5 Minutes of Inspiration: How CARE Is Changing Attitudes on Gender-Based Violence

5 Minutes of Inspiration: How CARE Is Changing Attitudes on Gender-Based Violence


More than one in three women worldwide, or 35 percent, experiences physical or sexual violence in her lifetime; in some countries, the prevalence is as high as 70 percent. Gender-based violence (GBV) is one of the most widespread and damaging violations of human rights in the world, but CARE is starting to see some real progress in our efforts to promote a women’s right to live a life free from violence.

CARE’s impact data shows that together with our partners, we have contributed to more than a quarter of a million women and men changing their attitudes on GBV. So, what are we learning from our most successful work to prevent GBV? How are we fostering individual, family and community-level change so that it never happens in the first place? Here’s a few of our top insights:

Acceptance of violence is declining:

  • Over recent years, CARE and partners have helped nearly 260,000 people in 11 countries to reject intimate partner violence (IPV). Across 13 projects, nearly two thirds of women and men say they no longer believe that it is ever justifiable for a husband to beat his wife — no matter the reason. That’s more than double the proportion when these projects started.
  • Within these 13 projects, the proportion of people who answered that such violence could be justified — if she refuses to have sex with him, goes out without telling him, argues with him, neglects the children, or burns the food — fell from 71 percent to 36 percent.
  • Where projects disaggregated data by sex, slightly larger changes in attitudes rejecting justification of IPV were seen for women (39 percent to 56 percent) than for men (34 percent to 49 percent).

Rates of violence are also falling:

  • Across the 4 projects that have also tracked rates of GBV, the percent of women reporting violence over the last 12 months fell, from 26.2 percent to 7.2 percent. This means nearly 130,000 fewer women reporting having experienced IPV than would have been the case had rates of reported violence remained the same as they were at the start of these projects.
  • Additionally, some female partners of couples and a few staff members discussed how women’s self-confidence improved though learning about their power within: “Now I openly speak out and I use the power that I have in me and I feel there is something that I can do to make my family developed. That is a very big thing.”
CARE is on-the-ground supporting women's self-help and male support groups to eradicate gender-based violence.


How did we get there?

  • Supporting women’s self-help and male support groups: Communities were supported to set up groups or use existing structures (like Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), self-help groups such as EKATA groups in Bangladesh, and producer groups) which were then used as platforms for dialogue and action on GBV prevention. Projects such as Pathways, SHOUHARDO II and WE-RISE found that increasing income mattered. This chimes with broader evidence that a combination of economic empowerment, women’s empowerment, and gender equality is critical for reducing GBV.
  • Engaging men and boys as equal partners: Approaches such as Couples Training and Role Model Couples in Rwanda, promoting Male Champions in Pathways/WE-RISE, or Champions of Change with the Young Men Initiative in the Balkans, show wider community members that their peers are challenging the predominant social norms that promote GBV, in a positive way.
  • Engaging men and boys in gender-based violence education and prevention is key.Establishing and supporting Safe Spaces for Women and Girls in Emergencies: Women Friendly Spaces set up in CARE’s response in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to the Myanmar refugee crisis provide a place for women and girls to feel both physically and emotionally safe, free of trauma, violence and abuse. They allow women to come together to speak confidentially about their experiences, needs and concerns, as well as to receive practical assistance and advice, including referral to specialist GBV response services. Over 4,000 women have used these safe spaces to date.
  • Increasing knowledge of GBV laws and rights: Across all projects, women’s and men’s knowledge of GBV, and related rights and relevant laws, were strengthened. As noted by a participant in the Urban Migrant Women program in Myanmar, “Previously, before training, I had no legal knowledge and I was hit by my drunk husband. I did not know what to do, so I bore it….with knowledge, I now tell him that I will inform on him to CARE or women’s affairs….he has stopped hurting me…”. Most projects also included a focus on building women’s leadership skills.
  • Community dialogues and action: VSLAs, self-help groups and producer groups were used as spaces to dialogue on issues surrounding gender, social norms, and to support survivors of violence. These included Reflect circles in India, Ending Violence Against Women forums in Bangladesh, Be a Man Clubs in the Balkans, and Social Action and Analysis (SAA) in Ethiopia.
  • Partnering with local leaders: Engaging local traditional and religious leaders, as well as government officials, brought together powerful allies and created an environment where people could talk about gender-based violence more openly. Umugore Arumwa in Rwanda adapted CARE’s Community ScoreCard (CSC) process to help over 100 communities work with service providers to identify problems and make action plans to solve them.

Want to learn more?

Check out CARE’s Gender Primer for more guidance on promising practices to prevent GBV.

See the evaluation reports on Pathways in IndiaMalawiMaliTanzania, SHOUHARDO II in Bangladesh, Umugore Arumvwa in Rwanda, the Urban Migrant program in Myanmar, WE-RISE in EthiopiaMalawi and Tanzania,  and the website for the Young Men’s Initiative in the Balkans.

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