Engaging Men and Boys Crucial to Address Violence against Women and Girls

Thu, 08/06/2015

ICRW releases a statement about a New Delhi-based event to identify solution-oriented strategies to prevent and address violence against women and girls through effective engagement of men and boys.

New Delhi, 6 August 2015:  To identify solution-oriented strategies to prevent and address violence against women and girls (VAWG) through effective engagement of men and boys, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), with support from UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and University College London (through a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council) held a day-long consultation in New Delhi. The consultation brought together representatives from civil society organizations, government and academic institutions to reflect on existing efforts and interventions with respect to engaging men and boys, as well as to discuss issues specific to adolescents. Findings and recommendations that emerged from the day’s meeting will be presented to key policymakers in the Government of India and other development partners.

There is a growing consensus emerging among practitioners, scholars, and policymakers that ending gender-based violence requires the full participation of communities — and in particular, the increased participation of men and boys. Indeed, globally and in India, efforts to prevent gender-based violence increasingly include the proactive engagement of men and boys. This involvement can entail educating men and boys, fostering their awareness of gender-based violence, and nurturing their ability to cultivate non-violence and gender equity in their families, peer groups, communities, and at broader societal and policy levels.

A need for this kind of a tangible discussion has never been as relevant as it is now, as governments come together at the UN next month to adopt the world’s next global development agenda – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The Outcome Document for the SDGs, the 2030 Agenda, stresses the importance of achieving gender equality and specifically calls on governments to eliminate discrimination and violence against women and girls. Within that context, there is a critical need to recognize the role of men and boys,” says Dr. Ravi Verma, Asia Regional Director for ICRW. “As Agenda 2030 is adopted and a monitoring framework is developed,” Verma said, “we will be pushing for indicators that track the engagement of men and boys in violence prevention programs and policies.”

Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, noted that “Nearly all institutions in India are still run by men – the police, judiciary, medical schools, politics, so unless we get these institutions on board, it will be very challenging to support the empowerment of women in our country. We need to discuss gender norms at all levels of society, and we need to do it early.”

Ms. Preeti Sudan, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, called for more discussions like the one today, as well as more research. “Talking about what works to shift gender norms is important, but knowing how it works is even more important.”

About ICRW: For nearly 40 years, ICRW has been the premier applied research institute focused on women and girls. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in South Asia and Africa, ICRW provides evidence-based research to inform programs and policies that help alleviate poverty, promote gender equality and protect the rights of women and girls. 

For more information, please contact:

Erin Kelly
00 1 202 742 1263


Mission Statement: 

About ICRW: For nearly 40 years, ICRW has been the premier applied research institute focused on women and girls. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in South Asia and Africa, ICRW provides evidence-based research to inform programs and policies that help alleviate poverty, promote gender equality and protect the rights of women and girls. 

Stigma, Shame and Women's Limited Agency in Help-seeking for Intimate Partner Violence

McCleary-sills, J., Namy, S., Nyoni, J., Rweyemamu, D., Salvatory, A., & Steven, E. (2015) Stigma, Shame and Women's Limited Agency in Help-seeking for Intimate Partner Violence Global Public Health, 1-12

In Tanzania, 44 percent of women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime, but the majority never seeks help, and many never tell anyone about their experience. Even among the minority of women who seek support, only 10 percent access formal services. This research explored the social and structural barriers that render Tanzanian women unable to exercise agency in this critical domain of their lives. Qualitative data was collected in three regions of Tanzania through 104 key informant interviews with duty bearers and participatory focus groups with 96 male and female community members. The findings revealed numerous sociocultural barriers to help-seeking, including gendered social norms that accept IPV and impose stigma and shame upon survivors. Because IPV is highly normalised, survivors are silenced by their fear of social consequences, a fear reinforced by the belief that it is women’s reporting of IPV that brings shame, rather than the perpetration of violence itself. Barriers to help-seeking curtail women’s agency. Even women who reject IPV as a ‘normal’ practice are blocked from action by powerful social norms. These constraints deny survivors the support, services and justice they deserve and also perpetuate low reporting and inaccurate estimates of IPV prevalence.

