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Evidence reviews

What do we mean by social norms?

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a pervasive social problem across the globe, but varies in prevalence and severity. The 2013 mapping of the Global Burden of Disease showed the prevalence of physical and sexual VAWG differed between countries, and between ethnic groups and social classes within countries. Two central, and overlapping, sets of ideas and practices driving VAWG are those related to gender relations and those on the use of violence.

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  • Author Ingrid van der Heijden and Kristin Dunkle
  • Date of publication September 2017

The What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Global Programme has carried out research to better understand how to prevent violence against women and girls living with disabilities, who are at an increased risk of violence, abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation. Women and girls with disabilities also face additional pressures because they are regarded as unable to meet the social roles and expectations on women and girls to attract men, marry, bear children, or care for families. This can result in further social exclusion, which may contribute to development of depression or other mental illness, in addition to increasing their physical and economic vulnerabilities. While the evidence base is limited, this evidence brief identifies promising strategies to prevent violence against women girls with disabilities.

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Download the Change starts at home Infographic capturing the baseline research data.

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  • Author Andrew Gibbs, Nata Duvvury and Stacey Scriver
  • Date of publication September 2017

Poverty is a key driver of intimate partner violence (IPV). Women living in poorer places with lower socio-economic status, higher food insecurity, and less access to education and work opportunities are more likely to experience IPV. In addition, women without economic and social resources find it harder to leave abusive relationships. To date, women’s economic empowerment interventions have been central to IPV prevention approaches. This evidence review, however, suggests that women’s involvement in economic interventions has mixed effects on their vulnerability to IPV and can in fact increase the risks of their experiencing IPV, especially in situations where women’s participation in paid economic activity is the exception to the norm. Evidence suggests that interventions that aim to increase women’s access to work need to focus simultaneously on socially empowering women and transforming community gender norms to maximize the positive impact of women’s work on women’s empowerment and help prevent VAWG.

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  • Author Emma Fulu, Sarah McCook and Kathryn Falb
  • Date of publication September 2017

Violence against women (VAW) and violence against children (VAC) are violations of human rights and global public health priorities. Historically, work to address VAW and VAC have often occurred separately or in silos. This evidence note, however, draws attention to the growing body of evidence on the intersections of VAW and VAC, including risk factors, common social norms, co-occurrence, and the intergenerational cycle of abuse. It presents promising programmatic approaches to prevent and respond to both forms of violence; and policy recommendations, which include prioritising prevention efforts with adolescent girls that challenge gender norms and build girls’ agency.

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The field of violence against women and girls has advanced considerably over the past two decades. We have much more information on the prevalence of violence in low and middle income countries as well as an expanding body of knowledge on risk and protective factors. This positions us well to develop and implement strong primary prevention interventions with a rigorous theory of change. However, there are still key gaps in our knowledge that need to be addressed in order to move towards more comprehensive models of intervention, and ultimately end VAWG. This provides a summary of existing evidence of what works and outlines the overarching research and innovation agenda for the What Works Global Programme.

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This paper outlines our current knowledge base regarding VAWG and identifies where our understanding needs to be expanded in order to deliver the most sophisticated interventions and impact on the prevalence of VAWG globally. This brief is designed to provide an overview of what we know about intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence and child abuse, based on the literature. It can be used by programmers, policymakers and researchers to inform theories of change for violence prevention interventions.

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This summary presents the current evidence on the effectiveness of different types of interventions to prevent violence against women and girls. It is based on a rapid review of the existing evidence through a review of reviews and online searches of academic databases. There has been an impressive increase in the evidence base for violence prevention interventions within the last ten years. We now have several well conducted RCTs in low and middle income countries showing some success in preventing violence against women and girls, however there are still many gaps and limitations that the What Works programme is working to address.

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This summary presents the evidence on the effectiveness of different types of response mechanisms for violence against women and girls in preventing the occurrence of violence. The interventions reviewed were all developed and deployed with a primary goal of strengthening the response of the police and criminal justice system, health system or social sector to violence against women and girls. This review has not assessed evidence on their effectiveness in achieving this primary goal; it has focused on assessing any evidence that they are able to achieve a secondary or parallel goal of prevention of violence against women and girls.

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A number of interventions to prevent and address violence against women and girls have been found to be effective, but little is known about their costs, value for money, and how to take them to scale. With a focus on evidence in low and middle-income countries, this review summarises evidence on the costs and value for money of interventions to prevent violence against women and girls, as well as approaches for scaling up. It also outlines the large research gaps and what is needed to fill them.

