Intimate partner violence (IPV) – behavior by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual, or psychological harm – is the most prevalent form of violence against women. A woman is at the greatest risk for suffering violence in her own home by someone she knows. Recent estimates indicate that the prevalence of physical and sexual IPV against women ranges from 16.3% in some countries in East Asia to as high as 65.6% in countries in Central Africa.
The alarming rates of IPV have significant physical, psychosocial, and economic costs for the survivor and their family, as well as society as a whole. IPV contributes to poor health among women, impeding them from entering the labor force or hindering their job performance, and ultimately impacting productivity in a variety of sectors. Moreover, the cycle of IPV tends to repeat itself: children who experience violence or witness it, are more likely to perpetrate or experience IPV as an adult.
A recent study, Community-Based Approaches to Intimate Partner Violence - A Review of Evidence and Essential Steps to Adaptation, highlights several examples of effective community mobilization interventions to prevent IPV, and underscores the basic components and steps that must be considered to adapt successful interventions to different contexts. The study, completed in partnership with the Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University, aims to support individuals and organizations that are implementing projects involving violence prevention by providing operational tools, and guidance and recommendations on how to adapt an IPV prevention program.
Successful Community-Based Interventions to Prevent IPV
Community-based interventions to prevent IPV have proved to be successful at reducing violence because they permeate multiple levels of society, engaging key stakeholders and fostering collective action to challenge gender norms within entire communities. Community-based, multi-sectoral, and culturally adapted interventions increase ownership of outcomes, thereby increasing the likelihood for longer-term involvement of differing levels of stakeholders.
The review describes some of the most successful community-based interventions, such as SASA! , Somos Diferentes, Somos Iguales, and Stepping Stones, and notes the critical elements that successful community-based interventions encompass, including:
- Cutting across and collaborating with multiple sectors (i.e. education, citizen security, disaster response, health, and judicial) to coordinate comprehensive prevention and response efforts;
- Involving multiple stakeholders, such as health service providers, legal authorities, community leaders, community members (men and women, girls and boys), and government representatives, to mobilize communities and foster sustainability;
- Challenging the acceptability of violence among communities, through creating constructive and culturally sensitive dialogues about harmful gender norms and unbalanced power dynamics;
- Supporting participants in developing new skills to make healthy choices and improve conflict resolution skills;
- Investing in a prolonged implementation period (at minimum six months).
Adapting Community-Based Intervention
An increasing number of practitioners, including stakeholders, donors and policymakers, seek to replicate effective community-based interventions in new settings. Successful adaptations achieve a balance between maintaining the essential characteristics of the original intervention and cultural relevance to a different setting. They also allow sufficient time and resources to effectively adapt and implement an intervention, resulting in sustained capacity building and the creation of networks that are critical to reducing IPV.
To adapt effective interventions to different contexts, the review provides the following recommendations:
- Promote local stakeholders’ full participation in the design, planning and implementation of the adaption to ensure that interventions are culturally appropriate and sustainable.
- Engage various community members, including women and men, boys and girls, youth and elders, to create a sense of community ownership and engagement.
- Build the capacity of the implementing organization, local authorities, and civil society organizations to ensure sustainability of the program.
- Document, monitor, and evaluate the adaptation process to build the evidence base for successful adaptations, and promote cooperation and exchange among implementers.
- Focus on comprehensive, long-term responses that address deeply held beliefs and attitudes about gender equality and the root causes of violence.
- Invest in long-term violence prevention efforts at the community level and ensure sustained and adequate funding.
- Prior to implementation, increase access to quality care services to the survivors of IPV to ensure readiness to any changes, such as an increase in reports of violence, as a result of the intervention.
Six Essential Steps to Adaptation
The review also provides six essential steps to successfully adapt an IPV prevention community-based program to a different context:
1. Understanding violence in the program setting, violence prevention approaches, and selecting the particular methodology and model to adapt ;
2. Identifying program locations by considering community need and readiness;
3. Developing a network of local partners, including political authorities, community and religious leaders, and women’s groups;
4. Formalizing a locally appropriate program and evaluation design;
5. Preparing the program materials, such as manuals, posters, radio scripts, graphics, or short films; and
6. Finalizing the outreach and dissemination plan as early as possible.
This research was supported in part by the World Bank Group’s Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE), a multi-donor trust fund investing in evidence, knowledge, and data needed to identify and address key gaps between men and women to deliver better development solutions that boost prosperity and increase opportunity for all.