"I enjoyed passing remarks and whistling at girls. I realised this was wrong after I joined the programme. I understood what was fun for me was harassment for the girls. Now I work with the programme also stop other boys from doing so." - Kumar, a resident of Rakasia village in Patna

In the Bihar state of India, 43% of women experience intimate partner violence, often fueled by inequitable gender norms. The Population Council's Do Kadam Barabari Ki Ore (Two Steps Towards Equality) programme (2012-2016) tested strategies on what works to change attitudes and reduce violence against women and girls in 2 districts of Bihar, namely, Nawada and Patna.

Communication Strategies: 

Through Do Kadam: Barabari ki Ore, the Council and its partners worked to generate a greater understanding of violence against women and girls, develop and evaluate programmes to prevent it, and assess the effectiveness of services provided by a government-run helpline, crisis centres, 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. Click here to access a 96-page report (2013) on this formative research titled "Gender-based violence: A qualitative exploration of norms, experiences and positive deviance" [PDF].

On the basis of insights drawn from these activities, the Council and its partners developed and tested and evaluated project interventions, each of which worked within existing platforms and schemes of Government of Bihar. Programme lead K.G. Santhya said: "Not only did the projects look at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of prevention, but each project also addressed prevailing gender norms, tested best practices to mitigate risk factors and, promote protective factors to reduce violence worked within existing government structures." The projects included:

  • Using women-only economic self-help groups (SHGs) 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, as well as education about women's rights and challenging traditional gender norms. In some villages, husbands of SHG members participated in parallel sessions where they learned about alcohol misuse, developed a more egalitarian concept of masculinity, discussed their role in preventing violence against women, and committed to reducing violence in their homes and communities. Sessions for SHG members were delivered by Sakhi Salahkars or peer mentors drawn from the SHG, who underwent pre-programme and regular refresher training programmes, together with facilitators, known as field animators, from the implementing agency Centre for Catalysing Change (C3) India. Sessions for husbands were delivered by C3 India's field animators in view of husbands' irregular attendance and their unwillingness to take on the role of peer mentors. SHG members and their husbands then implement programmes to educate others at the community level, including street plays and meetings, followed by discussions about their messages. Click here to access a 4-page (March 2017) brief, "Empowering women and addressing marital violence through self-help groups: Evidence from rural Bihar" [PDF].
  • Working with boys' sports clubs to incorporate lessons about the rights of women and girls into programmes established through the Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangathan programme of the Indian government's Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The curriculum worked to transform inequitable attitudes about gender and gender-based violence among adolescent boys and young men through life-skills education and a cricket-coaching programme. The cricket-coaching and games component was intended to convey a sense of fair play, team spirit, sportsmanship, and resolution of conflict in non-violent ways, aside from improving cricketing skills of the boys. Sessions were delivered by club members who were selected as peer mentors and who had undergone several pre-programme and refresher training programmes, often together with core trainers from the implementing agency, C3 India. Click here to access a 4-page (March 2017) brief, "Enabling adolescent boys to adopt attitudes that espouse gender equality and oppose violence against women and girls: Evidence from rural Bihar" [PDF].
  • Modifying behaviours and notions of masculinity through a programme led by locally elected representatives (Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members), such as by 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. The intervention was implemented over a 7-month period in 9 villages from 2 panchayats of Masaurhi Block in Patna district. It began with developing a 14-session curriculum for sensitising PRI members and building their capacity to address violence against women and girls and alcohol abuse in their communities. Male and female PRI members received training through an initial 3-day training workshop followed by fortnightly training sessions based on the curriculum. In addition, exposure visits were held for PRI members in order to provide them first-hand information on services and programmes available to support women in distress and those in need of help to address alcohol problems, build the confidence of the PRI members to enable them to impart what they learned in these visits to the community at large, and support them to refer individual cases. Following their exposure to each training session, PRI representatives, with support from C3 and its local partner, Abhiyan, held community-level sensitisation sessions in their wards to build awareness among community members on issues addressed during the training session that they had attended. Aside from these sessions, PRI representatives were supported to hold community-wide campaigns and such events as street theatre, film shows, and local rallies on ending gender discrimination, violence against women and girls, and domestic violence related to alcohol abuse. Click here to access a 4-page (January 2017) brief, "Training locally elected representatives to act as change agents to promote egalitarian gender norms: Lessons learned from the Do Kadam Barabari Ki Ore programme" [PDF].
  • 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. The Do Kadam programme was conducted among all frontline workers (FLWs) serving 9 villages located within a radius of 5–6 kilometres from one primary health centre in one block in Patna district. A 3-day training programme, using participatory methodologies, was held, which sensitised FLWs on women's rights and the unacceptability of marital violence; they were also informed about services available for women in distress. The project adapted an available screening tool, namely, the Abuse Assessment Screen, and the project team familiarised FLWs, in the course of training, on the screening tool and on how to administer it in a non-threatening way and record responses. Finally, it sought to develop communication and basic counselling skills of FLWs. Click here to access a 4-page (March 2017) brief, "Feasibility of screening and referring women experiencing marital violence by engaging frontline workers: Evidence from rural Bihar" [PDF].
  • 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 centres, and government-run shelters. For instance: In Bihar, helplines for women who experience violence exist in almost every district; these helplines provide counselling services, including for couples seeking reconciliation of differences, and facilitate legal, medical and housing services for women in need. Notwithstanding the availability of these helplines, little is known about the perspectives and experiences of women who have used them. Click here to access a 4-page (March 2017) brief, "Acceptability and effectiveness of helpline services: Perspectives of women in distress and service providers" [PDF].
Development Issues: 

Gender, Violence against Women and Girls

Key Points: 

The Government of India has committed to eliminating violence against women and girls through numerous policies, laws, and programmes, yet one in three women aged 15-49 experiences some form of physical or sexual violence during her lifetime. 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. According to the Population Council, "A key challenge underlying the gap between policy and programme commitments and the reality of women's lives in the country is the dearth of evidence on what works and what does not work to change notions of masculinity and femininity, reverse norms at community level that condone marital violence, and reduce women's experience of intimate partner violence."

Reflecting on evidence shared in the briefs linked to above as well as to the evaluation summarised in Related Summaries, below, Santhya said: "There is strong evidence that exposure to the intervention had a significant effect on making boys denounce attitudes justifying the right of men and boys to control the females in their life. Gender role attitudes became more egalitarian and notions of masculinity became more positive."

Partner Text: 

The Population Council, the Centre for Catalysing Change (C3), and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Supported by the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID).


"Ideas that Matter", sent from Population Council to The Communication Initiative on April 28 2017; and Population Council website, "Two steps towards equality — a programme to reduce violence against women", IANS, March 30 2017 - both accessed on April 28 2017.