10/12/2014 09:17 GMT | Updated 09/02/2015 05:59 GMT

What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls?

Today, on International Human Rights Day, the DFID- flagship programme, What Works to Prevent Violence, is unveiling the recipients of its global research and innovation grants. Eighteen cutting-edge projects to prevent violence against women and girls have been selected in a highly competitive process from over 800 original applications. The projects will work across 16 countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and will directly reach over 5.3million people. They include the first ever mass media campaign to end violence against women and girls in Occupied Palestinian Territories. They include a family based therapeutic intervention to address the intersections of violence, alcohol abuse and mental health issues in Zambia. They include a media and advocacy intervention in Yemen that targets not only women and girls, but the men and boys in their family and the religious leaders in their communities who are influential in shaping social norms. A programme combining microcredit for women and engaging community leaders in Tajikistan. And a project to link international buyers and their supplier garment factories in Bangladesh, with local NGOs to run training in the workplace on gender, discrimination, sexual health and reproductive rights.

The diversity of the projects being supported reflect the fact that preventing violence against women and girls requires addressing numerous underlying drivers across multiple sectors. Given the complexity of the issue and understanding that there is no single magic solution, many of the interventions are multi-component and work across multiple settings. The projects will be managed by international humanitarian organisations including Care International, Tearfund, International Alert and Women for Women International, as well as local NGOs developing new ways of working, such as Help the Afghan Children and Equal Access International.

On the one hand we are investing in innovative new approaches to preventing violence and on the other hand we are conducting rigorous scientific research to really find out what works, what does not, how we adapt programmes across settings and how we scale them up. We do not expect there to be a magic bullet and pushing the envelope of programming is not easy. Challenging issues remain. A number of the projects are working with faith leaders to influence changes in social norms because they have such a strong influence in their communities. But questions persist about working with what have historically been patriarchal institutions that have not necessarily promoted women's rights. A number of project a using multimedia and communication campaigns but we will be asking if these can work to change behaviour or only attitudes, and do they work on their own or only when combined with on-the-ground advocacy? Some projects are working with the most marginalised women in conflict-affected areas to earn and save money, while also helping to improve their health, well-being and improve their ability to influence decisions in their home. But what are the key elements of success? Is economic empowerment enough, or does it only work when combined with other types of social empowerment? And is it more successful if the project also works with men and boys in the broader community?

The new knowledge we gain over the next four years will ensure that globally we invest our precious energy and resources in effective strategies that will have a real impact.

Today marks the end of the 16 Day of Activism against Gender Violence. But our work to end what is one of the most extensive human rights abuses of our times does not stop today. This is a pivotal moment where we can celebrate the fact that there is now such high level political will and financial investment in the issue. We can celebrate the fact that there is such innovative work going on around the globe. We can celebrate the fact that there are so many committed individuals and organisations working tirelessly to create communities, societies and institutions that value and respect women and girls as equals. Today we celebrate the organisations who have received these grants and look forward with them in fundamentally advancing the evidence and showing What Works to prevent violence against women and girls.

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