Adolescents, gender roles and intimate partner relationships in Moldova

[Photo: Liliana Istrate-Burciu]

SVRI World Bank Group Development Marketplace #16Days 2017 Blog Series

By Daniela Misail-Nichitin, International Center for Women’s Rights Protection and Promotion "La Strada”

Students from the Republic of Moldova, who participated in the course “Harmonious Family Relationships”, changed their attitudes on intimate partner violence and the roles of partners in a relationship. This initiative involved a voluntary, school-based intervention on the prevention of domestic violence. The project is run by the International Center "La Strada". The SVRI and World Bank Group Development Marketplace Award for Innovation on GBV Prevention and Response supported an evaluation of the “Harmonious Family Relationships” programme.

Harmonious Family Relationships

The course "Harmonious Family Relationships" was developed by the International Center "La Strada" and approved by the National Curriculum Council of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Moldova.

“Harmonious Family Relationships” is a 36-hour voluntary program which runs over a period of one year. It was designed to form part of the high school curriculum. The program is delivered by teachers. Program materials include a curriculum, methodological guide, student notebook, and teacher’s manual. All materials were approved by the Ministry of Education. In August 2016 La Strada organized a training of trainers (TOT) for 25 selected teachers. The TOT was conducted by a team of 4 trainers including two experts (authors of the teacher’s manual and student notebook), one La Strada expert in domestic violence and one specialist from “SocioPolis” – a social research institute who evaluated the effect the course on student learning and provided recommendations for improving the program design and implementation. The course was implemented in the 2016-2017 school year in 22 high schools across the country. A total of 47 classes were delivered to 1025 students during this period.

The Evaluation

The study looked at the impact of “Harmonious Family Relationships” GBV prevention program on gender attitudes and relationship skills among students and teaching staff, and identified ways in which the course could be strengthened. 

A pre- and post-test evaluation was done with 220 students in grades 10-12 who attended the course, and the results were compared with grade 10-12 students who did not attend the course (n=220). In addition, several focus group discussions were conducted, and a survey with 288 parents of teenagers who participated in “Harmonious Family Relationships” was undertaken.

Some Key Findings

What do you want from an intimate partner?

Before the “Harmonious Family Relationships” course, when asked what they wanted most from an intimate partner, teenagers spoke most about the physical aspects of a potential partner – how they looked. After completing the course, they were more aware of a broader range of issues that they needed to know about their partners. Teenagers reported that they no longer pay attention only to the physical aspects of a person, but also to emotional and social aspects. Similarly, the course resulted in an increase in the number of students who had stopped believing that a woman must tolerate violence in order to keep their family. The number of students from the main sample who disagree that a woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her family together increased by 10.4 percentage points (p.p.), compared with a 5.9 p.p. increase in the control groups. Of the students who attended the course, 88% of girls disagreed with this statement, compared with 82.1% of boys.

Perception of aggressive behavior and violence, students, %[1]

 

 

Students disagree with the following statements

Main sample

Control sample

Baseline

Endline

Progress (p.p.)

Baseline

Endline

Progress (p.p.)

It is easy to identify an aggressor during the first date.

32.3

45.5

+13.2

29.5

31.8

+2.3

A woman should tolerate violence and abuse, to keep her family together.

77.3

87.7

+10.4

74.1

80

+5.9

 

Every woman needs to know how to cook and enjoy cleaning?

Before the course, eight in ten young people (both male and female) believed that a woman needed to know how to cook and to enjoy cleaning. The good news is that the end-line research reveals positive changes in perceptions about family roles, this change was more significant among students who participated in the course as compared with the control group.  


[Photo: Liliana Istrate-Burciu]

A girl who dresses provocatively is NOT "asking for rape"

Most students prior to the course believed that if a girl lives with a male partner before marriage, then she is a woman of easy virtue.  However, after the course most of the teenagers no longer agreed with this gendered assumption. The young people also changed their opinions about other rape stereotypes. For example, of the students who attended the course, the number who disagree that if a girl or a woman didn’t shout and didn’t show resistance during a forced sexual intercourse it is not considered rape increased from 23.2% to 35.5% (+12.3 p.p.).

Perceptions of and attitudes towards rape, students, %[1]

 

 

Students disagree with the following statements

Main sample

Control sample

Baseline

Endline

Progress (p.p.)

Baseline

Endline

Progress (p.p.)

Girls / women from financially secured families do not become victims of rape.

53.6

77.3

+23.7

66.8

68.6

+1.8

A man from a financially secured family cannot be a rapist.

55.9

77.7

+21.8

60.9

67.7

+6.8

If a girl / a woman is raped, it is also her fault.

58.2

58.2

0

62.3

53.2

-9.1

If a girl / woman is unproperly dressed (short skirt, high heels, make-up etc.) she is guilty in the case of rape, because she provoked the rapist with her appearance.

35.5

46.8

+11.3

38.6

38.6

0

It is not considered rape if the girl/woman didn’t shout or didn’t show resistance during a forced sexual intercourse.

23.2

35.5

+12.3

29.5

28.2

-1.3

 


[Photo: Liliana Istrate-Burciu]

Research to Practice

The “Harmonious Family Relationships” study and programme is the first of its kind in the Republic of Moldova. The evaluation study findings indicate that the “Harmonious Family Relationships” course positively influenced attitudes of young people on issues related to gender equity and violence against women. Further, teachers have been trained to talk with their students about how to manage their feelings, how to communicate in a couple, and how to recognize and prevent domestic violence. The government recently gave approval to extend implementation of the program for one more school year, 2017-2018.

Given the promising findings and the acceptance of the course by participants, teachers and policy makers, the authors of the research have recommended that the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Moldova continue to scale up the intervention, and increase the length of the “Harmonious Family Relationships" course so that the curriculum can be taught in schools for over two years. Building on the research and with a view to strengthen the programme, La Strada will continue to research and discuss different aspects of the programme with implementing partners, including: Age of the participants; length of the programme; and identification and selection of facilitators i.e. which teachers are best suited to implement the curriculum. Some students, felt that the course should be taught to students in the 9th grade (15 years old), because, "most adolescents make mistakes until they reach high school. High school is already (too) late".

What do you think about this? Is high school (16-19 years old) already too late to teach students about gender stereotypes, intimate partner violence and how to communicate in intimate relationships?

Read the full research report online here.

 

For more information please contact us: office@lastrada.md    

 

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[1] Ceianu-Andrei, D. Comparative Study September 2016 – April 2017: Changes caused by the optional course “Harmonious Family Relationships,” at the level of perceptions, stereotypes and attitudes. International Center “La Strada” 2017. p. 36.

 

[1] Ceianu-Andrei, D. Comparative Study September 2016 – April 2017: Changes caused by the optional course “Harmonious Family Relationships,” at the level of perceptions, stereotypes and attitudes. International Center “La Strada” 2017. p. 52.

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