Reduction of Gender-Based Violence Against Women in Cote d’Ivoire
By adding a component of gender discussion to Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and including males in the proposed intervention, this study assesses the potential for improving the physical, social and economic outcomes for women in Côte d’Ivoire. Does including men in gender discussions in the context of financial decision-making help to reduce gender-based violence and increase economic outcomes for women?
Gender-based violence toward women and girls represents a violation of human rights and organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are actively engaging in rigorous research to determine the most effective ways to reduce this abuse. Evidence from South Africa suggests that combining gender dialogue components to economic interventions can reduce partner violence. Another program tying discussions of household dynamics to regular microfinance groups in Burundi also yielded promising findings. While many programs that aim to reduce women’s exposure to gender-based violence focus solely on women, few interventions incorporate males to change their attitudes toward gender and their roles in the perpetuation of violence. This study addresses the potential to reduce gender-based violence within the post-conflict context by supplementing economic programs with a gender-training component for men and women.
Côte d’Ivoire has experienced two civil wars in the past decade, most recently in November 2010 after a disputed presidential election. As of May 2011, the country has returned to a period of peace and internally displaced peoples (IDPs) are slowly returning to their homes. A recent report from Oxfam, Care and the Danish Refugee Council highlighted the potential humanitarian crisis IDPs represent in Cote d’Ivoire—over 450,000 Ivoirians remain displaced inside Côte d’Ivoire and abroad. About 58% of returnees and 82% of displaced Ivoirians report complete loss of revenue streams, and these populations remain highly susceptible to attacks, harassment and intimidation.
As part of its mission to respond to humanitarian crises and help post-crisis communities rebuild, the IRC uses Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to increase savings opportunities and capital accumulation for self-selected groups of men and women. VSLA groups are composed of 15-30 community members who decide to contribute to a collective savings fund that members can borrow from, with the loan interest allowing the fund to grow over time. VSLA groups agree collectively on a payout date, when all members will receive a share of the common fund plus interest. The IRC provides initial training and resources such as a lockbox and notebooks, meaning that administrative costs are low and decision-making is driven entirely by the VSLA itself.
This study assesses the impact of a socio-economic program and discussion group on the incidence of physical and sexual violence and women’s individual agency. A randomized evaluation will be conducted in 24 villages across Côte d’Ivoire, reaching 48 newly-established VSLA groups. Village groups will be randomly assigned to either a treatment arm (gender dialogue program in addition to the VSLA program) or a comparison arm (VSLA program only). Women will be surveyed before and after the program is completed, while men will be invited to participate in in-depth qualitative interviews. Additional midline quantitative and qualitative data collection activities were added to capture changes in household well-being as a result of the post-election instability in late 2010 and early 2011.
Gender dialogues will be facilitated through the IRC’s current structure for VSLA groups. In addition to regular VSLA activities, groups assigned to the gender dialogue treatment will encourage men and women to discuss the processes by which economic decisions are made within the household and their current systems of control over household resources. By challenging gender norms within the dialogue groups in the context of savings and spending decisions, women’s position in the household may be strengthened over time.