In Bihar, the Council's Do Kadam project is testing strategies to reduce the prevalence and acceptance of intimate partner violence against women and girls.
The Government of India has committed to eliminating violence against women and girls through numerous policies, laws, and programs, yet one in three women aged 15–49 experiences some form of physical or sexual violence during her lifetime.
The state of Bihar is the third most populous state in India. The level of violence against women and girls in Bihar is the highest in India: 56% of women have experienced violence, and 57% of men and women believe that intimate partner violence is acceptable. Only 21% of women in Bihar who have suffered violence have sought help.
Through Do Kadam: Barabari ki Ore (In Step: Towards Equality), the Council and its partners are generating a greater understanding of violence against women and girls, developing and evaluating programs to prevent it, and assessing the effectiveness of services provided by a government-run helpline, crisis centers, and shelters for women who have experienced violence.
Prior to launching interventions and assessing services for women in distress, the Council and its partners reviewed the global evidence on best practices to prevent violence. Researchers also conducted a qualitative study to better understand the perspectives of husbands who do not subject their wives to violence. The study included focus group discussions with unmarried young women ages 15–24 and married women ages 25–49, a short survey, and in-depth interviews with selected husbands reported to have been violent or nonviolent.
On the basis of insights drawn from these activities, the Council and its partners have developed and are testing and evaluating project interventions, including:
- Using women-only economic self-help groups supported by the Women Development Corporation of the Government of Bihar’s Department of Social Welfare to empower women, change their inequitable attitudes about women’s and men’s roles, and build women’s confidence to speak out against violence. The groups offer training in financial literacy and livelihoods, and education about women’s rights and challenging traditional gender norms. In some villages, husbands of self-help group members participate in parallel sessions where they learn about alcohol misuse, develop a more egalitarian concept of masculinity, discuss their role in preventing violence against women, and commit to reducing violence in their homes and communities. Self-help group members and their husbands then implement programs to educate others at the community level.
- Working with boys’ sports clubs to incorporate lessons about the rights of women and girls into programs established through the Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangathan programme of the Indian government’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The curriculum works to transform inequitable attitudes about gender and gender-based violence among adolescent boys and young men through life-skills education and a cricket-coaching program.
- Training elected local government representatives to work to reduce the incidence of violence in communities and to become vocal opponents of violence against women and girls and alcohol abuse.
- Training health workers to look for signs of violence, ask screening questions of women in the community who are pregnant or have children age 6 and younger, and refer those who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing violence to support services.
- Assessing the perspectives and experiences of women seeking help from and the providers at the government’s services for female victims of violence, including helplines, crisis centers, and government-run shelters.
The Council and its partners are rigorously assessing the quality and effectiveness of the strategies and services being implemented. Results—expected by early 2016—have the potential to transform gender biases and decrease the risk of violence against women.
Researchers will share findings and policy and program recommendations with the governments of Bihar and India, and support the government in the expansion of successful interventions.
Because all five of these interventions are conducted within existing government structures, project findings will have the potential to inform public-sector programs.