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Calculate the costs of violence against women and interventions to address it

Última editado: February 21, 2019

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Violence against women can result in significant costs to the state, to victims/survivors, and communities.  Costs are both direct and indirect, and tangible and intangible.  For example, the costs of the salaries of individuals working at shelters are direct tangible costs.  Costs are borne by everyone, including individual victims/survivors, perpetrators, the government and society in general. Establishing the costs of violence against women and the interventions to address it may be extremely useful in advocating for a government response to the violence (Duvvury et al., 2013).  This information can be used to make a case to government bodies and institutions that a coordinated response will reduce both financial outlay and human suffering in the long term.

There are also drawbacks to the costing process. It can be expensive and challenging to implement, especially in locations where there is limited existing data on the scale of violence against women, and lacking official statistics, such as the number of cases reported or number of victims/survivors seeking medical treatment.  A cost-benefit argument may not be equally effective in all contexts. For example, in some developing countries, where there may be little public infrastructure and direct services, direct cost estimates (i.e. the actual monetary costs resulting from violence against women, such as the cost of intervention by the police, judicial, health and social services) may be misleading, as costs are likely to appear lower because there are fewer services (Bott et al., 2005).

In addition, in some developed countries the costing process has led to services being put out for tender, with the contracts awarded to the lowest bidder. An unintended consequence is that contracts are often won by private companies (which are larger and able to use scale to deliver services more cheaply), instead of NGOs, which have the expertise and the close ties to the community, and may even have been the original service providers. 

Despite the drawbacks, determining the cost of services to implement an action plan to address violence against women or key elements of a coordinated response can be helpful, especially over the longer term, so that proper allocation can be made at the national level. 

While costs will vary depending on the size of localities and populations, local conditions, levels of existing infrastructure and provision and the type of activities to be undertaken, examples from existing plans can serve as a broad illustration. 

  • The European Institute for Gender Equality Estimating the Cost of Gender-Based Violence in the European Union Report (2014) contains costings from four different studies relating to Canada estimated the cost of federal and provincial government coordinating functions for Canada to be a conservative and approximate CAD 100 million.  This resource also provides detailed information on specialist government costs of coordinating functions of central government, (prevention, national action plans, data, research, reports, conferences, education, training, and information materials) to tackle intimate partner violence.
  • The Costed National Action Plan for Gender Based Violence for the Republic of Seychelles (2010-2011) contains costings for: awareness raising and prevention; developing standardised procedures, guidelines and training; building capacity of service providers; legislation, advocacy and lobbying; rehabilitation; coordination, research, monitoring and evaluation.  Coordination costs are estimated at around $100,000 over two years. 
  • The South African 365 Day National Action Plan to End Gender Violence (2007) contains budget costs for detailed actions in the spheres of: prevention; response; support; children and vulnerable groups; and coordination and communications.  Coordination costs include setting up a consultative forum, meetings and engagement with structures not on board to create buy-in (around £200,000). 
  • For coordinated services for victims/survivors of sexual violence, such as sexual assault referral centres, the Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) “Getting Started” Guide from the UK gives an indication of required staffing levels and annual running costs for some existing SARCs.  While, again, there is regional variation, set-up costs for each of the three SARCs in London are estimated at around £300,000, with annual running costs of up to £1 million per thousand cases.

Tools and resources

Handbook on Costing Gender Equality (UN Women, 2015).  This handbook is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to costing gender equality priorities. It responds to the growing global demand for concrete methodologies to estimate the financing gaps and requirements for achieving gender equality commitments and builds on UN Women's decade long work on gender responsive planning and budgeting. Available in English.

The Cost of Domestic Violence (Walby, Sylvia, 2004), London, Department of Trade and Industry Women and Equality Unit.  This research adapts methods developed for calculating the cost of crime to include specific costs relating to domestic violence.  The methodology combines three key elements: data on the extent and nature of domestic violence, including the number of victims and the number of incidents; measures on the impact of domestic violence on victims’ lives and on society; and data on the costs of provision of services, lost economic output and the public’s willingness to pay to avoid pain and suffering. An update from 2009 is available.  Available in English.

Costs of Intimate Partner Violence at the Household and Community Levels: An Operational Framework for Developing Countries (Duvvury, N. and Grown, C. with Redner, J., 2004), Washington DC, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).  This resource discusses the challenges of costing intimate partner violence in developing countries, given the additional obstacles to reporting due to the prevalence of social norms tolerating violence against women, differences in economic structures, fewer support services and likelihood of a lack of national survey data on violence against women.  To counteract these factors, the framework prioritises direct monetary costs, especially at the household, community and business levels.  The framework includes a detailed guide to estimating monetary costs of intimate partner violence and a methodology for calculating specific costs at each of the three levels.  Available in English.

For more information and tools on the costs of violence against women see the Consequences and costs section in Programming Essentials Module.