How a Gender-Based Violence Intervention Increased Farmers’ Resilience
This post was written with the support of Racheal Nuwagira, Theophile Twahirwa, Geoffrey Kayijuka and the CARE Rwanda team.
In the first of our two-part series on the benefits of addressing gender-based violence for improving food and agriculture outcomes, we highlighted the linkages between gender-based violence (GBV) and food security and outlined effective strategies for food and agriculture programs to prioritize when addressing these dual challenges. This article delves deeper into the specific example of the Indashyikirwa project in Rwanda.
Indashykirwa worked from 2014-2018 with 840 couples where one partner was a member of a community savings group. GBV — particularly intimate partner violence (IPV) — had been identified as a barrier that was preventing women from fully engaging in income-generation activities. Indashyikirwa’s Couples’ Curriculum used household dialog and social norms approaches to address this.
The project resulted in positive impacts at the time, but have these been sustained in the face of the numerous challenges the world has faced since then? In October 2022, CARE Rwanda revisited six individuals who had joined the original training four years ago to learn more.
What Were the Original Impacts?
The original impact evaluation found Indashyikirwa led to positive changes in GBV risks. Engaging couples in dialog on power and gender led to a 55-percent reduction in women’s risk of IPV. At the same time, men who participated in the Couples’ Curriculum reported a 47-percent reduction in the odds of having perpetrated physical and/or sexual IPV.
However, this wasn’t the only success. In What Works to Prevent Violence: Impact of Indashyikirwa – An innovative programme to reduce partner violence in rural Rwanda: Evidence Brief, participants reported increases in their odds of having cash income and household food security, accompanied by overall reductions in household scores for hunger.
What Challenges are Farmers Now Facing?
Four years later, farmers tell us they have faced challenges as a result of COVID-19 and continue to experience negative impacts as a result of the current food crisis. Food scarcity, caused by lack of rains and high prices, has resulted in families eating less food, and less diverse food.
Despite these challenges, those who joined GBV prevention activities more than four years ago report they are better able to cope than they would have been otherwise. While they are facing food shortages, the increased gender equality within families is helping these couples deal with the crisis more proactively and equally.
Alphonsine, one of the women who joined the training, shares, “Considering the situation now, if I was to be seated at home without earning any money, I don’t think my husband would have managed alone. Our life would have been worse.”
What Has Made Them Better Able to Cope?
More equitable relationships and better management of resources have been the key to women farmers’ ability to continuing to feed their families.
Clementine, a mother of three, summarizes what this has meant for her:
“The major challenge for me [before the project] was my husband wanting to be the only one with rights on the harvest, which would often lead to conflicts. He used to take the money from the harvest and use it the way he wanted. From cooperation with my husband, there is now better management of our resources, and we are no longer in the lowest category of poverty ranking. We were able to increase our property. We bought three gardens, which we use to grow our crops.”
A number of project outcomes contributed to the increased resilience of women like Clementine:
- Women can earn income: Increased gender equality within relationships led to recognition of women’s role as being more than just in the home. As a result, women were free to engage in work outside the home and could contribute to the household’s overall income.
- Women can make decisions: From controlling how much of the harvest was sold to deciding what income was spent on, husbands used to be the only ones whose opinion mattered when it came to decisions at home. Many families found that shifting the dynamics in household decision-making, giving women an equal say, has had a positive impact on their food intake and their finances. For example, when women learned about nutrition, they could take action, like growing a kitchen garden to grow a greater range of vegetables.
- Women can save: With the ability to earn their own income and the freedom to join community savings groups, women started saving and built a support network with their groups. These savings provided a financial buffer, increasing their resilience to unexpected shocks, and enabling them to invest in improvements. One woman recounted using her savings to purchase additional land to grow crops.
- Better financial planning — for their home and for their farm: Husbands and wives are now working together to cover food costs — something women were unable to do before. As well as contributing from their own income, women are planning with their husbands for how best to ensure their family has enough to eat. They are also able to plan their spending around needs for their farm.
Read more in CARE’s Rwanda Food Brief.
Learn more about the original Indashyikirwa project and access its program resources. If you are interested in adapting this to other contexts, please join CARE’s Community of Practice for Indashyikirwa+ Adaptations.
Rwanda: How addressing the roots of violence at home can help families facing food shortages now
Gender-Based Violence and Food Insecurity: What we know and why gender equality is the answer