Designing Violence Reduction Between Intimate Partners

“There is no love, you just get married, they get married for the status, you get respect but there is no love.”

Famatta*, a young woman from Freetown, Sierra Leone married and moved to be with her husband in Monrovia, Liberia. As time went on, her husband became increasingly controlling and jealous. He did not allow her to leave the house anymore, he prohibited her from seeing other people — he even denied her food at times. He would severely beat Famatta, but she remained obedient until the violence became uncontrollable.

Her neighbors and family members knew about her husband’s behavior and they were concerned. His brother tried to convince him to stop the beating, their neighbors tried to stop the beating, but her husband refused to respond to any intervention. She was alone and the violence was getting worse. She sought help from a women’s group, who helped free her from her husband’s grasp. Famatta ended up at the West Point Women’s Center in Monrovia, where she was given a microloan to help her build her life again. Today, Famatta enjoys free movement and finds peace and love in her present relationship.

Unfortunately, Famatta is not the only woman to experience violence in her life. The most common form of violence against women is intimate partner violence (IPV). Globally, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. In Liberia, the situation is even more grim. The country has high levels of IPV: 39% of ever-partnered women aged 15–49 years have experienced such violence at least once in their lifetime, and 36% have experienced it in the last 12 months.

Dupont Road Market Community in Monrovia, Liberia

Most research studies on IPV have addressed ways to respond to violence and to support survivors; fewer focus on prevention, which is key to reducing and maintaining low levels of violence.

Speaking to people affected in communities, several solutions were already in place: people often sought advice and mediation from existing networks of family members, older women in the community, religious leaders, and women’s support groups. Some of these solutions have had positive effects, as with Famatta’s story, while others seemed to reinforce harmful gender norms.

In partnership with Innovations for Poverty Action, a research and policy non-profit, IRC Liberia, and IRC’s Violence Prevention and Response Unit, we’ve come together to tackle this prevalent problem. Project Palava — palava (or palaver) being the Liberian word for arguing — is focusing on designing and testing sustainable and meaningful reductions in IPV.

Follow us over the next several weeks, as we chronicle our journey prototyping several ideas!

*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.

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