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Evidence reviews

This brief synthesises knowledge gathered on the impact of age on prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) and the effectiveness of IPV prevention in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in seven interventions evaluated under the What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls Global Programme. The extent to which young women comprise a population more at risk of IPV, compared with older women, varies by geographical location and type of IPV. It is also likely that women and girls from different age groups respond to IPV prevention interventions in different ways; this may also vary according to geographical location, type of IPV, and intervention type. Nevertheless, the analysis presented in this brief suggests that young women are at greater risk of physical IPV than older women. Although younger women also appear to have experienced greater reductions in sexual and economic IPV than older women as a result of What Works interventions, there is no evidence to suggest that older women cannot, or do not, benefit from IPV prevention interventions.

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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Disability, VAWG & Education, VAWG & Economic Empowerment, VAWG in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises, VAWG & Social Norms, Costs of VAWG
  • Country Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Tajikistan, Zambia, Syria

Over the last two decades, the global community has come to recognise the profound impact of violence on the lives of women and girls. This fundamentally undermines their health and well-being, and stands as a barrier to women’s full participation in global development and the economic and civic life of their communities. This evidence brief outlines the effective design and implementation elements in interventions to prevent violence against women and girls emanating from the UKAID-funded, What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (What Works) programme, a six-year, £25-million investment in VAWG prevention.

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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Disability, VAWG & Education, VAWG & Economic Empowerment, VAWG in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises, VAWG & Social Norms, Costs of VAWG
  • Country Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Tajikistan, Zambia, Syria

Over the last two decades, the global community has come to recognise the profound impact of violence on the lives of women and girls. This fundamentally undermines their health and well-being, and stands as a barrier to women’s full participation in global development and the economic and civic life of their communities. This evidence brief outlines the effective design and implementation elements in interventions to prevent violence against women and girls emanating from the UKAID-funded, What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (What Works) programme, a six-year, £25-million investment in VAWG prevention.

  pdf DOWNLOAD (282 KB)

Additional Info

  • VAWG themes VAWG & Disability, VAWG & Education, VAWG & Economic Empowerment, VAWG in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises, VAWG & Social Norms, Costs of VAWG
  • Country Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Tajikistan, Zambia, Syria

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is preventable. Over the last two decades, VAWG prevention practitioners and researchers have been developing and testing interventions to stop violence from occurring, in addition to mitigating its consequences. This rigorous, in-depth review of the state of the field presents what is now known five years on after the UKAID-funded, What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (What Works) programme, a six year investment, in advancing our understanding of What Works within the context of the wider evidence base.

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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Disability, VAWG & Education, VAWG & Economic Empowerment, VAWG in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises, VAWG & Social Norms, Costs of VAWG
  • Country Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Tajikistan, Zambia, Syria

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is preventable. Over the last two decades, VAWG prevention practitioners and researchers have been developing and testing interventions to stop violence from occurring, in addition to mitigating its consequences. This document is an executive summary of the longer review of the state of the field of VAWG prevention, five years on after the UKAID-funded, What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls (What Works) programme, a six year investment, in advancing our understanding of What Works within the context of the wider evidence base.

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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Disability, VAWG & Economic Empowerment, VAWG in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises, VAWG & Social Norms

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.

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  • VAWG themes Costs of VAWG

This evidence brief presents key findings about the impact of VAWG on national economies and society in Ghana, South Sudan and Pakistan. It demonstrates that VAWG causes a drag on economic activity at the level of individuals, families, businesses and national economies. This economic drag is the cost that governments incur by failing to invest in the prevention and prosecution of VAWG and the protection of victims and survivors. Further, VAWG impedes important activities for social reproduction typically performed by women, including caring for others, sustaining relationships and networks, and participating in a wide range of community, social and political activities, and thus impacts on women’s empowerment and capabilities.

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  • Country Ghana, Tajikistan, Zambia
  • Project Right to Play - Pakistan, Sonke Gender Justice - South Africa, Stepping Stones and Creating Futures - South Africa

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.

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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Social Norms
  • Country Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa

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.

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  • VAWG themes VAWG in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises
  • Country South Sudan , Syria
  • Project Violence Against Women and Girls in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises

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.

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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Economic Empowerment
  • Author Andrew Gibbs and Kate Bishop
  • Date of publication September 2019

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.

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  • Author Kristin Dunkle, Ingrid Van der Heijden, Erin Stern and Esnat Chirwa
  • Date of publication July 2018

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.

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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Social Norms

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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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Disability
  • Country Afghanistan, Ghana, Nepal, South Africa
  • Project Equal Access - Nepal, Gender Centre - Ghana, Help the Afghan Children - Afghanistan, Right to Play - Pakistan, Stepping Stones and Creating Futures - South Africa
  • 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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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Economic Empowerment, VAWG & Social Norms
  • Country Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, South Africa, Tajikistan
  • Project HERrespect - Bangladesh, International Alert - Tajikistan, Stepping Stones and Creating Futures - South Africa, VSO International - Nepal, Women for Women International Trial - Afghanistan
  • 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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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Social Norms
  • Country Pakistan, South Africa
  • Project Right to Play - Pakistan, Stepping Stones and Creating Futures - South Africa
  • 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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Additional Info

  • VAWG themes VAWG & Social Norms

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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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Social Norms

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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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Social Norms

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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  • VAWG themes VAWG & Social Norms

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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