SUPPORTING FATHERS TO REDUCE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN UGANDA
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Responsible, Engaged and Loving (REAL) Fathers was designed to reduce levels of intimate partner violence and violence against children in Uganda. The programme builds positive parenting and relationship skills and shifts attitudes towards traditional gender and caregiving roles at the individual and relationship levels.
The programme has three components:
- A six-month, 12-session mentoring programme for young men aged 16 to 25 who are parents of children under 3 years old; at each session, mentors give the young fathers homework that involves practising new skills such as childcare and communication
- Awareness-raising campaigns using community posters placed in central locations to encourage dialogue and behaviour change
- Community celebrations after completing the curriculum to bring together participants, family members, and community members
Mentors receive two weeks of training and deliver 12 sessions: four individually, two with couples, and six in larger groups.
Young fathers exposed to REAL Fathers were half as likely as those unexposed to report using any form of intimate partner violence (physical, psychological, or verbal) at endline and one year after project completion. REAL Fathers led to a decrease in men’s reporting of psychological and verbal intimate partner violence perpetration and physical child punishment. They also reported increased parent-child interactions, positive parenting practices, and attitudes rejecting violence against women and children. REAL Fathers also reduced the reported physical violence among young fathers, but the effect was weaker and not statistically significant.
REAL Fathers was implemented by Save the Children UK and the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University, and it was funded by the US Agency for International Development and Oak Foundation. If you want to adapt the programme, we strongly recommend that you contact them first.
- The intervention had significant positive effects on couple communication but more limited effects on attitudes justifying intimate partner violence and no effect on gender norms. Sustained change in gender roles likely requires more long-term support and broader community engagement.
- REAL Fathers nonetheless reduced reported physical child punishment and emotional intimate partner violence, confirming that behaviour change can precede norm and attitude change.
- Qualitative data suggests that greater involvement of female partners may strengthen the programme.
“BEFORE THIS MENTORSHIP, I WAS A DRUNKARD AND VIOLENT. AFTER REAL FATHERS, MY VIOLENCE VANISHED, I STARTED COMMUNICATING AND WORKING WELL WITH MY WIFE. I AM RESPONSIBLE NOW. I LOOK AFTER OUR CHILD AT HOME MOST OF THE TIME. I ADVOCATED TO MY FRIENDS TO STOP DRINKING ALCOHOL AND BATTERING THEIR WIVES.”
YOUNG FATHER, NORTHERN UGANDA