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Why men for women: Engaging men and boys in addressing sexual and gender-based violence in conflict

Verena Phipps's picture
Sexual and gender-based violence is an all-too common and devastating challenge emerging in the context of conflict and instability. A global study of 50 countries revealed significant increases in incidence of gender-based violence following major wars.  In Somalia, for example, more than 10,000 cases of various forms of gender-based violence have been assisted by humanitarian partners since 2011.  In Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the 2012-13 Demographic and Health Survey indicates that more than half of women have ever experienced physical violence since the age of 15, while nearly 30 percent of women have ever experienced sexual violence. These figures, however, likely belie the extent of the challenge as most survivors are unlikely to seek formal support or care due to fear of stigmatization, rejection or re-victimization.

While the context of conflict and the climate of impunity that prevails create an enabling space for violations, perpetration of gender-based violence is ultimately tied to pervasive norms and dynamics that exist prior to conflict that sanction and reinforce men’s dominance over women and girls (or in some instances, marginalized or socially weaker men). 

Numerous studies demonstrate that even after conflict ends, violence often continues in the home, as men who have experienced high levels of trauma and displacement during conflict are often likely to use violence against women and children. Dislocated from normative roles as providers and protectors, men’s experiences of conflict, trauma and deprivation contribute to feelings of disempowerment and loss of respect and authority.

Feelings of frustration, loss in self-esteem, depression, and disaffection can all manifest in negative coping behaviors, including aggression and partner conflict—whether physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence—as men attempt to reassert themselves and their authority in the home.

In order to address the drivers of gender-based violence, therefore, prevention and mitigation initiatives must tackle these entrenched dynamics and in particular should engage men and boys as critical partners in facilitating pathways for positive social change.  This emphasis recognizes the multiple roles men play not just as perpetrators, but also as husbands and family members, as witnesses, as service providers, as community leaders and decision makers, and in some cases, as survivors themselves. 

Importantly, attention to men’s experiences in conflict should not obviate the need to address the enormous challenges confronting female survivors of violence, nor is it meant to distract attention or resources away from gender-based violence response and empowerment programming targeting women and girls.  But in order to better protect women and girls in these fragile spaces, we need to improve our understanding on how to work more effectively with men and boys to transform harmful dynamics that perpetuate, rationalize and justify violence.

Responding to this need, the World Bank supported several innovative initiatives working with men to address conflict-related gender-based violence in the Africa region. Through the LOGiCA trust fund, we partnered with Promundo—a leading organization working globally with men and boys to advance more equitable gender norms and positive models of masculinity—to test operational approaches on effective engagement of men and boys in gender-based violence programming in Goma and Luvungi in DRC, and in Burundi.

In partnership with Care Burundi, Women-for-Women International, Heal Africa and the Institute for Higher Education in Mental Health, Promundo developed and piloted group therapeutic and psycho-educational tools drawing from global best practices. Group therapy meetings were held weekly for 10-15 weeks with training modules intended to improve social bonds, promote shared decision-making and respect, promote positive, non-violent models of conflict resolution and coping mechanisms, and heal individual trauma.  While the program predominantly targeted male participants, group sessions sometimes included female partners as well.

Findings from associated evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, demonstrating improvements across a range of behaviors including reductions in stress and violence in the home, reductions in alcohol abuse and drinking, improved ability to manage frustration and aggression, increased sharing of income between men and women, and improved couple relations. Creating a safe space for men to engage also enabled formation of social relationships between participants, and many groups elected to continue the weekly meetings even after formal conclusion of the program.  

Given the success of the pilot interventions, Promundo has since xpanded this work into a new initiative, entitled Living Peace: Men Beyond War, which currently is being implemented in DRC. Evidence emerging from this work also has important implications for post-conflict recovery programming in other fields, including demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, migration and forced displacement and interventions targeting youth at risk of engaging in violence.

While questions remain about sustainability of behavior change in the longer run, as well as effectiveness when brought to scale, this work presents an important contribution to our understanding of how to effectively engage men in preventing and mitigating against violence in communities and critically, within the home.  

From football to fighting poverty: A shout-out for good governance

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Español | Français
Children playing football in Timor-Leste. © Alex Baluyut/World Bank


​The investigation, indictment, and arrest of several FIFA officials sends a simple and powerful message: No matter how untouchable an entity seems to be, in today’s world no organization, company, or government is immune from public scrutiny and law enforcement when it comes to allegations of fraud and corruption. Tolerating corruption as a “cost of doing business” is quickly going out of fashion.

The World Bank works hard to tilt the equation in favor of clean business in its fight against poverty. We investigate and hold perpetrators accountable when we receive allegations of wrongdoing in projects. Since we began this work, we have sanctioned more than 700 firms and individuals for misconduct in our projects. Most of these sanctions involve some form of debarment, rendering persons and firms ineligible to bid on future Bank-financed contracts. We recently released an updated review of our experience in investigating and adjudicating fraud and corruption cases, and it shows that it’s possible to tackle corruption in a way that is efficient, effective and fair. 

