New Program Demonstrates Success in Reducing Gender-Based Violence in Bangladesh

Population Briefs, September 2015 | Go to article overview

New Program Demonstrates Success in Reducing Gender-Based Violence in Bangladesh


A new study by the Population Council and the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) found that an innovative program in Bangladesh has demonstrated a reduction in violence against women and girls. The "Growing Up Safe and Healthy" project, also known as SAFE, sought to improve sexual and reproductive health and reduce gender-based violence among women living in urban slums in Dhaka. The project ran from March 2012 to October 2013.

While it is illegal in Bangladesh for girls under age 18 to marry, more than 60 percent of Bangladeshi girls marry before they reach this age. Girls married early are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, and legal and policy reforms to address gender-based violence have had limited impact. Research shows that less than 2 percent of married women in Bangladesh who have experienced physical violence seek any kind of remedy or service.

Young women and girls living in urban slums experience the highest rates of violence and poor sexual and reproductive health. This is of particular concern in Dhaka, where the slum population is growing rapidly as young men and women migrate in search of employment. These young people face poverty, insecure living arrangements, frequent squatter evictions, weak social networks, the absence of civic society institutions, the lack of public services, and poor coordination among services.

SAFE was created to address some of the problems faced by young women and girls living in slums. The project provided access to health and legal services, interactive sessions with men, young women, and girls, and community-based awareness-raising campaigns to determine what combination of strategies, if any, would reduce violence faced by women and girls in urban slums.

SAFE evaluation methods

The SAFE program's rigorous evaluation explored sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, and marriage and childbearing outcomes. Participating communities were randomly divided into three intervention arms. Community campaign activities and health and legal services were present in all three arms. The difference was the presence or absence of group sessions, and the goal of the evaluation was to determine the impact---if any---of including group sessions as part of the program. Arm A included sessions with men and women; Arm B included sessions only with women; Arm C had no group sessions. A baseline survey was conducted before SAFE was launched, and an endline survey was conducted following the conclusion of the program.

Evaluation findings

SAFE increased awareness about women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence, and rights and laws regarding marriage and dowry. …

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