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What Works to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)?

by Paul Nolan, 18th January 2018

News Stories

GCPS attended an inspiring seminar/webinar on 6 December 2017 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with presentations about projects from DFID’s five-year research programme “What Works to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls”?   This seminar was also part of UN Women’s 16 days of action against gender-based violence (#16days). The five-year programme due to finish next year when the final outcomes will be available.

Research from this programme has shown shocking levels of VAWG. The findings so far were described by DFID as “devastating but powerful for DFID, governments and practitioners”.  On average 30% of women experience violence but in some countries this is much higher for physical/sexual violence. Prevalence in South Sudan is double the global average; other high spots were found to be South Africa in the slums, Bangladesh in the garment industry and DRC, Tajikistan, OPT, Nepal, Ghana and Afghanistan.   Research has also highlighted other forms of violence, including economic and emotional violence, honour-based violence and mother-in-law violence. The main drivers of VAWG were reported to be patriarchal social norms, violence through the lifecycle and poverty.

Many of the interventions described in the presentations at the seminar are not new (eg working with families, livelihood approaches, gender norm change using programmes such as Stepping Stones).  GCPS was particularly interested in some of the community-based interventions, given its previous work on community based child protection: for example a project in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya on models of care for survivors of gender-based violence, where a case management approach is being used, including training volunteer refugee community workers.

Overall what is different in this DFID prevention-focussed programme is that the projects  have incorporated rigorous research, monitoring and evaluation to enable assessment of impact; they have also been set up to synthesise findings across the programme in different countries.

Two presentations were about couples interventions – Change Starts At Home in Nepal and a community-based intervention in Rwanda with a “couples curriculum” where couples are being trained to become community activists on preventing intimate partner violence.  These interventions seemed innovative and interesting – but with potential challenges relating scaling up and replicability – could this individual approach be more difficult in countries where society is more based on families and the community? Is this more a western approach? Unfortunately there was limited time for questions or discussion.

Some unifying features were identified for projects found to have “promising interventions”: they had a strong theory of change; were multi-component (combinations of interventions are often more effective); based on theories of gender and power; and included effective behaviour and thought change methodology (critical thinking).

In terms of next steps after the end of the programme, there are plans to publicise the findings and reach out to embed the learning through DFID offices around the world.  However – judging by attendance at this seminar, another unmentioned challenge in putting this all into practice would seem to be the commitment and involvement of men.  This seminar was largely attended by women.

You can follow information about this programme on Twitter at @WhatWorksVAWG and find out more at

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