How Addressing Gender-Based Violence Can Reduce Hunger
As attention focuses on gender-based violence (GBV) during the 16 Days of Activism, this year more than ever it is vital that food and agriculture programming considers the linkages between GBV and food insecurity.
Food and GBV have always been intertwined. This relationship is complex: women and girls might prioritize giving food to the men around them so they can avoid violence, or they might be denied food, which is a form of violence in itself. People dealing with food insecurity may turn to child marriage or transactional sex as ways to cope. For women who are already vulnerable to violence, the added stress of hunger and food insecurity can make this worse.
CARE’s new brief GBV & Food Insecurity: What we know and why gender equality is the answer pulls together new and existing evidence to highlight the scale of this issue. These indicate that violence within homes is intensifying as a result of price hikes and food scarcity, with stark increases in harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage.
How Can Addressing GBV Improve Food and Agriculture Outcomes?
CARE’s program experience highlights the many ways in which addressing GBV has positive impacts beyond women and girls’ safety. In particular, focusing on gender equality as the root cause of violence can lead to significant gains.
Reviews of program evidence have shown:
- Reducing the gender food gap through social norms: In Bangladesh, focusing on household power dynamics reduced the domestic violence young brides experienced AND led to them eating with their husbands as equals. In Ethiopia, social norms approaches reduced girls’ vulnerability to child marriage AND addressed cultural taboos that prevented them from eating certain nutritious foods.
- Addressing intimate partner violence helps families eat more: In Rwanda, engaging couples in dialog on power and gender through the Indashyikirwa project led to participants reporting increases in the likelihood of having cash income and household food security, accompanied by overall reductions in household scores for hunger.
- Improving household relations makes families more resilient: Four years after the Indashyikirwa project in Rwanda ended, increased gender equality within families as a result of GBV prevention activities is helping couples deal with crises more proactively and equally.
- Improving gender equality improves food production: In Burundi, addressing gender and social norms, building women’s solidarity and engaging men on gender equality in the Win Win project led to households more than doubling their rice production. This agriculture project saw a higher return on investment for groups that had a deep focus on women’s agency and social norms, with a return of $5 for every $1 invested compared to a return of $2 for every $1 invested for programs that did not focus on gender.
What Should Food and Agriculture Programs Prioritize?
- Include women’s voices and perspectives from the outset: Women themselves are best placed to understand the challenges they face and what will be most effective in resolving these, so it is crucial to actively promote women’s leadership and participation in food and agriculture programming. Approaches such as the Empowerment, Knowledge & Transformative Action (EKATA) model or, in emergency contexts, Women Lead in Emergencies help center women’s voices to ensure actions are led by their priorities.
- Mitigate GBV risks to ensure women’s safety and inclusion: At minimum, all programs should take proactive steps to identify and reduce GBV risks to ensure interventions do no harm. GBV integration is particularly important for programs promoting women’s participation in agricultural or income-generating activities where this may challenge traditional roles and gender norms. Preempting negative backlash from husbands or community members and monitoring changes in GBV risk as projects progress has proved important for ensuring women experience the full benefit of interventions. CARE’s GBV Guidance for Development Programs includes 10 practical steps to follow when integrating GBV across the project cycle.
- Address social norms that limit women’s access to food and nutrition: Explicitly addressing harmful social norms can lead to positive outcomes for women’s food intake — from ensuring women eat an equal share of available food to addressing cultural taboos that deny adolescent girls certain forms of nutrition. CARE’s Social Norms Design Checklist supports programs to design and implement norms-shifting interventions.
- Prioritize approaches that address root causes of GBV as a key part of food and agriculture programming: Deep engagement on gender equality can make women safer and help people eat more — whether through improved participation and management of resources so they can purchase enough food, or through joint prioritization, planning and investment in their farming activities to maximize yields. Evidence across numerous contexts shows a correlation between reduced risk of GBV and improved household food security through use of approaches such as Indashyikirwa’s Couples’ Curriculum, the Social Analysis in Action approach and the Empowerment, Knowledge & Transformative Action (EKATA) model.
This is the first of a two-part series on the benefits of addressing gender-based violence for improving food and agriculture outcomes. The second focuses on a specific example of the Indashyikirwa project in Rwanda, showing how addressing the root causes of GBV succeeded in improving household food security and resilience.