The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.
The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Women empowerment, social norms and domestic violence

Research Partners:

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Principal Investigator: Paul Collier. Lead Organisation: University of Oxford (Blavatnik School of Government)
Co-Investigators:  Marije Leonie Groot Bruinderink (Amsterdam Institute for International Development, AIID); Ramadan Mohamed (American University in Cairo); Karlijn Morsink (University of Oxford); Wendy Janssens (Amsterdam Institute for Global Health & Development, AIGHD)
Domestic violence (DV) affects 30% of women worldwide and more than 50% of women living in conflict or post-conflict communities. The prevention of DV is important, not only because it is a violation of women's rights and freedoms, but also because DV negatively affects economic growth and perpetuates structural poverty. An important mechanism driving this effect is the interaction between DV and low cooperation between spouses, resulting in less than optimal health, education and economic outcomes. This dynamic is exacerbated in conflict-affected zones, where household cooperation is essential for post-conflict recovery. The aim of this project is to better understand how to design effective and efficient interventions aimed at reducing DV, especially among vulnerable groups in conflict-affected areas. Our research advances goal three of the ESRC-DFID Joint fund for poverty alleviation research: 'What measures can be taken to reduce the risks and impact of violence and instability on the poorest and increase the effectiveness of peace-building, state-building and wider development interventions in fragile and conflict-affected situations?'
In order to design interventions to reduce DV that actually work, it is necessary to understand the specific factors driving it. To date, research on DV interventions has only provided preliminary and often contradictory evidence. Our project aims to substantially advance our understanding of DV, its causes and how interventions can better reduce it. We will accomplish this by addressing two questions:
  • Question 1: To what extent do different factors affect the prevalence of domestic violence? 
    Previous research has identified various factors that influence the occurrence of DV such as the husbands' psychological traits, women's resistance and acceptance of DV, women's income earning opportunities, social norms about DV and the level of women's empowerment. The extent to which each individual factor influences DV is, however, unknown. 

  • Question 2: How do the interactions between the different factors drive DV and influence household cooperation and multidimensional poverty, especially for vulnerable groups? 
    These questions will be answered by studying several DV interventions implemented in 120 rural communities in Egypt by Oxfam Novib. Egypt is chosen because it is one of the few post-conflict countries where several DV interventions are being implemented simultaneously, allowing us to test the effect of all factors. These include interventions with the following objectives: 
    • Empowering women, by changing their beliefs about their rights and the acceptability of violence.
    • Changing men's attitudes and social norms about DV.
    • Changing women's economic opportunities through the provision of microcredit. 
 In each community a sub-section of the population will receive an intervention and participate, with their spouse, in a base- and end-line survey. They will also participate in experiments where they make decision about allocating resources to measure bargaining power of the spouses and the level of cooperation in the household. Through these experiments we will be able to develop new tools to measure DV and women's empowerment. 
The main impact objective of our research is to reduce the prevalence of DV, enhance household cooperation and multidimensional household outcomes, and reduce structural poverty in low-income households in LIC's and other developing countries, especially in conflict or post-conflict areas. Our research will enable policy-makers and NGOs to design more effective and efficient DV interventions targeted at specific vulnerable groups. It will also provide evidence on the scale, causes and consequences of DV. This includes the effect of DV on enhancing household cooperation and multidimensional household outcomes, and reducing structural poverty. These results will be used to enhance the lobby for government and donor support to DV interventions.
Our main impact objective is to reduce the prevalence of domestic violence (DV), improve household cooperation and multidimensional household outcomes, and to reduce structural poverty in low-income households in LIC's and other developing countries, especially in conflict or post-conflict areas. Low-income households, and vulnerable women in Egypt in particular, will be directly impacted by participating in DV interventions. Indirectly, the impact will be achieved by improving our understanding of 'what works' in terms of DV interventions by Oxfam Novib in the short term, and other development organizations in the medium to long term.
This will be achieved by:
  • Involving a range of key-stakeholders in a five-day workshop at the start of the project, hosted by the American University in Cairo (AUC); 
  • The collaborative development of the research design and instruments with Oxfam and their local partners; 
  • Two policy papers, one improving Oxfam's theory of change, one focusing on measurement tools for measuring DV prevalence and women empowerment; 
  • Policy conferences; 
  • The incorporation of the results of our study in Oxfam's own educational entertainment intervention targeted at reducing DV. 
The second impact objective is to enhance the lobby for government and donor support to DV interventions by providing evidence about the link between the reduction of DV, household cooperation and alleviation of structural poverty. We aim to achieve this by writing a policy brief and blog post, which will be distributed to organizations involved in advocacy on DV. We will give specific attention to advocacy to the Egyptian government by involving them in research, starting from the key-stakeholder workshop held at the beginning of the project. The third impact objective is to raise awareness about DV in Egypt and to increase public support for social change. This will be achieved by involving Egyptian practitioners working on DV, such as representatives from hospitals, Egyptian police and women's groups in the research. Secondly, before data collection starts, we will organize meetings with village leaders to request support for the research. Thirdly, field staff will be trained to increase their knowledge about DV, local legislation and referral systems that exist for women experiencing DV. Finally, the educational entertainment programme will be made available to the larger Egyptian general public. The final impact objective is to raise awareness among the general public in the Netherlands and United Kingdom about the widespread prevalence of DV globally, and to increase public support for DV interventions in developing countries through involving the national press.
The academic impact of our research centers on the development of a theoretical model of DV prevalence, which will help us to understand and test, through an RCT combined with framed-field experiments, the causal mechanisms driving changes in DV, household cooperation and outcomes. So far this has been a main challenge for DV researchers. The study will produce three academic papers focusing on the impact of the RCT treatment arms, heterogeneous impacts on vulnerable groups and the impact of reduction of DV on household outcomes and structural poverty more generally. Next to DV researchers, the research will also benefit academics evaluating policy interventions targeted at low-income households in developing countries, especially because it will provide a critical step towards disentangling mechanisms driving impact. Academics in the field of family economics will benefit because our research will address a range of causal mechanisms that are applicable to the developing country context. A unique dataset will be produced that will be made publicly available at the UK Data Service. The research will be disseminated through research papers, the multidisciplinary scientific advisory committee, blog posts, and presentations at academic conferences.
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Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Fund Start Date: 
October 1st, 2016
Fund End Date: 
March 31st, 2020
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