Schools-based programmes to prevent violence against women and girls seem intuitively right, but little quantitative evidence exists, to show what impact these programmes can have on wider rates of violence, or to tease out how work in schools can impact on a number of risk factors at once. The What Works Global programme is filling this gap by evaluating a large schools-based programme in Pakistan.
Right to Play works in 600 government schools, with 2,000 teachers, and provides over 200,000 children across Pakistan with a programme of sport and play. Amidst all the fun, children learn problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, and are encouraged to develop their sense of self-esteem and respect for equality.
The What Works Global Programme was recently in Pakistan to conduct initial focus groups with schools, as a first step in establishing this groundbreaking piece of research.
“To reduce rates of violence within marriages, we need to reduce the overall use and acceptability of violence. We need to look at the extent to which bullying and violence is a problem for children and what we can do at this stage to change things,” Director of the What Works Global Programme, Professor Rachel Jewkes said.
Working in schools also provides an opportunity to have an early impact on a range of situations and problems being faced by children.
“Some children are experiencing violence at home. Some children need to work so they can afford to attend school. And some have depression or other mental health problems. We know that in social situations where people have little, and come from a background where the use of force is normal, there is an increased risk that they will use or experience violence,” Jewkes added.
“Right to Play gives children a break, and offers a necessary escape, but also targets some of the root causes linked to violence. Depression is a risk factor for violence, and this programme works to address that, alongside other elements, by giving children the skills they need to resolve conflict positively, while building a culture which makes violence unacceptable.”
The programme evaluation will be completed by 2017. The measures used will be standardised alongside other research being conducted by Help the Afghan Children – another schools-based programme that is being supported by What Works via funds from the UK Department for International Development. Combined, the research will provide new perspectives on how the affects of violence cumulate over time, and show what works to diffuse the affects of a culture where violence is normalised. It will also provide some of the first cross-country, large-scale evidence to show how prevention programmes that work with children impact on overall rates of gender-based violence.