K. G. Santhya
S. J. Jejeebhoy
Publication Date
March 1, 2017

Population Council

India's Do Kadam Barabari Ki Ore (Two Steps Towards Equality) programme was an effort to address a perceived 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. This policy brief gives a synopsis of the programme, which was implemented by the Population Council together with its partners, the Centre for Catalyzing Change (C3) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with support from the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID), and discusses challenges in implementing and evaluating social sector programmes to reduce violence against women and girls.

Implemented in 2 districts of the state of Bihar, namely, Nawada and Patna, the Do Kadam programme comprised 4 interventions and an assessment of support services for women in distress; this brief focuses on discussing the experience with the 4 intervention projects. See the chart on page 2 and Related Summaries below for detail; in brief, the activities included: providing gender transformative life skills education and sports coaching to boys and young men; empowering women and addressing violence against women through self-help groups (SHGs); modifying behaviours and notions of masculinity through a programme led by locally elected representatives; and screening and referring women experiencing marital violence by frontline community and health workers. Each project worked within existing platforms and schemes of Government of Bihar.

According to the brief, all 4 interventions were considered acceptable by the intended populations. As seen in Figure 1, between two-thirds and all of the intended groups in 3 of the 4 interventions - youth club members, women members of SHGs and their husbands, and locally elected representatives - had participated in the intervention activities at least once. At in-depth interviews with frontline workers too, participants commented that the capacity-building associated with the Do Kadam project had reached all frontline workers (FLWs). The majority of project participants, moreover, observed that they learned something new from the sessions of the Do Kadam programme as indicated in their narratives, some of which are shared in the brief.

Three of the 4 interventions - those focused on boys, SHG members, and elected representatives - achieved their aim to change gender role attitudes of the intended populations, including their notions about men's perceived entitlement to control women and commit violence against them. For example, by the end of the programmes, 72% of boys in intervention clubs compared to 60% of those in the control clubs said that a man has no right to beat his wife if she goes out without telling her husband, and 60% of SHG members in the intervention arm believed that a man has no right to exercise control over what his wife does, compared to 44% of those in the control arm. Findings were mixed regarding the experience and perpetration of violence against women and girls. Furthermore, the projects did not succeed in reducing perpetration of contact forms of violence by boys, SHG members' experience of emotional or sexual violence, or men's controlling behaviour, their perpetration of violence on their wife, or women's experience of marital violence in communities served by Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members exposed to the intervention.

Findings from all 4 intervention projects confirm that exposure was associated with an increase in action taken by the intended populations to stop incidents of violence against women and girls. For example, 40% of boys in the intervention clubs compared to 27% of those in control clubs reported they had intervened to stop an incident of violence. While only 18% and 7% of women who had experienced physical and/or sexual violence had sought help from family and friends or a formal source of help, respectively, prior to the intervention, these percentages increased by endline to 50% and 23% among those who had disclosed their experience to a FLW.

The brief discusses a number of challenges, which are likely to be relevant for many social sector programmes aiming to change deeply entrenched gender power hierarchies, and especially those implemented within public sector programmes, with the goal of replication and upscaling. In sum, these challenges relate to:

  • Overcoming the lack of leadership skills of those delivering the intervention;
  • Addressing the gap between expected responsibilities and activities of government programmes and the reality;
  • Reaching men and boys and ensuring their regular attendance;
  • Reaching younger women;
  • Reaching communities at large;
  • Maintaining the fidelity of the intervention activities;
  • Documenting the intervention process;
  • Using longitudinal in-depth interviews to tell the story;
  • Deciding the ideal length of intervention; and
  • Deciding when to upscale a pilot intervention.

Recommendations arising from the project organisers' experience include:

  • Reflection is needed on ways of strengthening the leadership skills of those delivering the interventions. "Should interventions for boys include a peer mentor who is somewhat older and commands more respect from boys than one who is of their own age? Should the capacity-building period of those tasked with delivering the intervention be more intensive and take place over a longer period in order to build commitment to and skills in imparting the intervention, create greater self-confidence, and focus more attention on gender transformative education? Should all interventions include a substantial initial demonstration period in which programme staff play a more proactive role in imparting the intervention than those designated to impart the intervention and allow the latter to gain confidence and hands-on experience about imparting the intervention?"
  • "Programming for men must be more strategic, incorporating exposure to changing norms and practices into the activities of men's pre-existing groups - for example, through farmers' groups, men employed in a particular industry, and so on, or linked to employment, income generation, and/or savings opportunities."
  • "Reaching communities at large calls for efforts to identify the kinds of activities that have appeal to them." Suggestions include: single-sex events and/or events directed at different groups such as farmers or parents of schoolgoing children, or those that addressing specific themes of interest, such as livelihoods opportunities and social sector programmes for which community members may be eligible. Events could be held in venues where subgroups typically assemble - for example, meetings called by PRI members or members of various mandals or meetings held by FLWs for women with young children. Exposure to individuals in positions of authority - police, lawyers, helpline protection officers, as well as block-level and district-level authorities - may provide greater credibility to the messages transmitted.
  • Pay greater attention to the design and key elements of good process evaluation along with attention to the links between process evaluation, routine monitoring exercises, and overall evaluation of impact of programmes.
  • Assess the ideal duration of various interventions in different socio-cultural contexts and identify the preconditions for upscaling.
  • More research is needed to better understand what works to transform social norms about gender roles and violence in inegalitarian settings such as Bihar, and the extent to which normative change is a necessary condition in changing behaviours.

"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.