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PracticeProgramme Summaries
Hamis Basalirwa, Save the Children

The Real Fathers Initiative in Northern Uganda

The Responsible, Engaged and Loving (REAL) Fathers programme supported young fathers (aged 16 to 25 years) in Northern Uganda to build the knowledge and skills to practice non-violent parenting and non-violent intimate partner relations.

The Initiative combined a 12-session curriculum for mentors, a mentoring programme for young fathers, awareness raising activities and community celebrations as a strategy to reduce intimate partner violence (IPV) and violence against children (VAC).

An evaluation (RCT) showed that the programme reduced men’s perpetration of both IPV and physical punishment of children, and provides a successful model for adaptation in future violence prevention initiatives. It could potentially be improved through further engagement of female partners and addressing young fathers’ needs for safety and protection. 

Programming lessons

  • The REAL Fathers initiative proves that it is possible to design and implement a successful VAC and VAW prevention programme through a single intervention. 
  • Although the programme has so far only been tested in Uganda, it is likely that replication and adaptation of the programme to other contexts would be possible. The curriculum is easy to understand and could potentially be simple to translate to other contexts. 
  • It is important that programme participants are able to have a say in the selection of their mentors and that the programme’s contents are made transparent to the communities. Guidelines for Adaptation and use of the curriculum have been developed. 
  • The programme showed limited effects on men’s attitudes towards traditional gender roles at endline, demonstrating the challenges in addressing gender norms and practices in the family context, particularly in a short-term intervention. 
  • While many of the behaviours were sustained one-year post intervention according to the RCT results, qualitative interviews with women highlighted that behaviour change was not always sustained and some reported that their partner had reverted to using violence, often accompanied by alcohol use. It would therefore be useful for future programmes to engage wives and other key individuals in the family or community, and explore the types and ways of family and community support may foster more significant and sustained changes in attitudes and behaviour. 
  • The programme did not focus on the protection needs and services for young fathers, many of whom are still children themselves (16–18 years). It would be useful to explore further with child protection practitioners, what specific needs and support young fathers enrolled in the programme may require especially if they experienced childhood abuse in the home.