The Key to a good relationship



Picture credit: Rezwanul Haque

Tasnova Rahman from Change Associates in Bangladesh sharing a few lessons in life

Do not be misled! I am not a love guru. But after some years of working on a range of content, concepts, and resources combined with delightful experiences post marriage, I have learned a few lessons that I thought I wanted to share.

First, the least expectations you have the merrier you are. This pointer is applicable for your spouse, in-laws and everyone you have in your life. Second, you can never be a pizza! What I dramatically mean is that only a pizza can cater to a family’s diverse needs and make everyone happy. An individual, no matter how angelic the person is, can never make everyone happy. So before stressing yourself out in your efforts just stop, think and prioritize. Keep a balance and keep yourself sane. My last and favorite pointer is – effective communication. Every good relationship, besides love and friendship, requires honest communication. Be it happiness or troubles (personal or related to that particular person/relationship) it is extremely important you communicate it. The time you stop talking is when all other mushrooms of doubt and boredom arise. The lack of effective communication brings distance in a relationship and this is why it is so core.

I got case studies, personal sharing from women (garment factory workers)who earned respect from her in-laws, made a position in her family where her opinion now matters. There are women and men (yes we convinced men!!) who are in their own way practicing active listening, noticing body language (non-verbal gesture). Most interestingly ‘I’ statements (where you express yourself logically, using ‘I’ without blaming or indicating the opposite person) is something I wasn’t expecting anyone to internalize it so well. These workers and management (surprised again? yes we convinced them too!!) are implementing this learned skill with their spouse, supervisor, in-laws. This indicates that we all care about our relationships, we want to be happy in it and we want to try to better things. And guess what? These life skills worked for them. It worked for me. Sometimes we just have to be little strategic but not manipulative!

Communication is a life skill that we do not acknowledge.

My father says those who do not talk or speak are like ‘jalebi’ (circuitous looking dessert) because they suppress themselves and complicate things. So, unwind your words and talk, listen carefully and strengthen your communication skills.


Tasnova Rahman is working on HERrespect with Change Associates Ltd for the What Works To Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls from the Global Programme






Leane Ramsoomar, Research Uptake Manager, What Works

The #metoo campaign, developed by Tarana Burke a decade ago, recently turned into a hashtag which went viral this week, with survivors of sexual assault, violence and harassment sharing their experiences on social media across the globe.

The campaign has seen women across the world virtually joining hands in a collective display of support, empathy and bravery in the face of what is, a devastating reality for too many. Some have used the campaign as an opportunity to draw attention to the scourge of sexual violence experienced by women and girls across the globe; others have used it as outlet to disclose their experiences of sexual assault, violence or harassment during a time when they feel less lonely in the journey. Still others, use the campaign to help remove the stigma that surrounds disclosing one’s status as a sexual assault /violence survivor. While recognizing that some men have been victims of sexual violence, the campaign has justifiably focused on women, who overwhelmingly experience disproportionate levels of sexual violence and harassment; and whose experiences are fundamentally different from those of men.

The #metoo is not just about sexual assault and violence- it is about the daily harassment of virtually every woman who has to endure catcalls, whistling, unsolicited attention to their bodies and their dressing in their offices, neighborhoods, streets and public spaces.

Men have not been silent in the campaign. Many have come forth to assume responsibility either for perpetrating sexual assault, violence or harassment or being complicit in its occurrence. Others have used the campaign to reflect on how their socialization has impacted on the toxic masculinities that result in, and sustain violence against women and girls.

The campaign has also stimulated discussion and opinion from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community about the extent to which the campaign extends across the gender spectrum. Some feel that the very conception of the #metoo campaign has polarized the heterosexual and LGBTI communities. Others are of the opinion that the campaign has been inclusive across the gender spectrum. The debate continues.

One thing is clear, the #metoo campaign has sparked conversation and drawn attention to the lived experiences of women (and men). There is indeed solidarity in the campaign. Yet there remain many women and men who have chosen not to participate, despite being survivors of sexual assault violence and harassment. This is understandable. With its well-intentioned aim of “stomping out the stigma”, shaming perpetrators, raising global awareness, the decision to publically declare surviving sexual assault, violence and harassment remains a huge emotional burden for many. This must be acknowledged and validated.

To survivors who have chosen not to participate in the campaign, we understand, we respect you, we support you. You are valued. We recognize that raising awareness about the magnitude of the problem does not on its own address it, nor does it even begin to capture your pain. Like many who have joined hands to support those who have chosen to participate, we join hands with you. We remain committed to addressing the drivers of interpersonal physical and sexual violence and ending violence against you.



