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A community-based approach to ending violence against girls

13 September 2019
Project Spotlight

Last month we released an evidence brief from an evaluation of a promising program in Jordan that succeeded in reducing violence against refugee girls. After having interviewed the research team, we wanted to share more details on the intervention and some learnings that came out of the evaluation.

In a survey of 1,000 Palestinian refugee girls, nearly 80% reported experiencing some form of gender-based violence and 65% reported harassment on their way to and from school. Of girls asked, “would you rather be a boy or a girl?”, 25% of female respondents reported that they would rather be boys.  

To address the norms and values that perpetuate violence against girls, the Mediterranean Network for Development of Local Community developed a program with a holistic approach to girls’ empowerment and violence prevention, as a joint venture with researchers from the Try Centre.

The intervention  

This two-pronged intervention included components on the role of personal attitudes in preventing violence against girls, such as issues of self-confidence, body image, and harmful norms around violence and abuse in families.

In the school-based intervention, “Protecting Myself,” female students received weekly sessions that targeted their knowledge and skills in protective behaviors during a 6-month period.

The family and teacher intervention, “My Community Protects Me,” contained four 2-hour educational campaigns targeting caregivers to raise awareness about violence and abuse in families and communities.

The evaluation findings

The evaluation of this program, led by the Try Centre, found several positive changes in gender norms and gender-based violence:

  • The combined interventions led to a significant improvement in the family’s attention to the girls’ academic achievement and problem-solving skills.
  • The combined interventions generated a significant reduction in physical punishment and verbal abuse of girls within the family.
  • There was a 20% increase in the number of reported violence and abuse cases. There was also a significant increase in the awareness of the negative impact of violence on girls’ development.
  • The combined interventions resulted in a significant increase in girls’ self-confidence.
This photo relates to an activity that explores the daily routine of boys and girls and discrimination that exists between them.

The lessons learned

The evaluation also exposed some areas for improvement in the intervention’s design. For example, the results suggest that sensitizing teachers at the on-set of the intervention was not enough to change behaviors. Teachers have other competing tasks and incorporating the “Protecting Myself” curriculum into their workload was considered burdensome and challenging. As such, teachers would forget much of what they had learned in the curriculum and, on occasions, would revert back to victim-blaming when harassment or abuse was reported. As the gate keepers to female students in school, this evaluation exposed the need to integrate curriculum trainings throughout the academic year, as well as to provide incentivizes to participating teachers.

Similarly, the evaluation found low participation among fathers in the community-based component of this program. To respond to this, Try Centre and the Mediterranean Network for Development of Local Community co-designed a competition amongst girls with an alternating theme each year, intended to spur not only interest from the girls, but attention to the daughter’s academic achievements from their fathers. Following the implementation of this competition, fathers’ participation in the intervention significantly increased.   

This intervention and evaluation were completed in 2014, though the competition among female students continues to take place in all four UNWRA schools. In 2016, the Try Centre received the With and For Girls Award  for their work on this project and similar ones throughout Jordan.

You can download the full evidence brief here.

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