Our programme has been investing in primary prevention efforts across Africa and Asia for the last six years, efforts that seek to understand and address the underlying causes of violence, effective interventions to prevent it and evidence on the costs of VAWG. One in three women globally experience violence at the hands of a man and in some of the communities where What Works worked, rates were closer to two in three. In South Sudan, up to 73% of women experienced violence in their lifetimes. In the DRC, almost 70% of women experienced violence from a partner in the past 12 months. In South Africa, 60% of men perpetrated violence against women in the past year. In all these countries violence has become a normal part of life.
The What Works programme saw recurring themes and lessons emerge from the research. What Works discovered that the key drivers of VAWG are mutually reinforcing, enhancing their potency, that the main drivers include; patriarchal social norms, practices and institutions, exposure to violence in childhood, poverty, limited education for girls, and partner alcohol and drug use and poor mental health. The programme learned that there are very specific elements which led to interventions working; for example; those that were rooted in knowledge of the local context, that understood the multiple drivers, that worked with men as well as women, and where relevant, the whole family, those that offered supportive engagement with couples experiencing violence, were age-appropriate, and were long enough.
A programme in rural Rwanda, which worked with couples and community activists to challenge the social acceptance of violence and provide safe spaces for survivors, saw relationships improve, reduced depression for men and women, and resulted in more equitable household decision-making – this is just one of the 15 What Works projects that have shown that violence is preventable. In Tajikistan, a project combining economic empowerment with training on gender reduced intimate partner violence by 50%. In Ghana, community activist approaches to shift harmful norms led to a 55% reduction in sexual partner violence. In the DRC, a project mobilising faith leaders and community activists saw a five-fold reduction in non-partner sexual violence. In Pakistan, sports-based and play curricula in schools achieved significant reductions in corporal punishment and peer violence for girls and boys. And in Zambia, a cognitive behavioural treatment approach led to a 53% reduction in physical IPV and a 56% reduction in sexual IPV.
This rigorous evidence shows that abuse is not inevitable, that norms can, do and must change that violence is preventable. So we absolutely support the UNiTE's Generation Equality campaign to support broader advocacy for gender equality with its specific lens on preventing and ending violence against women and girls.