Ending Intimate Partner Violence One Couple at a Time

Saprina Panday, from Equal Access International, on the power of group discussions in transforming troubled relationships

“In the past my husband used to abuse me. He didn’t count me or our daughters as human beings… he used to force me into having sex.” That is how Bikani, a Nepali woman, with two daughters, initially summarized her ten-year marriage. The experience of Ashram and Bikani is not uncommon in Nepal. A recent study carried out by Equal Access International and Emory University found that 34 percent of survey respondents had experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime and 25 percent had experienced physical or sexual abuse from their spouse in the past 12 months.

Today, things could not be more different for Bikani and her husband Ashram, thanks to Change Starts at Home.

“The programme had a very influential impact in our life. Earlier he did not talk to me about any of his plans… now we talk to each other about most of the things we do. Even our sexual relationship only happens after mutual consent,” said Bikani. Her husband, Ashram, said, “from the sessions we learned how to analyze the consequences of our behavior and how it will impact us. Now, even when I get angry, I remember the things that were discussed in the sessions and try to tame my temper.”

asha bikani 2 Equal Access Pic

Change is a research-based intervention we developed at Equal Access International, an NGO that creates positive social change for millions of people across the developing world through interactive media and community engagement programs. We have been working in Nepal since 2003. Change is implemented with Emory University and is funded by DFID as part of the ‘What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women’ programme.

In May 2016, through Change we enlisted 360 married couples, including Bikani and Ashram, to participate in nine months of weekly listening and discussion groups sessions (LDG) where they would meet to talk about the original radio programme focused on how couples in Nepal deal with real-life problems. The accompanying discussion sessions, guided by trained facilitators using the Change curriculum, allowed participants to express themselves, both to peers of the same sex and their spouses, whilst taking part in activities focused on the major theme of that week’s episode. For many, this was the first time that they communicated openly and, most importantly, communicated as equals with their partners, a simple yet powerful change.

By the end of our project, over 90 percent of group members said they noticed a positive change in themselves or their relationship and almost 90 percent noticed a change in their spouse. Overall, the couples involved in our Change groups report a decrease in arguments and an increase in communication and joint-decision making, including husbands discussing financial planning with their wives; husbands openly supporting their wives with household chores and childcare, and couples engaging in consensual sex.

Both Bikani and Ashram are keen not to return to the way things were. With their daughters doing better at school now, the couple is looking forward to a more positive future. Ashram is grateful to his wife for initiating a change and hopes they can inspire the same in others. “I know if it weren’t for my wife, then my home would have been destroyed. My wife endured everything in the hope that I would change and now we have a good relationship and good relationships with our relatives. I even tell my friends and neighbors about the good things I have learned from the radio program and the weekly sessions,” said Ashram.

Change is a successful example of how innovative research and programming can be used to address and end intimate partner violence. Our key findings were shared by Equal Access’ Lead Researcher Binita Shrestha at the fifth SVRI Forum in Brazil in partnership with What Works.

To hear more from Bikani and Ashram, and other couples involved in the Change intervention, you can watch a short video about them on the Change Starts at Home Website.

asha bikani 5 Equal Access Pic



Despite a new law which bans it, corporal punishment is rife in schools throughout Afghanistan

Mohammad Osman Hemat, Executive Director of Help the Afghan Children on the role of peace education in reducing corporal punishment in schools.

HTAC 1 Pic

Although the government of Afghanistan has passed a law banning corporal punishment in schools, many teachers, especially in remote areas, continue to use it against students. This is cyclical as most of those teachers themselves experienced corporal punishment when they were at school. Indeed, this has been a common practice all over the country even in unofficial learning centers. Corporal punishment is strongly accepted in Afghanistan as well as beating and other forms of aggression seen as normal practice for controlling children and enforcing them to study and be more polite. However, research has shown that corporal punishment has negative impacts on learning ability and discourages regular attendance in school. In addition, the drop out and absentee rate can lead young children engaging in risky behavior and becoming vulnerable to criminal acts. In addition bullying, fighting and aggressive behavior amongst the young students is common in Afghanistan schools.

With Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) we have been implementing peace education since 2003 in diverse parts of the country to reduce conflicts between students and to encourage boys and girls to model positive behavior and solve their issues in a peaceful manner. HTAC also works with teachers to avoid corporal punishment and replace it with modern methods of discipline in schools they teach in. At HTAC we believe that peace education is a preventative strategy that can help new generations in a fragile state like Afghanistan to work toward solving their issues in a peaceful way. Our sustainable peace education program is designed to help children reject violence and embrace the principles of peaceful everyday living and train teachers for positive discipline. Our program is dramatically changing the attitudes and behaviors of Afghan youth, especially boys, who now reject violence, practice non-violent conflict resolution, learn patience, tolerance and respect for others while gaining self-confidence as well as teachers model positive behavior.

