Addressing social norms and practices to transform lives

New

Women for Women International is putting transformative male engagement strategies to the test, applying the findings of a research study led by the International Center for Research on Women to its traditional women’s empowerment programme in Rwanda. The goal is to support 300 ultra-poor marginalized women to become economically independent and socially confident, while also addressing discriminatory social norms and practices. To that end, 150 men – husbands, fathers and brothers of 150 of the women selected – will simultaneously undergo gender-specific coaching focused on shifting their perceptions and attitudes around traditional notions of masculinity, while re-examining gender roles in income generation, domestic labour and decision making and learning about violence against women and reproductive health.

Duration
2019-2023
Focus area
Women’s Social and Economic Development
country
Rwanda
partner
Women for Women International

Context

Meaningful engagement with men and boys is increasingly recognised as critical not only for empowering women, but also more generally for transforming social and gender norms that reinforce patriarchy and harm men and women alike. Evidence-based strategies to engage boys and men are growing in number but still very limited. To help fill this gap, we funded the research study “Gender equity and male engagement: it only works when everyone plays”, conducted and published by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).

Women for Women International is putting gender transformative male engagement strategies to the test, applying the findings of this research to its traditional training programme in Rwanda. Our partner Hand in Hand International is conducting a parallel field trial in Tanzania.

Action

Women for Women International has served more than 78,000 women in Rwanda through its signature one-year empowerment programme since 1997. This foundational training helps marginalized, extremely poor women gain an understanding of and defend their rights, influence decisions at home and in their communities, initiate activities that generate income, and save money for the future, contributing to economic self-sufficiency in their lives and for their families.

During this 5-year field trial, Women for Women International is supporting 300 highly-vulnerable women to gain social and economic empowerment, equipping them with the tools, skills, knowledge and support they need to rebuild their lives. All 300 women will also undergo gender-specific training developed in partnership with ICRW to be able to address discriminatory social norms and practices. 

The same gender-specific coaching will simultaneously be delivered to 150 men – husbands, fathers and brothers of 150 of the women selected as well as community leaders – with a focus on shifting their perceptions and attitudes around traditional notions of masculinity while re-examining gender roles in income generation, domestic labour and decision making and learning about violence against women and reproductive health.  An additional 15 female and male community leaders will receive additional in depth training on advocacy in order to take on projects that address discriminatory practices and gender inequality in their communities at the local level.

Expected results

  • More gender-equitable attitudes and behaviours are expected in the men as well as the women, including support for women’s economic mobility and agency.
  • Marked increases are expected across a range of gender equity outcomes for the 150 households where men and women both receive the gender-specific training, including measurable shifts in earnings and savings, household decision making, access to networks, self-efficacy, family planning practices, experience of violence and access to services and support.

Long-term strategy

The lessons learnt upon completion of the programme will feed into a male engagement best practices toolkit being developed by the ICRW which will be shared sector-wide.