The (actual and scientifically derived) healing power of the sea

Timothy Bouley's picture
 USFWS/Jim Maragos

This week is unique. December 1 was World AIDS Day –a moment to unite with the community touched by HIV and push forward in the fight. December 4 is Ocean Day at COP21 – an opportunity to advance the global ocean and climate agenda toward meaningful impact and action. Two important days with two very different purposes. And yet, each significant in commemorating critical causes that are often just outside the realm of everyday consideration. But it is not only this marginality that links them– and understanding this connection can only strengthen our imperative to act. 

Can fashion and art help prevent gender-based violence?

Hiska Reyes's picture
 
Why is the World Bank sponsoring a fashion show in India and an art show in Bangladesh? The answer is simple, we’re trying to find new approaches – creative approaches – to prevent gender-based violence (GBV).
 
Gender-based violence is a pervasive issue. On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner. Worldwide, 720 million women and 156 million men married before the age of 18, with child marriage most common in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. A 20-country study—where over 4,000 women and men were asked their views on gender differences — revealed that norms, beliefs and attitudes play a critical role in dictating behavior for both women and men, and the consequences for not keeping to these norms is often violence.
 

Trajectories for the sustainable development goals

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture

At the UN Sustainable Development Summit, in September 2015, the leaders of 193 member states of the United Nations formally adopted an ambitious agenda for sustainable development for the next 15 years. The 2030 Agenda embeds the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), comprising 17 goals and 169 targets. These goals and targets cover economic, social, and environmental dimensions of development, offering a comprehensive view of what is needed for sustainable human well-being.

Finding employment for young people of all abilities

Matt Hobson's picture
Young women from family with members with disabilities being taught to use a sewing machine.
India. Photo: © John Isaac / World Bank

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
 
In every society globally, unemployment rates for persons with disabilities are higher than for people without disabilities. The International Labor Organization reports that, in some Asia-Pacific countries, the unemployment rate of people living with disabilities is over 80%. 

Including persons with disabilities into development: the way forward

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
An estimated 15% of the global population, or about 1 billion people, experience some form of disability. Persons with disabilities face many barriers in access to employment, education, services, and are disproportionately affected by poverty. Making sure that everyone can reap the benefits of development, including persons with disabilities, is at the core of the World Bank's mission. On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, the World Bank's Global Advisor on Disability, shares insights about current challenges and opportunities for disability-inclusive development, and explains how the institution has been integrating disability into its operations.

Education as a vehicle to end violence against women

Isabel Santagostino's picture
Also available in: Español
Photo: Scott Wallace/World Bank

The sun sets this year on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include the elimination of gender disparities in education at all levels. Even though the number of countries that have achieved gender parity in both primary and secondary education between 2000 and 2015 has increased from 36 to 62, girls continue to face the greatest challenges, especially in access to secondary education.

 

The negative consequences of lack of education are visible throughout a woman’s life. An uneducated girl is less capable of making her own family planning decisions. A child bride is more likely to face health issues and psychological distress, and her children are more exposed to malnutrition and illiteracy. Education, thus, is fundamental to the development of both aspirations and skills: an educated girl is more capable of managing property and her finances, and has higher chances to have access to credit.

Women’s leadership and access to decision-making positions are also strictly dependent on educational attainment. In the long term, the lack of education affects a girl’s future capacity to seek and get employment and to have an income. Economic independence is reflected not only in a woman’s capacity to spend, save, acquire property and invest, but also in the freedom to get out of abusive domestic relationships, particularly economic violence.
 

Growing resilient forest landscapes in the face of climate change

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: Français | Español
Andrea Borgarello for World Bank/TerrAfrica

Playing out this week and next in Paris is a high-stakes match between science and political will.
 
The science part is quite clear: 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record – a full degree over pre-industrial averages. Climate change is already taking a toll on countries. Add to that we have El Nino wreaking havoc in many parts of the world.  And it is going to get warmer.
 
The political analysis is more complicated. On the one hand, if the national plans, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) drawn up by countries to tackle climate change were implemented, including actions that have been conditioned on available finance, this would likely put the planet on about a 2.7 C degree trajectory that would be catastrophic for the economic, social and natural systems on which we depend.  Clearly more needs to be done. On the other hand, it is a sign of welcome progress. The fact that almost all the world’s countries (Carbon Brief tracks 184 climate pledges to date) have put forward INDCs is a remarkable feat many would have considered impossible just a few years ago.  So there is progress, just not fast enough.
 
Paris should be seen as an important milestone in an arduous journey– a platform for generating an ever upward spiral of ambition in many fields of climate action.
 
One area that promises innumerable wins for people and the planet is land use change, agriculture, and forestry. Together these sectors account for about 24 percent of global emissions, but represent a much greater share of emissions in many developing countries. A preliminary analysis of INDCs shows strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, land use change and agriculture. And there is evidence of a growing appetite for landscape restoration measures in many of those countries. 

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