It is essential that civil society works together to have a voice in Afghanistan to advocate for including peace education in the national school curriculum for reducing corporal punishment and peer violence in schools.

HTAC 2 Pic

When Hari started to help his wife with the household chores

When I participated in the sessions of Sammanit Jeevan (meaning dignified living) I began to understand the discrimination between men and women. This training has helped me to internalize how I discriminate unknowingly against my wife. After I got an opportunity to participate in this training, I realized the importance of sharing the household chores. I started washing utensils and cooking food as well. I did not feel hesitant to assist my wife in household chores.” This is what Hari*, a 35-year-old young married man, said after attending Sammanit Jeevan intervention.

Abhina Adhikari Pic

In Nepal, women spend most of their time taking care of their families. This leaves them with little or no time to take care of themselves. This obligatory engagement means women have to do unpaid care work, thereby denying their economic and other rights and pushes them deep into the vicious cycle of poverty. Men are very hesitant to support their wives in household chores. Recognition and redistribution of domestic care work is essential to increase the representation of women in economic activities and for true women empowerment to be realised.

The Sammanit Jeevan intervention on changing gender norms has brought small but impactful changes among a few men in a community in Baglung. It is gratifying to know that our small effort has made even just a few women’s lives easier.

Hari had not assisted his wife with domestic chores in all 15 years of their married life. He felt very hesitant and shy to do household chores and never thought about helping out with them, as he thought that these were the responsibilities of women alone. Today things are different and Hari has started helping his wife. This is an amazing shift of traditional roles from what are seen as a ‘women’s responsibility’ in Nepali society. When asked his wife Rita* said she was pleasantly surprised with her husband’s new behavior and could not believe that he is now helping her with the household chores.

The small change in Hari’s behavior has brought great happiness to his family, especially his wife. Both Hari and his wife were so thankful to have benefited from the session of the Sammanit Jeevan intervention run by VSO Nepal and BYC Baglung, a UKAID funded global initiative, What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Children.

This blog has been written by Abhina Adhikari of VSO Nepal.

* Not their real names

Visualizing the world. Ratna Shrestha from VSO Nepal, on the power of pictures over words.

VSO Nepal

Every day (sometimes without realising it), people present ideas, views and facts about their lives. Only a limited number of interesting and logically prepared presentations are actually absorbed, or listened to seriously. In my opinion, having compelling presentation skills is an art form in itself. Learning these skills can be done in a variety of different ways to ensure people listen to what you are saying and indeed, care.

On July 4th, 2017, I participated in a Capacity Development Workshop organized by What Works consortium. Among the many interesting sessions, I was introduced to one called Data Visualizing: Transforming Words into Visuals, which provided insightful ideas on ways to present our research findings.

Firstly, we worked on developing key messages from our research findings, which formed the basis of preparation for our presentation. Secondly, we were asked to prepare a presentation on sticky notes (assuming it as a slide in PowerPoint presentation) so that we could easily shuffle them around following our group discussion. Finally, we were asked to select three slides to present our baseline findings. From our One Community One Family project in Nepal, it was quite challenging, but with our team effort we were successful in presenting our work to the wider audience in just three slides!

I have done many presentations in the past, but often ended up with far too much text and less visuals. By visuals I mean action-oriented photos, powerful quotes from primary actors, policy makers and others, and diagrams of the research findings – these are the strong visual tools which help to give presentations more weight. It’s not because I am not aware that power point slide should have less text but because of lack of visualizing skills to make the slide more attractive and effective, I could not see how to do it. I learnt from this session, that the important thing is the power of a more visual slide, with less text, one which has clear key messages. I also learnt the importance of practicing before your presentation day and rehearsing timings. Therefore, keeping the presentation to the point, complete within the timeframe and speaking through images with less text are key tips that all power point presenters should bear in mind while preparing their presentation.

Demystifying Research Uptake

Written by Leane Ramsoomar.

Demystifying Research Uptake

When I started my position as Research Uptake Manager of the Global What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls? Programme, I was privileged to have a window into the 2016 Capacity Development and Annual Scientific meetings in Dubai. Being introduced to the partners on this formidable global effort to prevent violence against women and girls, I was greeted with warmth and some nervousness by programme partners. Research Uptake? What is it? How do we do it? How will we measure it?

