Direct cash transfers, coupled with a change in the manner of communication can reduce violence against women inflicted by their partners by 26 per cent, says a study in Bangladesh by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Cornell University.
Reductions in violence were found 6-10 months after the intervention ended, providing the first evidence that such benefits can be sustained after cash transfers and related programming cease.
"Our study in Bangladesh found that the combination of transfers and behaviour change communication led to women experiencing less violence from their partners even after the programme ended; but transfers alone did not have this effect," IFPRI research fellow Shalini Roy said.
"The study results suggest that adding behaviour change communication...was necessary to sustain the reductions in violence. Given that the behaviour change communication was focused on child nutrition, not violence or gender, we think a key function it played was to bring women together and increase their social status."
Intimate partner violence is pervasive globally, with estimates showing that one in three adult women worldwide has experienced some form of violence.
Much of the existing research on the effects of cash transfers on intimate partner violence has been conducted in Latin America, but South Asia has among the highest regional rates of violence in the world, with 41 per cent prevalence.
In rural Bangladesh, this number is even higher, with over 70 per cent of married women having experienced intimate partner violence, according to some sources.
Forthcoming in The Review of Economics and Statistics, and jointly authored by IFPRI's Shalini Roy, Melissa Hidrobo and Akhter Ahmed, and Cornell's John Hoddinott, the paper "Transfers, behavior change communication, and intimate partner violence: Post-program evidence from rural Bangladesh" examines how providing cash or food transfers to very poor women in Bangladesh - with or without intensive nutrition behaviour change communication - affected intimate partner violence.
The study draws on the Transfer Modality Research Initiative (TMRI), a pilot safety net programme in rural Bangladesh implemented from 2012 to 2014.
TMRI's primary aim was not to change gender dynamics, but to improve household food security and child nutrition.
To assess its effectiveness, the World Food Programme, in collaboration with IFPRI, conducted its impact evaluation.
Mothers of young children from poor households were randomly assigned to a control group or to groups that received cash or food transfers, with or without intensive behaviour change communication related to child nutrition.
Components of the behaviour change communication included weekly group meetings for the target women, led by trained nutrition workers (to which husbands and mothers-in law were also sometimes invited); bimonthly visits by nutrition workers to the women's homes; and monthly group meetings between program staff and influential community leaders.
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