Involving the male community to help combat violence against women and girls in the slums of Dhaka is more productive than adopting a female-centric approach to the problem, a new study has shown.
Research by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) has found that when men are also involved in preventative measures, the risk of spousal physical violence against women is reduced by 21%.
The results were discussed at a seminar at the Sasakawa Auditorium of ICDDR,B in Dhaka on Wednesday following an initiative of the Growing Up Safe and Healthy (SAFE) project run by the organisation.
“The results demonstrate that targeting only females does not prevent spousal violence against adolescent girls,” said Dr Ruchira Tabassum Naved, senior scientist at ICCDR,B.
“What actually works in reducing violence is targeting both females and males, interactive groups sessions, skill building in interpersonal communication and conflict management, and promotion of activism.”
SAFE is testing out an intervention for promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and reducing violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Dhaka’s slums. It seeks in particular to foreground women’s and girls’ rights of choice and consent with regard to marriage, sex and childbearing.
“Violence against women is preventable even in low-income and patriarchal settings such as those in Dhaka slums,” said Dr Ruchira.
In total, 4,581 females aged 10-29 and 1,620 males aged 18-35 were surveyed in 19 slums in the Mohakhali, Mohammadpur, and Jatrabari areas of Dhaka from November 2010 to December 2014.
Senior Research Investigator Mahfuz Al Mamun said SAFE reduced spousal violence against adolescent girls by involving around half of all women and girls aged 10-29 and 15% of males aged 18-35 in the community as group members.
Such activism among the female group members in the neighbourhood and their relatives helped to reduce spousal violence against women and girls among non-SAFE members, too.
“This includes sharing knowledge, advising survivors, and taking initiatives to persuade the perpetrators not to engage in violence,” Senior Research Officer Aloka Talukder said.
The project ran two interventions: a group discussion with women and men separately; and another discussion with only women.
The study was conducted in both quantitative and qualitative approaches. In the qualitative approach, analysis of changes in spousal violence against women and girls was conducted using data from in-depth interviews with 22 married female and 15 married male SAFE group members.
SAFE’s qualitative study found that most female group members were able to either reduce or stop one or another form of spousal violence.
Wednesday’s seminar was titled ‘Impact of a Cluster Randomised Control Trial in Reducing Violence against Women and Girls in Urban Slums of Dhaka’.
Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, a renowned economist and chairman of Palli Karma- Sahayak Foundation, stressed the importance of skills development, the comprehensiveness of intervention, and sustainability.
The special guest was Dr Annie Vestjens. the first secretary for SRHR and Gender at the Dutch Embassy in Dhaka.
The panel discussion involved BRAC Programme Director, Anna Minj; Acting Representative of United Nations Population Fund, Iori Kato; and Director for Women and Girls Empowerment at Care, Humaira Aziz.