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Gender

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.  

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.
 

The missing men in violence against women

Maria Correia's picture
Photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank

To end violence against women, we must ask the fundamental question of what is going on with men – the main perpetrators of this violence – and why societies worldwide are producing so many violent men?

As we know from the seminal 2013 WHO report, gender violence has reached epidemic proportions:  fully one third of women worldwide – nearly one billion women – will experience physical violence from a male partner in their lifetimes.  The problem has persisted or even increased in rich and poor countries alike – across age groups, classes, cultures and races.  
 
The time has come to shift our thinking and approach to the perpetrators of this violence.  We need to turn our attention to the behavior and motivations of the men and ask a different set of questions. What is going on with the men who are committing these violent acts?  Why do so many men use violence against women and girls – particularly their own family members?  Why is men’s use of violence against women so commonplace across countries in the world today?  And how do institutions perpetuate the practice of men abusing and violating women? 

Gender-based violence: lesbian and transgender women face the highest risk but get the least attention

Saurav Jung Thapa's picture

 
​Strategies to curb violence against women too often exclude the experiences of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women.  The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is marking this year’s 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women by highlighting the disproportionate violence and discrimination that many lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face, and calls on the World Bank to develop policies that consider the unique needs of these women.
 
The laws are changing but the violence remains
 
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have made great strides in the fight for full equality. As of today, 34 countries permit marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples, and many other countries have passed vital non-discrimination protections. For example, in the United States, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 expanded non-discrimination protections for LGBT people to prohibit shelters and other domestic violence services from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
 
Sadly, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face disproportionate levels of violence at the hands of both strangers and intimate partners.  A recent U.N. human rights report  noted that LGBT people are at a disturbingly elevated risk of homicidal violence, highlighting the increased risk that lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face because of gender-based discrimination. Another study by the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition estimates that transgender women in the United States face 4.3 times the risk of becoming homicide victims than the general population of women. Factors such as poverty or belonging to a racial minority exacerbated the incidence and rates of violence experienced. Transgender people are also more likely to experience violence from law enforcement, in homeless shelters, and in healthcare settings. The recent Transgender Day of Remembrance served as a stark reminder that transgender people around the world face disproportionate levels of violence: in the United States alone, at least 21 transgender people have been killed in 2015.

Violence in South Asia casts a lifelong shadow over women and girls

Rohini P. Pande's picture

Our recent book, Violence Against Women and Girls: Lessons from South Asia, contains some startling facts. Some 77 percent of girls in Bangladesh are married before they turn 18. India has the world’s second most skewed child sex ratio. Almost 20 percent of married Pakistani adolescents reported spousal violence in 2012. All South Asian countries have laws addressing gender-based violence on the books, while thousands of organizations across the region are working to address it.
 
Our book—which drew from vast data and more than 600 articles, books, and other published material—was the first to document and compare in a single volume the details and dynamics of the pervasive violence girls and women may face across all eight countries in South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It simultaneously examines the multiple forms of violence they encounter across the life-cycle, from childhood through old age, as well as accumulated research about this phenomenon and interventions aimed at preventing and halting it.
 

How violent extremism links to violence against women

Alys Willman's picture
(This is part of the #16Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. Look here for a new blog post on this topic over the next two weeks.)

The events of the past two weeks -- the high-profile extremist violence in Beirut, Paris and Mali –challenge us to  think about what it means to be female in groups that endorse or endure these appalling atrocities.   As a social scientist who has spent decades studying gender-based violence, I am reminded of a recent discussion at the United Nations General Assembly in September, where a panel of experts looked at “Integrating a Gender Dimension in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: Policy and Practice.” 

Violent extremist groups “have attacked women and imposed limits on their dress, mobility, and freedom of expression for a long time. We know women’s full participation in society is good for everyone. We cannot let the lack of a gender focus be a barrier to progress anymore,” said Ingvild Stub, State Secretary in the Norwegian Prime Minister’s Office.   

Both Feet Forward: Putting a Gender Lens on Finance and Markets

Caren Grown's picture

Mobile Banking, Movable Collateral Registries, Can Boost Female Financial Inclusion

Empowering women, creating opportunities for all, and tapping everyone’s talents—these aren’t just preconditions to achieving every other vital development goal. They’re essential to building prosperous, resilient economies and meeting the fast-growing challenges of the 21st century.
 

To Secure Peace and Renewal, Including Women in Peacebuilding Is Key

Khetsiwe Dlamini's picture

“Women’s leadership and the protection of women’s rights should always be at the forefront—and never an afterthought—in promoting international peace and security,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said recently. 
 
The Secretary-General’s remarks provide a crucial strategic focus. Research, evidence, and experience underline that women’s leadership in peacebuilding increases overall operational effectiveness. 
 

Identification for Development: Its Potential for Empowering Women and Girls

Lucia Hanmer's picture
Widespread lack of official identification (ID) in developing countries disproportionately affects women and girls, who face more and higher barriers to obtaining IDs. As economists at the World Bank Group, even we hadn’t immediately appreciated the enormous deprivations facing girls and women who lack official identification. These barriers include: restrictions on women’s freedom to travel outside the home or community; distance; financial cost; time constraints; illiteracy; lack of information and lack of awareness; and, lack of support or opposition from other family members.  

Five challenges prevent financial access for people in developing countries

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español


Financial products must be adapted to women’s needs, like enabling them to open their own account or improving their financial literacy. Photograph: World Bank Photo Collection

Two billion people worldwide still lack access to regulated financial services. Despite significant progress and the increased technical and financial resources devoted to financial inclusion, much work remains ahead.
 
There is broad consensus that access to a transaction account can help people better manage their life and plan for emergencies.

But financial access and the underlying financial infrastructure taken for granted in rich countries, such as savings accounts, debit cards or credit as well as the payment systems on which they operate, still aren’t available to many people in developing countries. This past September, I participated in the Global Policy Forum of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) held in Mozambique.  This annual meeting convened policymakers, the private sector and other stakeholders to assume new commitments, discuss best practices and agree on the way forward.

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