In the early months of taking office, I came to realize that research uptake was a field known to many of the partners on the programme by many names. Knowledge translation, knowledge in action, translation research……..Indeed several definitions of research uptake have been exchanged in the world of research and implementation and it caused and continues to cause confusion and sometimes utter bewilderment.

So we set out on a path to demystify research uptake. Several drafts of research uptake plans, interactive discussions and capacity development sessions later, there was light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Partners began to write blogs, research papers were trickling in and policy briefs no longer seemed unattainable.

The 2017 Capacity Development workshop was the perfect testing ground for the knowledge and skills transferred over the course of the past 11 months. Partners were joining the pieces of the puzzle. Breakaway rooms were abuzz with ideas, teams jointly brainstormed, and exciting interactive discussions held. With a critical thinking and “learning by doing” approach adopted, the bigger picture began to emerge. Listening to short evidence- based presentations of research, listening in on discussions and debates ranging from stakeholder prioritization to tailored messaging for key audiences and sharing ideas for blogging and brief writing left one feeling dizzy with excitement. Fewer things satisfy me than watching the rapid and meaningful growth of individuals and organizations working to address social problems.

For What Works and their partners, this growth has been phenomenal and the enthusiasm for doing research uptake is gratifying. It remains to be seen, not just how the efforts of the What Works partners will inform policy and programmatic decision-making for VAWG arising from this programme, but perhaps even more encouragingly how these efforts will be sustained long after the programme has ended.



Juggling Zoom calls, cups of coffee, dogs and small children

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Samantha Willan and Alice Kerr-Wilson on putting together the pieces of the capacity development workshop jigsaw

As the two-day What Works (WW) capacity development workshop drew to an end just over a week ago there was a real buzz and excitement in the room. Partners, the technical support team and we (the organizing team) had worked hard, learnt so much and were very pleased with our final products, especially the five minute PPT presentations delivered at the What Works Annual Scientific Meeting. These were concise, visually powerful, moving overviews of projects’ baseline data presented by partners, some of whom had never spoken in a large conference before, and they were fabulous.

When we started planning the workshop back in January, Samantha sitting in sunny Durban, South Africa and Alice in cold, dark Roskilde in Denmark, with early morning Zoom calls, cups of coffee and interruptions by small children and dogs, we couldn’t have imagined that partners would enjoy and gain so much from the workshop. Both partners and us have come so far since the last capacity development workshop in September 2016 in Dubai.

We started by hearing from partners what they wanted to focus on and their skill gaps and reflecting on the What Works priorities for the next 18 months, while trying to keep focused on what can realistically be achieved in two days. It was like slowly working our way through a giant jigsaw puzzle, at first, we had very little idea how all these pieces would fit together, yet the more we did the clearer the picture became.

The week of the workshop marked the final phase of completing the puzzle. Much has been said about the presentations, with many of the seasoned researchers and scientists sharing their awe at the partners’ ability to present so succinctly. However, that was just the icing on the cake, they were the culmination of very intense work over the two days: refining the story of the research, shaping key messages, strategically identifying stakeholders, thinking about how to target them, which research uptake products to write and how to convey all this evidence and knowledge through a visual story that moves the audience.

However, this workshop was not a one-off capacity development moment, it is part of a process. The work began for partners long before we all arrived at the workshop, and will continue from here. Capacity development is central to all we do at WW, and we think that might be a part of the secret behind how this workshop came together. Another key part of the puzzle may be that we see capacity development as multi-directional, we are all learning, it is not simply grantees learning from scientists. This was evidenced last week when a number of technical staff and senior scientists reported that they had learnt so much from partners during the workshop.

So, yes these two days were wonderful, we all worked hard, over long hours and produced great work. But, the successes of this week do not stand alone, they’re part of two and a half years of work on supporting capacity development, and it continues.

And this work does not stop here, while we may have completed the jigsaw puzzle that bought all the pieces for this workshop together, there is a much bigger capacity development puzzle that we will all continue to contribute towards in the What Works programme.



Costing is boring? Think again.

Nancy’s smile was radiant. Her hand grabbed Martin’s wrist and, much as he wrangled his arm, she would not let go. She had him in her power. His eyes wide, struggling to free himself from her firm grip.

Then Nancy turned to us, and explained: if the perpetrator grabs you as I just grabbed Martin’s arm, you need to twist your arm to find his weakest point, which is between his thumb and his other fingers. Try it, Martin! Martin twisted his arm toward her thumb, and as if by magic, it slipped out of Nancy’s hand. He laughed, and we all laughed with him.

