SHADHIKA: DAWN Initiative to End Gender-Based Violence in U.P. India

This is a brief report of intervention being done to make the society gender equitable by four grass root level organizations i.e. Asian Bridge India, as a lead organization and Grameen Punarnirman SansathanGramya Sansathan, and Navjyoti Swavlamban Seva Sansathan are partner organizations. 

‘SHADHIKA DAWN’ initiative to End Gender-Based Violence, project having consistency with SDG 3 (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality) started in August 2019, implemented specifically in three villages named Nagepur, Ganeshpur and Benipur villages of Arajiline Block of Varanasi District in Uttar Pradesh, India. This project was primarily conceived to bring attitudinal and behavioral changes among adolescent boys and men including women and girls. Following are the impacts came out of mid-term evaluation conducted through focused group discussions and observation. 

Background: It was observed that in above mentioned selected villages out of the total marriages 40% are early marriage, the drop-rate of girls from school after primary education (class 5) is 25% and after junior high school (class 8) is about 50%, some incidences of maternal deaths have also been observed. According to the local police station total 38 cases of violence against women were registered in the police station in 2018, comprising rapes, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and dowry related violence and deaths. Women reports the problem of alcoholism among men is the leading cause of domestic violence. Though the rates of crimes against women are higher but most of them were unreported. Other gender based discrimination are son preferences leading to sex selective termination of pregnancy, restricted mobility of women and girls, unequal opportunity for women and girls with regards to their access to education, and employment, discrimination and harassment at schools, work spaces and public places and burden of contraception only on women are quite common manifestations of patriarchal social norms prevalent in those selected villages.

Goals of the project: 

The major focus of the project is (a) ending domestic violence in families and, (b) ending sexual harassment of girls and women in institutions, at work places and at public spaces. 

Strategies applied for this change project are organizing: regular meetings, training workshops, focused group discussions, exercises, games, puppet shows, street plays, wall writings, painting and essay writing competitions in schools, film shows, gender mapping, gender melas (fairs), and campaigns. 

The Constituencies for change are: 150 Boys of 10 to 17 years of age, 100 young men of 18 to 24 years of age, 100 Adult Men of 25 to 50 years of age, 150 Girls of 10 to 17 years of age and 150 Women of 18 to 49 years of age. The project also engages 75 major stake holders such as elected officials of local self-governance, political and religious leaders, media, police, judiciary, school teacher, DLSA, medical and para medical staff, ANMs. ASHAs.


Among Adolescents: Intervention strategy of consistent and periodical meetings, training workshops, film screenings, gender games held during August 2019–March 2020, with adolescent boys and girls of 10-17 years, yielded noticeable changes in their understanding, attitude and up to certain extent in behavioral practices. More than 60% of boys were able to recognize gender discrimination and sexual harassment in their own homes and neighborhood. They gained understanding of sexual division of labor and its relation with hierarchies of power within household. Boys got to understand the negative repercussion of sexual harassment on girls’ schooling opportunity. Around 70% sampled girls became aware about the legal safeguards and provision available to them against domestic and other forms of violence. This increased understanding helped to change their attitude towards previously taken for granted issues of sexual division of labor, violence against girls/women and other socially sanctioned but discriminatory gender norms. 

Adolescents’ participation in weekly meeting and discussion groups increased significantly. They became vocal not only in discussion group meetings but around 10% of the girls reported that they have raised voices in their homes also. As an impact of this intervention boys have started to participate in household chores like 15% of boys started washing their own cloths and helped in cleaning at home. 25% boys reported that they stopped using slangs or abusive words which sexually target women. Young girls reported that now they feel less hesitant while talking to non-family members whom they meet in public spaces and resisted when someone passed lewd comments. Some of them even had shared opinion on the issues of their marriage and career with parents/elders in their families. 

Impact on Adult Men and Women: In pre-intervention survey, most of the young men denied that they had inflicted any form of gender based violence, as in patriarchal social structure several forms of behaviours /violence are not perceived as violence and discriminatory. Though women were unhappy about some of the treatment meted out to them but they also lacked understanding and thought of it as a personal rather than a serious and structural problem.  After sustained effort of education and training on these issues 60% of men have increased and better understanding about GBV and its’ subtle forms, sexual harassment inside and outside of home, sexual division of labour and women’s unpaid labour.     

Intervention had a noticeable difference among women also, now they not only know about the project but all other resources available to them as legal safeguards and how to access them. They have better understanding of women’s rights and GBV. All this increased access to knowledge led to change in their attitude regarding GBV however, younger women (under 30 years) showed more enthusiasm for more knowledge, information and willingness to change than their older counterparts. 

One noticeable change is the increased attendance in meeting and participation by men and women both. There were several instances reported when women raised their voice or resisted in the opposite situation like, when women went to exposure visit to Gramaya Sansthan, and got late to return, their husbands persistently asked question about their whereabouts, without being frightened women explained the importance of the visit to them and handled the situation properly.  

Among Gatekeepers: One of the important target groups of this intervention was gatekeepers of the local society, school teacher, auxiliary health workers ANMs, local religious leaders, local media and government officials like, village heads (Gram Pradhans) and local self-governance officials. All the gatekeepers’ understanding about GBV and sexual harassment has increased however, as anticipated, most noticeable gains were in teachers (80%) and least gain were reported among religious leaders (40%). All the gatekeepers’ participation in the interventions meetings has increased. Some of the school teachers improved on their gender discriminatory pedagogical practices and started adopting more gender inclusive ways of teaching. The issue of male vasectomy was discussed in meeting with young men and it forced some of the men to think and they inquired about it with ANM and health workers.