Published on Voices

Experts, communities convene to develop evidence-based approaches to prevent intimate partner violence in Honduras

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The communities of Choloma, La Ceiba and el Progreso in Honduras all had one question in common:  "When can we get started?"

"We want solutions that work and we want them now," said a community leader from La Ceiba during a meeting with national and international experts on the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Honduras. La Ceiba is one of the cities most affected by violence in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world at 90.4 deaths/100,000 people. More specifically, rates of violence targeted towards women and girls are also alarmingly high:
  • A total of 27% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; some regions have rates up to 40%.
  • Similarly to other countries around the world, the vast majority of the perpetrators are intimate partners or ex-partners.
These statistics clearly demonstrate the need for interventions that seek to affect the root causes that underlie gender-based violence in Honduras.
The Safer Municipalities Project, implemented in Honduras, is a comprehensive World Bank Group initiative that aims to strengthen municipal capacity to respond to and prevent violence. Already in its implementation phase, this project has helped improve local infrastructure and support services for victims of violence.
A participant in the World Bank Group's Safer Municipalities
Project helps paint a mural. Photo: Angels Maso/World Bank
Simultaneously, the World Bank Group hopes to further its efforts by collaborating with a group of experts to begin adapting and implementing an innovative community-based intervention to address norms, attitudes and behaviors that contribute to IPV. Collaboratively adapting an evidence-based program in Honduras was made possible through the support of the World Bank Group’s Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality (UFGE).

To begin this consultative process, the World Bank Group and the Global Women’s Institute from The George Washington University co-hosted a meeting to convene a group of experts on citizen security, violence against women and girls (VAWG), and participatory community-based methods. They joined representatives from Beyond Borders in Haiti and Puntos de Encuentro and Intercambios in Nicaragua to begin the design phase of a contextually relevant intervention to help reduce levels of violence in three municipalities in Honduras.

Capturing What Works

The evidence base on what works to prevent violence against women and girls has been strengthened quite significantly over the past few decades. Most experts have reached a consensus on key elements that should be included in VAWG programming to impact rates of violence and also change related knowledge and attitudes.

A recent systematic review of reviews on interventions to prevent or reduce violence against women and girls (conducted as a background paper for the Voice and Agency report) and subsequent special Lancet series on violence against women and girls found that the interventions that reduced violence against women and girls included the following components:
  • the involvement of multiple sectors;
  • the delivery of the intervention over a sustained period of time (at minimum 6 months);
  • activities that engaged community members of different ages, gender and other diversities; and
  • multiple implementation strategies, for example: street theater, training and microfinance all as part of a single intervention.
One very well-known community-based intervention that exemplifies these characteristics is SASA! (a Kiswahili word that means “now” and when used as an acronym identifies the four phases of the intervention: Start, Awareness, Support, Action).  This intervention, developed and originally implemented in Uganda by Raising Voices , has been rigorously evaluated to find that the prevalence of intimate partner physical violence in the previous 12 months at follow-up was 52% lower among women who had received the intervention compared to those who had not. SASA! is centered around issues of power dynamics; facilitators of SASA! mobilize communities to identify key actions that promote gender equity and healthy relationships.

In Central America, Somos Diferentes, Somos Iguales (“We Are Different, We Are the Same”) is another successful intervention that has shown to improve gender equitable attitudes and behaviors among participants. Implemented by Puntos de Encuentro in Nicaragua, SDSI consists of a series of multi-level interventions to address gender inequalities and promote healthy relationships and HIV prevention.

'We want solutions that work and we want them now.'
--Community leader, La Ceiba, Honduras

Based on the evidence that exists on violence prevention and a clearly demonstrated need in Honduras, the World Bank Group and partners are presented with a unique opportunity to implement a project that utilizes elements of successful interventions and adapts them to the local context. By rigorously documenting the process and results, the World Bank Group hopes to further strengthen the overall evidence base on what works to prevent VAWG, and inform the design and development of similar projects throughout the Central American region. In addition, with the support of the UFGE grant, the World Bank Group can be sure it is responding to the needs and the requests of communities for effective responses in transforming harmful gender norms, attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate violence and undermine opportunities for development and shared prosperity.


Amber L. Hill

Public Health Professional

Diana J. Arango

Sr. Gender-Based Violence and Development Specialist, World Bank Group

Margarita Puerto

Social Development Specialist, World Bank

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