Martin is the local health economist on our project in Nairobi. He is helping us collect the cost data on the Girls’ Empowerment-Self Defence/Source Of Strength (GESD/SOS) intervention, a project designed for 11- to 13-year-old schoolgirls in the slums of Nairobi. The GESD/SOS volunteers were demonstrating to us a typical intervention session. To get a sense of how much is needed to develop and field the GESD/SOS, Martin and I will need to spend the next three days in the field with the Ujamaa team to understand what they do to deliver it. We need to understand how many people they need to run a session, how many teams of how many people, and how many hours they need to spend in the sessions with the children.

From Benjamin, Ujamaa’s director (and young statistician), to the last person who walked through the door of the organisation, they all graduate within the organisation. Each of them works to the tight schedule Nancy has designed for them, including Benjamin, on the (now rarer) days he, too, offers the training. Perhaps this is how they retain the freshness, the enthusiasm for and competence in their job.

Nancy also walks us through their typical day at work, a day in the life of Ujamaa delivering the training to the girls and the boys in their classes: a day planned down to the last minute. We also ask Nancy and her colleagues to think about the other organisations that work in the same area as theirs. Who are their competitors, and which services do they rely on to support the vulnerable girls they identify? This is the bigger picture, the wider economic system Ujamaa is plugged into.


These are the first elements of the large amount of information Martin and I will be collecting and analysing over the next few months to compute the costs a provider (Ujamaa, in this case), incurs to implement GESD/SOS. If the intervention succeeds in its aim to reduce young girls’ exposure to sexual violence, we will be able to show how cost-effective it is. Policy makers, donors and providers all need this information that, both in this and other fields in development, is rare. They need it to understand how much of a difference the money they are investing is making in people’s lives; they need it to make decisions on how to allocate resources, on whether to invest in a specific intervention as opposed to another.

On my way back to London, I feel energised and inspired by the dedication, enthusiasm and competence of the Ujamaa crew. The costing set-up visit has offered me a unique insight into the workings of Ujamaa, but also filled me with awe at what this group of young people is doing for the children in their own communities. I feel privileged to have a chance to make a small contribution to the success of this story.

So, through the experience of determining whether the GESD is valuable we can see what costing yields and why it is important to do more of it in development, and that really isn’t boring.

  • Martin Njoroge works at KEMRI Wellcome Trust in Nairobi:
  • Nancy Omondi is the GESD/SOS programme coordinator at Ujamaa
  • Benjamin Omondi is Ujamaa’s Director
  • Giulia Ferrari is a Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the co-PI on the economic evaluation team for What Works Component 


A day in the deep South African countryside, a cow, a banana and one swinging bin

The day Dumisani Rebombo first understood the need to focus on rural development

Dumisani blog Pic

I’m a little over 50 years of age now and have periodically worked in the very deep rural areas of South Africa. When I used to do my rounds, I would psych myself enough to blend well with rural life to a point of somewhat accepting the surroundings which are often characterised by overt poverty and squalor. My defence to this helplessness new normality was derived from the fact that I viewed my Gender Based Violence prevention work as part of my sacrifice of middle class life, and thus I see myself ‘doing something for the poor!’ In the past eight months though, drought hit South Africa and things were dire in these settings. Food prices started soaring and I discovered families and individuals were going to bed without food!

One beautiful morning when I was walking to the office whistling and thinking to myself that all is not doom and gloom; after all as black people we’ve gone through many droughts socially and economically but survived, today will turn out just fine. Suddenly, to my left I heard this squeaking sound and when I looked, there… a cow was trying to salvage some banana leaves from a swinging rubbish bin at the side of the road! My heart just sank, not only was this my first experience but the cow just registered a deep eerie feeling in me of how people lived similar lives in the rural areas. All of sudden I quickly realised that I had money in my pocket, a car, I could go to any nearby town and have a decent meal, but not the same for the people with whom I worked. I started thinking of how rural development was always a ‘by the way’ concept from political arenas, but no resources were commissioned to circumvent this. It dawned on me that unless community members are sensitised and taught about citizenry and human rights, we may have the most beautiful and progressive constitution, which does nothing to change the lives of people on the ground. Understanding that my work is ring-fenced within a Randomised Control Trial study, I am equally determined to include self-worth sessions and advocacy principles in my work. I don’t know how this will taste to my organisation or to the researchers, but I call to both to look deeper into this need and join me with those that I’ll invite to join the idea, to do something about it; for I believe we will find a way!