International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we're delighted to have a guest blog from Manuel Contreras-Urbina, Director of Research of the Global Women’s Institute.

Around 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. While numerous studies and programs seek to address intimate partner violence (IPV) by increasing economic empowerment, the exact impact of such interventions on IPV is still unclear. Ripple Effect (SAC) has been delivering economic empowerment and food security programs in Africa for the past 30 years. The Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University and SAC are examining the effectiveness of Ripple Effect’s economic interventions on reducing rates of IPV in communities of Western Kenya by strengthening the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of Ripple Effect’s new “Improving Nutrition Program.”

A formative qualitative fieldwork was recently conducted to better understand how Ripple Effect’s interventions have changed gender norms in the communities. In reference to Ripple Effect’s economic empowerment program, a project participant said, “after the training, we planted vegetables and started increasing our income. We don’t need to go to our husbands for money to buy salt and other things. This has reduced the conflict between husband and wives.”

Male and female beneficiaries and stakeholders shared that the Ripple Effect program has not only boosted women’s self-esteem but has also empowered them to be independent and take charge of household decisions. It also seems that the program has reduced conflicts within the household and potential IPV situations. One focus group participant noted that “as income increased, physical violence reduced. There is more peace as we now do not have to request money from our husbands.”

According to another focus group participant, the training conducted by Ripple Effect also seem to be changing roles and responsibilities within the household, “one thing from the training I got was how to work together as a family. Everyone has a role – the children, me, my husband. Even the quarrels have now reduced, before I was the only person working.”

Results of the program go beyond just the family. Many of the women that participate in Ripple Effect’s programs said they gained respect even from their community members, “also we are respected in the community- after the training and implementing new cultivation strategies - we became respected because we had money and we were able to advise people about what to do in the community.”

The respect women gained has transpired into new leadership roles. From being church leaders, village elders, to health volunteers, women are starting to take important leadership roles in the community.

Although these results come from a first phase of research, we hope that similar results can be captured through the new M&E tool being designed to track the impact of Ripple Effect's new “Improving Nutrition Program” on issues of gender and violence against women.

Manuel Contreras Urbina, Director of Research of the Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University