RCT on VAW finds evidence that combining female and male interactive group sessions reduces physical violence by the husband

Dhaka, May 17, 2017 - In the first randomised control trial of its kind, icddr,b scientists have found that the risk of spousal physical violence in the community can be reduced by 21% among adolescent girls, when  female and male interactive group sessions are combined with activism of the group members in addressing violence among non-members.   It is important to note that SAFE demonstrated that targeting females only has no effect on the reduction of violence.

The Growing Up Safe and Healthy (SAFE) project was conducted in Dhaka slums during November 2010 to December 2014 by an icddr,b led consortium bringing together Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), Marie Stopes Clinic , Nari Maitree and We Can Campaign, Population Council. The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands funded the project.

The baseline and endline surveys included 9,039 females aged between 15-29 years and 3,236 males aged between 18-35 years from 19 slums from Mohakhali, Mohammadpur and Jatrabari areas in Dhaka city. SAFE’s community campaigns and health and legal services covered all the slums studied. Additionally, two sets of interventions were delivered to different randomly selected areas in each study site. One of these sets  engaged both males and females in interactive group sessions on gender, rights, violence, laws, communication and negotiation and activism, while the other targeted females only with the same intervention.   SAFE achieved a reduction of physical spousal violence against adolescent girls in the wider community by having about 51% of the females aged 10-29 and 15% of males aged 18-35 in the community as group members. SAFE’s qualitative study finds that most female group members, who received five or more group sessions, were able to either reduce or stop one or other form/s of spousal violence. Moreover, action on part of the group members reduced violence among the non-members. Women’s pro-activeness and men’s cooperation in addressing violence in their personal life and in the lives of non-members led to a 21% risk reduction of physical violence by the husband among the adolescent girls.

Today, findings from the trial have been discussed in a seminar “Impact of a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial (SAFE) in Reducing Violence against Women and Girls in Urban Slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh” where Dr Ruchira Tabassum Naved, senior scientist at icddr,b said, “These findings demonstrate that targeting only females does not  prevent spousal violence against adolescent girls.   What actually works in reducing violence is: (1) targeting both females and males; (2) interactive groups sessions; (3) skill building in interpersonal communication and conflict management; and (4) promotion of activism. The findings reaffirm that violence against women is preventable even in such low income and patriarchal setting such as Dhaka slums.”

Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, a renowned economist and Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), and the chief guest of the seminar stressed on the importance of skills development, comprehensiveness of intervention and sustainability.”

Dr. Annie Vestjens, First Secretary, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Gender, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) and the special guest of the seminar indicated the implied relationship between donors and Bangladesh for becoming a middle income country, which is shifting from an aid partner to a trade partner.”

Ms. Anna Minj, Director, BRAC, Mr Iori Kato, Acting Representative of UNFPA and Ms Humaira Aziz, Director for Women and Girls Empowerment, Care attended the panel discussion.

Participants from partner organisations and other NGOs working in reducing violence against women attended the seminar.

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