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Two steps towards equality — a programme to reduce violence against women

Nineteen-year-old Amit Kumar used to pass lewd comments and whistle at girls. He gave up this behaviour after attending workshops on ‘Do Kadam Barabari Ki Ore’ (Two Steps Towards Equality), a programme to address violence against women and girls in Bihar.

“I enjoyed passing remarks and whistling at girls. I realised this was wrong after I joined the programme. I understood what was fun for me was harassment for the girls,” Kumar, a resident of Rakasia village in Patna, said while sharing his experience at a conference on violence against women and girls.

“Now I work with the programme also stop other boys from doing so,” Kumar said.

The programme was started in 2012 in Patna and Nawada districts of Bihar. It was launched by Population Council, an international NGO along with Centre for Catalyzing Change and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and UKaid.

The programme worked with the help of government structures including Self Help Groups (SHGs), Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangthan (NYKS), ASHA and Aganwadi Workers, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).

K.G. Santhya, who is leading ‘Do Kadam Barabri Ki Ore’, said, “Equality helps reduce violence against women. The programme had been able to bring changes in gender attitudes and violence against women and girl in these two districts of the state.”

According to National Family Health Survey, as many as one in four (29 per cent) women in ages 15-49 had experienced physical or sexual violence within marriage in 2015-16.

Santhya, who is also senior associate of Population Council, said NFHS figures were a key challenge underlining the gap between policy and programme commitments and the reality of women’s lives in the country.

She said that five independent projects to address violence against women and girls in Bihar were implemented under the programme.

“Not only did the projects look at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of prevention, but each project also addressed prevailing gender norms, tested best practices to mitigate risk factors and, promote protective factors to reduce violence worked within existing government structures,” she said.

She added that the key findings of ‘Do Kadam Barabari Ki Ore’ programme would be disseminated in a seminar here on Friday.

Sharing the findings of this intervention implemented in rural areas of Patna district, Santhya said it was widely accepted that the vulnerability of women to violence arose from their secondary status within and outside their homes, gender disparities and deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes.

“There is strong evidence that exposure to the intervention had a significant effect on making boys denounce attitudes justifying the right of men and boys to control the females in their life. Gender role attitudes became more egalitarian and notions of masculinity became more positive,” she added.