Can economic empowerment reduce Intimate Partner Violence?

[Photo Credit: Maureen Murphy]

#16DaysofActivism 2018 Blog Series

Written by Manuel Contreras-Urbina 1 and Sylvia Atieno Owino 2

Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University 1; Send a Cow Kenya 2

One-third of 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 on IPV remains unclear.

Through the SVRI and World Bank Group Development Marketplace: Innovations to Address Gender-Based Violence, the Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University and Send a Cow are examining the effectiveness of economic interventions on reducing rates of IPV in Western Kenyan communities, by strengthening the monitoring and evaluation of Send a Cow’s new Improving Nutrition Program.  Send a Cow has thirty years of experience delivering economic empowerment and food security programs in Africa.

Recently, with colleague Maureen Murphy, we travelled to Busiya and Bugoma counties to conduct formative qualitative fieldwork to better understand how Send a Cow’s interventions have changed gender norms. One project participant in the economic empowerment program told us, “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.” 

Both male and female beneficiaries and stakeholders shared that the program has not only boosted women’s self-esteem but has also empowered them to be independent and take charge of household decisions. In my opinion, it appears that the program has reduced household conflicts and situations with the risk of IPV.

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.”

And another community member told us in a focus group that the trainings conducted by Send a Cow 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.”

We found it promising that the results of the program seem to go beyond just the family. Many women participating in Send a Cow’s programs said they gained respect from other community members after the training led them to implement new cultivation strategies, “because we had money and we were able to advise people about what to do in the community.”

And that respect is leading to some women taking on new leadership roles. Many women we spoke to are starting to take important roles in the community such as church leaders, village elders, and health volunteers.

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

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 Manuel Contreras-Urbina is the Director of Research of the Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University and has more than 20 years of experience in gender and women’s rights research and programs. Before joining the University in February 2014, he served as National Programme Officer at UN Women in Mexico, where he was responsible for the planning, management, implementation and evaluation of UN Women programmes in Mexico and Central America. 

Sylvia Atieno Owino is the Gender and Social Inclusion Coordinator for Send a Cow Kenya and has over 10 years’ experience mainstreaming gender and women’s rights in agriculture and community development projects. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and her work has been inspired by the need to enhance the recognition and appreciation of women’s participation in their development.

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