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How Economic Empowerment Can Reduce Violence Against Women & Girls

The prevalence of violence against women has been and remains alarming. Worldwide, it is estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence from her partner, while 7% of women will be assaulted at some point in their lives by a non-partner (WHO, 2013). In the United States alone, an estimated 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime (Tjaden, 2000).

The definition of violence against girls and women is broad and includes intimate physical and sexual partner violence, female genital mutilation, child and forced marriage, sex trafficking, and rape. During the current 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women Campaign and at a recent panel discussion hosted by The Global Fund for Women at the Redline Gallery in Denver (pictured), several suggestions have been put forward on what actually works in preventing and addressing ongoing violence against girls and women in Colorado and internationally. 

One of the pieces in addressing this global challenge is female economic empowerment. Equipping girls and women with access to economic resources and the power to make decisions for themselves and their families has been shown to indirectly reduce violence against them. How? The most studied correlations include the following: in many cases, as girls and women earn more money and gain an increased economic position in their households and/or communities, they have more bargaining power and feel that they have more options available to them. Additionally, as women gain access to land and property, they have an increased sense of security, among themselves and others, and this has been found to act as a deterrent to domestic violence (Panda, 2005). 

Consider the following:  
•    In South Africa, a poverty-targeted microfinance program combined with a participatory learning and action curriculum on HIV prevention, gender norms, cultural beliefs, communication and intimate partner violence demonstrated improvements in chosen indicators of empowerment and a 55% reduction in intimate partner violence (Kim et al, 2007).
•    In India, women’s ownership of property was found to be a deterrent to violence and women were less likely to tolerate violence. The study found that women’s independent ownership of land or a house can substantially reduce the risk of both physical and psychological violence (Panda, 2005). 
•    In Haiti, when women had access to money they could use as they chose fit, a study found that the risk of emotional violence reduced by 48% and physical violence by 44% (Gage, 2005).

This is not to say that working girls and women are not still at risk for violence, or that employability is always inversely related to violence. In some cases, violence increases in the short-run as girls and women begin working and gain more economic power, especially as men are more likely to feel initially threatened and react with violence. Girls and women who also have to travel for long periods of time or great distances for work are also at an increased risk. 

There is not a simple solution for violence against girls and women. The most successful strategies are comprised of a number of approaches across sectors. Increased education, health awareness, legal and regulatory changes, and modified cultural norms are all crucial. A recently released study has emphasized that interventions that “not only discuss the implications of violence, but also explicitly address the underlying issue of inequality and seek to transform gender norms by promoting more equitable relationships between men and women, are essential to achieve lasting change…” (Samarasekera, 2014). 

We believe our work at WPMarket and the valuable work of our partners—skills & business training, microfinance, and other types of programming—are promoting this type of long-term equality and contributing to the prevention of violence against women and girls. Take for example our partner the Women's Global Empowerment Fund who commemorated the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women Campaign in Gulu, Uganda with its clients-women who receive valuable microfinance, literacy and agricultural training-participating in activities including a community dialogue and exhibitions on gender violence (pictured)! For that, we are proud. 


Thanks for joining with us, 


- Gage, A.J., 2005, “Women’s experience of intimate partner violence in Haiti‟, Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 343–364. 
-Kim, J., Watts, C., Hargreaves, J., Ndhlovu, L., Phetla, G., Morison, L., Busza, J., Porter, J., and Pronyk, P., 2007, “Understanding the impact of a microfinance-based intervention on women’s empowerment and the reduction of intimate partner violence in South Africa‟, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 97, No. 10: 1794-802.
- Panda, P. and Agarwal, B., 2005, “Marital violence, human development and women’s property status in India‟, World Development, Vol. 33, No. 5, pp. 823-850. 
-Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy, 2000, “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. 
-Samaresekera, Udani and Richard Horton, 2014, “Prevention of violence against women and girls: a new chapter,” The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 21 November 2014.
-World Health Organization (WHO), 2013. “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.”

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