March 29, 2023 — A new study published in BMJ Open found violence against women and children in the home is preventable - even in challenging contexts affected by conflict and displacement. The study was conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where families have reported staggering levels of violence at home. 86.5% of families reported either intimate partner violence or child maltreatment in the three months before the program launched.
To address these needs, study authors conducted a trial for a new solution called Safe at Home, an educational program that helps families tackle gender and power inequalities in the home, offers parenting skills to caregivers, and promotes supportive behaviors between family members. Men and women are brought together in sex-separated spaces to address key issues and find social support, alongside family sessions where participants discuss critical topics to their wellbeing such as communication, financial and sexual and reproductive health decision making, and setting family rules and norms.
Following the trial and assessment, results showed:
- 77% reduction in the use of intimate partner violence against women in the past three months compared to others in the community who did not receive such programming;
- 71% and 44% reduction in the use of physical and/or psychological harsh discipline against children by female and male caregivers, respectively;
- Positive trends for other aspects of family wellbeing including: (1) decreased acceptance of harsh discipline against children and women; (2) increased power sharing between the couple; (3) improved gender equitable attitudes; and (4) increased positive parenting skills.
Jean de Dieu Hategekimana, Safe at Home coordinator and senior author, stated, “The impact of Safe at Home on the lives of families cannot be under-estimated. Women told us that their husbands include them in decision-making, there is greater dialogue in the home and greater access to financial resources. Men appreciated that they can now solve problems jointly and have a happier married life. With Safe at Home, children who were out of school are returning to school, they are treated well, and their voices are heard.”.
Dr. Kathryn Falb, Research Director at the IRC, shared, “These findings are incredibly exciting and exploring how we can reach more people with the Safe at Home program in other humanitarian settings and sustain these changes are the next frontier of learning.”
Safe at Home is a groundbreaking approach developed in response to the requests of families grappling with multiple humanitarian crises in eastern DRC to reduce multiple forms of violence in the home. Communities impacted by complex emergencies have historically received programming that treated violence against women and children separately. Safe at Home’s holistic approach offers promising insights in addressing co-drivers of violence at the family level in low-resource contexts. In doing so, it may carve the way for innovative and better-integrated program designs between the child protection and women empowerment sectors.
Read the full published study here.