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EvidenceEvidence Syntheses
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UN Women

Effectiveness of Interventions to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls: A Summary of the Evidence

This short summary paper presents the evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG). It is based on a rapid review of the existing evidence through a review of reviews and online searches of academic databases. Its key messages include:

While many intervention evaluations show an impact on risk factors related to violence such as attitudes, school attendance, sexual practices, alcohol use, harsh parenting, evaluations that demonstrate a significant impact on women’s experiences or men’s perpetration of VAWG were relatively rare at the time of writing.

Some areas of intervention are receiving substantial investment, but there is limited evidence of effect. For example, there is significant interest in improving school infrastructure, including WASH facilities, and bystander interventions however there is no robust evidence of impact on VAWG of these interventions. 

We are yet to see an intervention that has effectively reduced both men’s perpetration and women’s experiences of violence, with evaluations tending to report a change in one but not the other. 

Multi-component interventions are more effective than single- component ones in preventing VAWG.

Gender transformative approaches are more effective than interventions simply targeting attitude and behaviour change.

There is emerging evidence that interventions that work with both men and women are more effective than single-sex interventions.

Strengths and Limitations of the Evidence Base

The paper says that there has been an impressive increase in the evidence base for violence prevention interventions in recent years with several rigorous impact evaluations undated or underway in low and middle income countries and showing some success in preventing VAWG.  However, there are still several gaps in the evidence base:

  • Most rigorous evaluations of interventions to prevent VAWG are from High Income Countries (HICs) and there has been little testing of how these programmes might be adapted or applied in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). 
  • Particularly limited evidence on some intervention types, i.e. transforming masculinities and social norm change. 
  • Majority of evaluations do not measure violence as an outcome. 
  • Majority of evaluations assess the impact on direct intervention recipients and not at a community level. 
  • Limited evidence on interventions relevant for especially vulnerable groups. 
  • Indicators vary widely in nature and in data collection making comparisons di cult. 
  • Limited synthesis across interventions of key pathways through which interventions may be achieving their impacts.
  • Short follow-up means we understand little about how change is sustained.
  • For multi-component interventions it is di cult to attribute outcomes between intervention components.
  • Limited evidence on scalability of interventions.

Implications for the Prevention Agenda

The paper recommends that the following top 10 areas and approaches should be prioritised in terms of violence prevention in the future: 

1. Interventions that have a clear theory of change 

2. Multi-component programmes 

3. Interventions that work with men and women 

4. Interventions that seek to achieve community-level impacts 

5. Interventions that combine face-to-face work with other approaches, and include skills building elements 

6. Interventions that take a holistic approach and are gender transformative 

7. Different interventions to target different forms of VAWG 

8. Interventions targeting particularly vulnerable populations or those at high risk of perpetration 

9. Interventions targeting different age groups 

10. Interventions that are scalable in terms of human and financial resources.