Making feminism count: integrating feminist research principles in large-scale quantitative research on violence against women and girls

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Applying a feminist approach to research on ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) is critical because gender inequality is an underlying driver of VAWG, and feminist research aims to empower women and girls, as well as challenge prevailing inequalities through the research process itself. However, feminist research approaches have not historically been applied in the international development sector, although statistical evidence on what works to end VAWG is in high demand from governments and donors. In this article, we explore how researchers could practically reconcile an explicitly feminist undertaking, like ending VAWG, when accepted research practices within this field employ methods that are historically not informed by feminist praxis. We argue that quantitative research and feminist research approaches are not mutually exclusive, rather, they can (and do) overlap. Drawing on five decades of combined experience conducting quantitative studies on VAWG in low- and middle-income countries around the world, we highlight the challenges and opportunities for incorporating feminist research principles throughout the research process; from design, community engagement, data collection, analysis, dissemination, and policy influence. We draw on practical examples from research conducted in countries as diverse as Timor-Leste, Kiribati, and Sri Lanka, among others, illustrating that it is not only possible to apply feminist research principles to large-scale, quantitative survey research on VAWG, but that this should become a priority for good development practice.