NewsWhat Works News


04 June 2019

Afghan Women Survivors of War Experience Increased Economic and Social Well-being Global Study Suggests

WfWI WW Evidence brief FINAL May2019 1

Evidence Brief 2019

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UK aid funded global research shows positive impact on the lives of Afghan women enrolled in Women for Women International’s program

Washington, DC – Independent evaluation demonstrates that Women for Women International’s social and economic empowerment program in Afghanistan – labeled by some studies as the worst country to be a woman – improves the lives and well-being of women affected by war. The program was evaluated as part of global research conducted by the What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Programme, a flagship UK aid project evaluating the most effective ways to reduce rates of violence against women and girls around the world.

Women for Women International’s intensive one-year empowerment program focuses on building knowledge, skills, and resources for women in four key domains: earnings and savings, health and well-being, rights and decision-making, and support networks. The holistic training program is delivered to groups of 25 women and includes modules on rights, life skills, civic action and advocacy, ways to earn and save money, numeracy, business practices, vocational training, and a monthly stipend.

Laurie Adams, CEO, Women for Women International commented, “We are thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking global research, and we are even more excited that this independent evaluation proves that our tailored, targeted and gender-specific program leads to increased income, savings, food security and decision-making rights for women survivors of war.”

Professor Rachel Jewkes, Director, What Works to Prevent Global Violence Programme
added, “Five years ago, people cared about preventing violence against women, but had very few evidence-based tools for violence prevention. Through the evaluations of the DFID-funded What Works programme, we have moved the field forward and can answer important questions such as what works for whom and where? This will help us make progress towards violence prevention globally.”

Before enrolling in Women for Women International’s program, the What Works research found 37% of married women had experienced physical intimate partner violence, over 80% had never received any formal education, 70% had borrowed food or money because they did not have enough, and 57% reported lifetime trauma exposure such as witnessing family or friends killed.

A year after graduation from the programme, the research showed that there was a significant impact on the participants’ social and economic well-being. The women experienced:

  • Almost doubled earnings
  • Five-times higher savings
  • More equitable gender attitudes
  • Increased food security for their families
  • Increased freedom to travel
  • More decision-making power in their households
  • Reduced intimate partner violence among some but not all women

The study saw a reduction in married women’s experiences of intimate partner violence for a subset of women with moderate levels of food insecurity, but it did not see a significant decrease for the overall study population. With existing fears in the field of increased violence for women involved in economic empowerment programming, it is important that this intervention showed no increase of intimate partner violence.

“While this study shows positive impact on the precursors to violence such as gender attitudes and decision-making power, it also highlights that to prevent violence against women in a context as challenging as Afghanistan, as a global community, we need to invest more in, and be more intentional about our efforts to shift the social norms that drive violence to make the world a safer place for women everywhere,” Adams concluded.

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