Namibia, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The study was implemented by WHO, in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), PATH, USA, research institutions and women's organizations in the participating countries.

Findings document the prevalence of intimate partner violence and its association with women's physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health. Data is included on non-partner violence, sexual abuse during childhood and forced first sexual experience. Information is also provided on women’s responses: Whom do women turn to and whom do they tell about the violence in their lives? Do they leave or fight back? Which services do they use and what response do they get?

View the Study and Fact Sheets

View the Survey Instrument starting on page 4.

Demographic and Health Surveys (Macro International) are nationally-representative household surveys that provide data for a wide range of monitoring and impact evaluation indicators in the areas of population, health, and nutrition.

Standard Demographic and Health Surveys have large sample sizes (usually between 5,000 and 30,000 households) and typically are conducted every 5 years, to allow comparisons over time.

Data is available for 83 countries. In the late 1990s, a standardized Domestic Violence Module was included as an option for governments to collect information on the following indicators:

  • Experience of any violence ever and in the past 12 months
  • Frequency of violence
  • Consequences of violence
  • Violence during pregnancy
  • When spousal violence was first initiated
  • Violence by women against their spouse/partner
  • Whether and from whom help was sought
  • Whether the respondent's mother experienced spousal violence

Over 25 countries have implemented this module.

View the country reports.

View the survey instrument.

The Demographic and Health Surveys also include an optional module on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting that provides data on:

  • Knowledge of female genital cutting
  • Prevalence of female genital cutting
  • Percentage of women with at least one living daughter
  • Type of female genital cutting
  • Person who performed the female genital cutting
  • Median age at female genital cutting
  • Attitudes towards female genital cutting

View the country reports.

View the survey instrument.

International Violence against Women Survey (European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control with inputs from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute and Statistics Canada) is an international, comparative survey on violence against women based on the methodology of the International Crime Victim Survey.  The survey was initially implemented in eleven countries (Australia, China (Hong Kong), Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Mozambique, Poland, Philippines and Switzerland), interviewing over 23,000 women.

The survey covers the following areas:

  • Prevalence and severity of violence
  • Risk factors and correlates
  • Physical and psychological consequences
  • Percentage of violent incidents reported to police and other agencies
  • Criminal justice system response and women’s assessment of these

The book and survey instrument are available for purchase from Springer.

International Men and Gender Equality Survey [IMAGES] (International Centre for Research on Women and Promundo) is one of the most comprehensive survey instruments developed to understand men’s behaviours and attitudes related to gender equality (including violence against women) – and changes in those attitudes and behaviours over time.  The survey is also implemented with women to compare attitudes and behaviours between the two. The men’s questionnaire is available in English and Portuguese.  The women’s questionnaire is available in English and Portuguese.

Elaboración de las Líneas de base Sobre Tolerancia Social y Tolerancia Institucional de la Violencia Basada en el Género en Colombia [Baseline surveys on Social and Institutional Tolerance of Gender-based Violence in Colombia] (Integrated Gender-Based Violence Programme in Colombia of the Spanish Government Millennium Development Goal Fund). These baseline survey instruments were developed under the auspices of the multisectoral programme in Colombia, incorporating elements that will allow comparability with some of the aspects of both the WHO Multi-country Study and the International Men and Gender Equality Survey. The public institutions survey instrument is available in Spanish.  The household survey instrument is available in Spanish

See also the baseline survey instruments used for the SASA! community mobilization initiative.


Guia para el Desarrollo de los Estudios Nacionales sobre Violencia Contra las Mujeres y VIH en Belice, Honduras Y Nicaragua (PAHO, 2006).  Available in Spanish.

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Database on Violence against Women includes information from Member States on what mechanisms have been implemented to address violence against women surveys that have been conducted. The database is updated on an ongoing basis. Search the database by country.