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Violence against women and girls is one of the greatest economic and public health problems facing the world today. Globally, 35% of women have experienced some form of violence. 30% of women have experienced violence from their partner.  The What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Programme is a UK Department for International Development flagship programme, which is investing an unprecedented £25 million, over five years, to the prevention of violence against women and girls. It supports primary prevention efforts across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

This publication provides an overview of the What Works to Prevent VAWG Programme, and sets out the goals for the Global Programme over the coming years, to: conduct cutting-edge research, support innovation, promote knowledge sharing and buid capacity, and drive the policy agenda.

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Download the latest Infographic compiled by Component Three of the What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Global Programme. 

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Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a significant social, economic and public health problem. No country is immune from this problem and it impacts all socio-economic groups, all ethnicities  and all ages. This does not mean it is inevitable; it can be transformed through political will, through increased investment in programmes and policies, and through community support for normative change. The publication has been authored by the Members of Component Two for What Works: Economic and Social Costs of Violence Programme.  Download the publication here.

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There has been a growing interest in deriving the associated costs of violence against women.  This has coincided with an explosion of costing studies in recent years, particularly after 2000, when interest in establishing these costs grew dramatically. Currently over 55 studies, mostly from high-income countries, have attempted to quantify the costs of various forms of violence against women. However, providing a comparison across countries can be difficult. This is mainly due to the different categories of costs, different forms of violence, and the different sampling approaches undertaken by individual studies (Varcoe et al., 2011). This comparison becomes even more difficult in developing country contexts where the availability of data is less robust and less systematic attention has been placed on measuring the economic costs of violence against women when compared to their industrialised counterparts. In this review of the evidence on the costs of violence against women, we provide an assessment of what we have learned and we establish the gaps which need to be addressed in future costing studies. 

Authors: Ashe, S., Duvvury, N., Raghavendra, S., Scriver, S., and O’Donovan, D.

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  • Author -
  • Date of publication -

What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls is a £25 million global programme funded by the UK Department for International Development which seeks to understand and address the underlying causes of violence across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The What Works programme is not alone in investing time and resources in researching and prioritising prevention and response to GBV. In 2013, Sweden and the UK Department for International Development jointly launched the Call to Action on Protection from GBV in Emergencies, a global appeal to diverse stakeholders – governments, donors, NGOs, civil society, women’s organisations, the private sector-to make specific commitments to contribute towards transforming the way GBV is addressed in the humanitarian space.

This brief sets out how the What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises research portfolio complements and supports the achievements of the Call to Action’s objectives. The Call to Action identifies am “insufficient evidence base on effective programming and systemic response” as one of its areas of concern. As the largest multi-year study currently examining VAWG in conflict and crisis, What Works will play in instrumental role in advancing research in this area.

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  • Author Maureen Murphy, Diana Arango, Amber Hill, Manuel Contreras, Mairi MacRae & Mary Ellsberg
  • Date of publication -

Women and girls are at increased risk of violence in conflict and humanitarian crises due to displacement, the breakdown of social structures, a lack of law enforcement, and a culture of impunity. This briefing paper provides a succinct overview of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in conflict and humanitarian emergencies. It reveals that little is known about the prevalence of VAWG in humanitarian emergencies. In addition, there is little robust evidence on what works to prevent and respond to VAWG in humanitarian emergencies. What evidence does exist suggests that the types of VAWG prevalent in humanitarian emergencies are not dissimilar to VAWG in non-emergency settings. As such, approaches that have been successful decreasing forms of VAWG such as intimate partner violence, and target underlying unequal gender norms and practices, may also be applicable in humanitarian settings.

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Violence against women, recognised globally as a fundamental human rights violation, is widely prevalent across high-, middle-, and lowincome countries. It imposes direct and indirect costs and losses on the well-being of individuals, families and communities, businesses, national economies, social and economic development and political stability. Recently, there has been a growing interest in deriving the associated costs of violence against women. This has coincided with an explosion of costing studies in recent years, particularly after 2000. In this review of the evidence, we provide an assessment of what we have learned and we establish the gaps which still need to be addressed in future costing studies.

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This project contends that the failure to eliminate VAWG constitutes a drag on national economies and on inclusive human development. There is thus strong incentive for investment by government and other stakeholders to address VAWG – the cost of inaction is signifi cant. This project aims to build knowledge about the impacts of VAWG and thus to mobilise political will to eliminate violence worldwide. Through the development of new costing methodologies that can be applied within different national contexts, this project will provide policy makers with the tools to estimate the impact of VAWG. To develop such tools, it is necessary to collect data and evaluate methodologies within a range of political, economic, cultural and social contexts. This study is therefore being conducted in three countries in the Global South that exhibit marked differences in terms of context: South Sudan, Pakistan and Ghana.

