Cost of Violence: USAID Funds Study in Bangladesh Tracking Violence Against Women in Dollars and Cents
CARE, a nonprofit organization devoted to aiding the world’s most vulnerable women and children, has been involved in Bangladesh for over fifty years. Bangladesh is one of the poorest and most marginalized countries in the world and is greatly affected by a spectrum of social problems, from poor sanitation to high infant mortality rates. The country also has the highest rate of violence against women in the world. Last week, Assistant Country Director from CARE Bangladesh, Jamie Terzi spoke to the Gender-Based Violence Task Force of the Interagency Gender Working Group about a program in Bangladesh focusing on the monetary cost of violence against women as a means to justify prevention and affect the cultural norm of silence around this issue. Using lessons learned from previous projects and funding from USAID, CARE aimed for the Cost of Violence Against Women (COVAW) Initiative to show the effect of violence on women, government, and communities in terms of actual monetary costs.
The project began in September of 2008 and anticipates completion in late September 2011. Preliminary findings are that sharing results of actual costs of violence help show the real damage, not just physical or emotional effects, but the loss of income, productivity, and other monetary costs to victims of violence as well as the entire community. In response, findings from this project will be used to inform Behavior Change Communication (BCC) projects in Bangladesh on domestic and intimate partner violence. Knowledge for Health’s Kim Rook recently returned to Bangladesh to lead a project focusing on both BCC and Knowledge Management, which will coordinate, integrate, and harmonize essential health, population, and nutrition communication in Bangladesh across public, private, development and NGO partners. From the field, Kim reports, “Violence against women impacts every facet of life in Bangladesh. When women are disempowered and devalued, their health and the health of their children are at greater risk. SBCC can work at the societal level to address perceptions of women’s roles in families and communities, and motivate spousal communication and shared decision-making, which in turn can reduce violence against women, and positively impact health and well-being.”
Reflecting on CARE’s COVAW Initiative in Bangladesh, Terzi explained that women there have an “inability to escape their own situations” and that it will take a larger intervention throughout the country and in communities, particularly by increasing male involvement, to improve social disparities and violence against women.Other important highlights from the COVAW project are:
- To not only treat the symptoms of a problem like violence against women, but to go deeper by addressing unequal gender power relations, access, and control over resources and decisions informed by dominating male-focused social systems and structures.
- The great need to engage men and boys to reduce violence against women and inequalities between genders.
- How public health and development professionals can remain sensitive to the hardships and struggles of the people a project has set out to help or improve.
For more information on gender and health, Knowledge for Health (K4Health) in collaboration with the Interagency Gender Working Group and Cultural Practice, LLC created the IGWG Gender and Health eToolkit, which includes practical, how-to resources and tools for integrating gender into health policies, programs, and institutions. Also take a look at Peace Corps Women in Development/Gender and Development and keep up with the “Women of the World: Empowerment in Health and Development” blog series.