A critical task of the past 25 years of research on violence against women and girls (VAWG) has been to develop an understanding of the drivers of men’s perpetration of intimate partner violence (IPV) – physical and/or sexual violence against their female partners – and the risk factors that shape women’s experience of IPV. In this brief, we reflect on the evidence produced through What Works, as well as the wider body of literature that has emerged in the past six to ten years. We also provide a comprehensive review of new knowledge of the drivers of, and risk factors for, men’s violence against their wives or girlfriends.
Globally, activists and researchers have pointed to the contribution of harmful alcohol and substance use conditions to the occurrence and severity of intimate partner violence (IPV). There has been much debate over the relationship and whether it is truly causal. To date, there has been limited evidence about whether interventions to prevent harmful alcohol use and treat common mental health problems have an impact on IPV outcomes, and whether gender-transformative interventions that seek to prevent IPV can reduce harmful alcohol use and improve mental health. Available evidence on these associations has largely been from the global North. DFID’s What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Global programme (What Works) has generated new evidence on these associations from evaluations of IPV prevention interventions in a range of settings in the global South, including peri-urban Zambia, rural Rwanda and Ghana, and urban informal settlements in South Africa, with promising findings for IPV prevention.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is driven in part by gender attitudes, norms on gender inequality and the acceptability of violence, which are socially reproduced and shared. Women’s rights organizations across the global south have dedicated themselves to challenging these. Early evaluations of work they have championed has shown that sufficiently equipped community volunteers, guided in a long-term structured programme, can enable widespread diffusion of new ideas on gender and VAWG and ultimately achieve changes in harmful attitudes and norms across communities.
DFID’s What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls Global Programme (What Works) has generated new evidence on the effect of these interventions in a range of settings – from rural areas and small towns of the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Rwanda, Nepal, to urban informal settlements in South Africa. Rigorous evaluations have shown the potential for preventing VAWG through multi-year, intensive change interventions with welltrained and supported community action teams, that purposefully engage both women and men to effect change.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is an important human rights concern and a pervasive issue affecting women and girls during times of conflict and humanitarian crisis. In 2016, the What Works to Prevent VAWG programme published an evidence brief [GF1] summarising the existing evidence base on VAWG in these settings. While the brief demonstrated that there is very limited evidence on what works to prevent and respond to VAWG in conflict and humanitarian settings, it did highlight key areas of learning and specify what information gaps remain.
Since the publication of the 2016 What Works evidence brief, researchers and practitioners have continued to conduct research and expand the international community’s knowledge base around VAWG and the effectiveness of programmes that seek to prevent and respond to this violence. These efforts include new results from eight research studies conducted by members of the What Works consortium in various conflict-affected and humanitarian settings. This new brief synthesises the key results of these What Works studies as well as other key findings from contemporaneous research efforts published since 2015. It aims to provide an up-to-date resource for practitioners, policymakers and researchers on the state of evidence on VAWG in conflict and humanitarian settings.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is common across the socioeconomic spectrum; a third of women experience violence from a partner in their lifetime. Poverty and VAWG are mutually reinforcing: poverty increases the risk of experiencing violence; VAWG increases poverty.
New evidence from four projects rigorously evaluated through DFID’s What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls Global Programme (What Works) demonstrates that combining economic empowerment and gender-transformative interventions for women and families can reduce intimate partner violence and strengthen the economic position of individuals and families.
The What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Global Programme has conducted research to better understand the experiences, causes, and consequences of violence in the lives of women and girls with disabilities, 80% of whom live in low and middle-income countries.
Findings show that in low and middle-income countries, women with disabilities are more likely to experience both intimate partner violence (IPV) and non-partner sexual violence than women without disabilities. The risk of both IPV and non-partner sexual violence increases with the severity of disability. Women with disabilities also experience high levels of stigma and discrimination, compounding their risk of IPV and reducing their ability to seek help. These findings highlight how vital it is to ensure the meaningful inclusion of women disabilities in VAWG policy and programming.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.