In Pakistan, the project aims to fi ll the gaps in our understanding of the socio-economic impacts of VAWG, focusing on intimate partner violence (IPV) and non-partner sexual violence (NPSV). The project will go beyond costs to individuals by providing estimates of the loss to the overall economy of Pakistan. In addition, we examine costs arising from the impact of VAWG on social cohesion and political stability.

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This project contends that the failure to eliminate VAWG constitutes a drag on national economies and on inclusive human development. There is thus strong incentive for investment by government and other stakeholders to address VAWG – the cost of inaction is signifi cant. This project aims to build knowledge about the impacts of VAWG and thus to mobilise political will to eliminate violence worldwide. Through the development of new costing methodologies that can be applied within different national contexts, this project will provide policy makers with the tools to estimate the impact of VAWG. To develop such tools, it is necessary to collect data and evaluate methodologies within a range of political, economic, cultural and social contexts. This study is therefore being conducted in three countries in the Global South that exhibit marked differences in terms of context: South Sudan, Pakistan and Ghana.

In Ghana, the project aims to fi ll the gaps in our understanding of the socio-economic impacts of VAWG, focusing on intimate partner violence (IPV) and non-partner sexual violence (NPSV). The project will go beyond costs to individuals by providing estimates of the loss to the overall economy of Ghana. In addition, we examine costs arising from the impact of VAWG on social cohesion and political stability.

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  • Author S Scriver, N Duvvury, S Ashe, S Raghavendra, and D. O’Donovan
  • Date of publication November 2015

Definitions are not merely a means of establishing clarity; rather, they shape the field in which a concept is understood, measured and evaluated. Definitions of violence against women establish what acts are perceived as violence by a society and which are not, which acts come into the remit of the law and which go unrecognized, and who is perceived as a legitimate victim or perpetrator. It is therefore essential that researchers and activists working in the area of violence against women and girls (VAWG) adopt clear definitions that adequately recognize the variety, scope and impact of violence on women and girls, their families, communities and societies.

This paper examines contributions to understandings of violence from a number of disciplines which have shaped and informed the most common conceptualisations of VAWG today. Though a review of existing literature demonstrates a growing understanding of the complexity and interconnection between types of violence, contexts and consequences, nevertheless this paper suggests gaps remain in terms of our conceptualisation and understanding of the impact of VAWG, including the cumulative social and economic costs of multiple experiences of violence across the individual life-time.

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  • Author Michelle Remme, Christine Michaels-Igbokwe and Charlotte Watts
  • Date of publication September 2015

This is the fourth in a series of four evidence review papers produced by What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls, a £25 million global programme funded by the UK Department for International Development which seeks to understand and address the underlying causes of violence across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This paper reviews the evidence found on the cost and value for money of interventions to prevent VAWG, as well as on approaches for scaling up such interventions.

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  • Author Rachel Jewkes, Lindsay McLean Hilker, Seema Khan, Emma Fulu, Federica Busiello and Erika Fraser
  • Date of publication September 2015

This is the third in a series of four evidence review papers produced by What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls, a £25 million global programme funded by the UK Department for International Development which seeks to understand address the underlying causes of violence across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. VAWG responses mechanisms have, for the most part, been developed and deployed with the primary goal of providing improved support services to women and girl survivors, through strengthening the response of the police and criminal justice system, and the health and social sector. An assumption is often made that strengthened response mechanisms will also lead to a decrease in rates of violence. For example, a victim of intimate partner violence may be less likely to return to an abusive relationship following their interaction with and support from the health and social sectors. This paper examines the evidence base on the effectiveness of response mechanisms in preventing the re occurrence of VAWG, a key question in the field of violence prevention and concludes that widely held assumptions have not yet been proven, and indeed further research is needed.

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  • Author Emma Fulu and Alice Kerr-Wilson
  • Date of publication September 2015

This is the second in a series of four evidence review papers produced by What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls, a £25 million global programme funded by the UK Department for International Development which seeks to understand address the underlying causes of violence across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This evidence review identifies some of the most effective interventions which promise to reduce VAWG through targeting the key risk factors for violence perpetration and experiences.

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  • Author Emma Fulu and Lori Heise
  • Date of publication September 2015

This is the first in a series of four evidence review papers produced by What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls, a £25 million global programme funded by the UK Department for International Development which seeks to understand address the underlying causes of violence across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. This paper outlines the current knowledge base regarding the issue of VAWG and identifies where the evidence base needs to be expanded in order to inform more sophisticated interventions and make a real impact on the prevalence of VAWG globally, in the hope that this information will be used to drive current policies and programme as well as future endeavours.

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