Social Protection Programmes Supporting Women Survivors of Domestic Violence

Rohwerder, B.
Working Paper
Publisher GSDRC
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This rapid review presents lessons learnt from social protection/cash transfer programmes which target women survivors of domestic/family violence. As a result of the impact of domestic violence, women survivors of violence often require the support of social protection programmes.

This is because domestic violence compromises their personal security; household security; their ability to be gainfully employed; and household income/productivity (Bhatla et al, 2006, p. 4). It also increases their risk of destitution and decreases their access and participation in development programmes (Bhatla et al, 2006, p.4).

Few cash transfer programmes appear to specifically target women survivors of domestic violence. As a result this paper takes a broad understanding of social protection. This draws on the transformative social protection framework, which adds transformative measures to protection, prevention and promotion measures (Fonteneau et al, 2014, p. 12). Protective social protection measures include cash transfers and social services like shelters for survivors of domestic violence and the provision of health and legal aid.

These types of programmes tend to be responsive. Transformative social protection measures targeting women survivors of violence include changes to the regulatory frameworks to protect victims of domestic 2 GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1130 violence and sensitisation campaigns to transform public attitudes and behaviour towards violence against women (Fonteneau et al, 2014, p. 13). These types of programmes tend to try and prevent domestic violence occurring. The most effective programmes appear to combine both prevention and response measures. Many of the programmes described below are ‘transformative social protection’, as they aim to change lives through achieving empowerment, equality, social inclusion and the realisation of human rights (Devereux & Sabates-Wheeler, 2004).

The evidence base for social protection programmes, especially cash transfers, which target women survivors of domestic violence is very weak (expert comment). The literature is closely connected with literature on programmes addressing violence against women and girls. There is conflicting evidence about whether cash transfers increase or decrease domestic violence, although very few cash transfer programmes have been specifically designed to support survivors of domestic violence. A lot of the literature is written by donors. However, there have been a number of attempts to draw out lessons learnt from experiences in a variety of contexts of programmes which target violence against women, including social protection programmes targeting women survivors of violence.

Interventions have not had the same effect on all women experiencing domestic violence. One expert suggests that 'variables that may influence the outcome include: age at marriage, age differential between spouses, levels of education for both men and women, employment status of the husband, overall household wellbeing/poverty' (expert comment). In addition, interventions may have different impacts over time, with short-term increases in domestic violence followed by long-term decreases, for example (expert comment).

Factors which contribute to the success of social protection programmes targeted at women survivors of domestic violence include:

  • Holistic, comprehensive, long-term programmes: which are more effective than single-focus interventions.
  • Economic empowerment measures: which target poverty as an underlying cause of violence and enable women to leave abusive situations.
  • Support services: which meet the short- and long-term needs of all women.
  • Sound policy and legal frameworks: which address underlying causes and strengthen responses.
  • Transformative measures: which change gender power dynamics, and include communities, men and boys.
  • Programmes which consider women's safety and differing needs.
  • Capacity development: of all those engaged in combating domestic violence.

Factors which have caused challenges for social protection programmes targeted at women survivors of domestic violence include:

  • Backlash against women involved in the programmes.
  • Short-term programmes: which compromise the sustainability of the programme's aims.

Case studies from Albania, the Philippines, Peru, and Uganda provide some further examples of social protection programmes that have targeted women survivors of domestic violence.

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Related IDS Researchers
Brigitte Rohwerder

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