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Preventing IPV in Rural Ethiopia: Developing, Implementing and Testing “Unite for a Better Life”

Unite for a Better Life (UBL) is a gender-transformative programme to prevent intimate partner violence (IPV) and HIV. It is delivered by trained facilitators to groups of women, men or couples within the context of the traditional coffee ceremony in rural Ethiopia, or tea talks in the Somali refugee context. Through participatory, skills-building sessions, the programme targets the underlying social, cultural and behavioural determinants of IPV in these contexts.

During this webinar, Dr Vandana Sharma and Samuel Gebretsadik highlight lessons and challenges of addressing social norms related to IPV through programming and research, together with preliminary evaluation findings. In a second webinar in this series, they present the process of adapting the programme to a humanitarian context, including displacement-related changes in norms. A third webinar focuses on an innovative podcast-based version of the programme, co-created by Somali refugees and delivered in a humanitarian context.

Programme at a Glance

GROUPS
Men-only, women-only, couples’ groups

PARTICIPANTS
20 participants per group

SESSIONS
14 sessions (2 sessions per week over 7 weeks)

PLATFORM:
Ethiopian coffee ceremony

CONTENT
Gender roles, healthy sexuality, HIV and condom use,boundaries and sexual consent, power and control in relationships, joint decision making, task sharing, communication, emotional regulation, conflict resolution, supporting survivors

Key Takeaways

Violence prevention can be delivered effectively through cultural or community practices. As a part of participants’ daily lives, the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony serves as a forum to spark conversations about important issues like gender, healthy relationships and HIV and offers opportunities to challenge traditional gender roles by modelling and practicing more equitable behaviours such as men preparing and serving coffee. In men and couples’ groups, male facilitators model preparing coffee in the first two sessions before asking participants to do so in subsequent sessions.

Multi-stage facilitator training that is gender transformative and experience-based is critical to successfully delivering a programme like UBL. In the first stage, facilitators from the local community completed the 7-week UBL programme as participants to reflect and challenge gender inequitable attitudes or behaviours they may have held. Then the facilitators who displayed gender equitable attitudes and behaviours advanced to a 16-day training to build facilitation skills and master content. This was followed by continued session practice and discussions with their peer facilitators and supervisors.

Attendance rates and knowledge retention varied based on the frequency of the sessions. UBL conducted several pilot studies before starting the randomized controlled trial and implementation. One pilot compared delivering the programme once per week over 14 weeks versus twice per week over 7 weeks. Two sessions per week over a 7-week period was preferred by participants, had higher attendance rates and showed more retention of knowledge between sessions.

Gender-based violence response services must be in place before embarking on a programme like UBL. UBL mapped response services that were in place at the start of the programme. They created a list of available legal, justice, health and social services and continued to update it throughout the programme. Given the lack of counselling and psychiatric services, UBL hired psychiatric nurses posted in local health facilities so they would be available for facilitators and participants. They shared information about available services with all participants.