DOI: 10.1080/17441692.2015.1047391

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Jennifer McCleary-Sills

Director, Gender Violence and Rights

As Director of Gender Violence and Rights, Jennifer McCleary-Sills leads the portfolio of work exploring the gendered dimensions of violence and deprivations of rights. These include experiences of all forms of gender-based violence (GBV), exclusion based on sexual orientation and gender identity, controls on access to justice, and violations of property and land rights. Her own research contributes to the evidence base about the social causes and consequences of violence and what works to prevent it. She has 15 years of experience as an international development professional and researcher on gender issues, with a specific expertise in GBV, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and healthy transitions to adulthood.

Jennifer’s training in public health and social and behavioral sciences, combined with many years living and working overseas, make her well qualified to design and conduct research that is gender sensitive and culturally tailored. She has worked and lived in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. She has a wide range of research skills, including in participatory qualitative research, quantitative survey development and analysis, and the translation of evidence from this work into practical programmatic and policy recommendations. The greatest satisfaction she derives from her work is in seeing the positive impacts of these recommendations and in mentoring emerging researchers.

Jennifer’s passion for gender equality began quite young, inspired by the grassroots feminist movement in Boston. Her dedication to international development and evidence building came much later, during her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jordan. It is the combination of her desire to see gender equality achieved and her commitment to translating research findings into action toward this goal that brought her to ICRW. Jennifer’s commitment to promoting equality for women, girls, and sexual minorities, and protect their rights drives her work and is reflected in her research. For example, Jennifer led the development of a participatory research and action project (Vitu Newala), which identified risks of sexual violence that young girls faced in Tanzania, and fostered the development of a community-based pilot program to reduce these risks.  

Jennifer has extensive experience working with a wide range of donors and partners, some of which include: the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); U.S. Department of Labor (DOL); Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); the World Bank; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); EngenderHealth, Marie Stopes International; and many others.

Prior to joining ICRW in 2015, Jennifer was the senior gender-based violence & development specialist at the World Bank Group, where she co-authored the flagship publication Voice & Agency: Empowering Women and Girls for Shared Prosperity. She was also the Bank’s lead on the multi-sectoral Violence Against Women and Girls Resource Guide. From 2009-2013, she was a researcher at ICRW, where she designed and conducted research on GBV, SRH, demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) programs, and provided technical assistance on gender mainstreaming to international financial institutions.  In previous roles with the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and World Vision, Jennifer developed and implemented strategic behavior change communication initiatives and grassroots maternal and reproductive health programs. 

Follow her on Twitter @jmcsills and connect with her on LinkedIn.


Gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, and healthy transitions to adulthood.

Languages Spoken: 

In addition to her native English, Jennifer speaks Spanish, French, and Arabic. 


Jennifer holds honors degrees from Yale University (BA) and the Boston University School of Public Health (MPH), and a PhD from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

New Nigerian Law Forbids Bans Genital Mutilation

Feminist Wire Daily News
Ms Foundation

ICRW's Stella Mukasa was quoted in Ms. Foundation's Daily News Wire, which featured news about how the outgoing President of Nigeria, Jonathan Goodluck, signed a bill outlawing female genital mutliation, as well as other forms of gender-based violence.

ICRW's Stella Mukasa was quoted in Ms. Foundation's Daily News Wire, which featured news about how the outgoing President of Nigeria, Jonathan Goodluck, signed a bill outlawing female genital mutliation, as well as other forms of gender-based violence.

Mixed Views in India on Whether to Criminalise Marital Rape

Channel News Asia

ICRW's research on the prevalence of intimate partner violence across India is featured in this Channel News Asia article on the government of India's decision not to criminalize marital rape.

ICRW's research on the prevalence of intimate partner violence across India is featured in this Channel News Asia article on the government of India's decision not to criminalize marital rape.

Promoting ‘safe spaces’, delaying marriages and improving sexual and reproductive health

Adolescent girls in rural Rajasthan continue to experience early marriage, early and repeated pregnancy and discontinuation from secondary schools, all despite legislation against child marriages and government programs designed to both delay marriages and encourage girls to continue with their education, and promote reproductive health. Data shows that in nearly half of the Rajasthan districts, the proportion of girls marrying before age 18 ranges from 61 to 75 per cent, whereas in the remaining districts it ranges from 30 to 60 per cent. Further, modern contraceptive use is only 7% among 15-19 year and 20% among 20-24. The proportion of girls using modern contraceptive is even less in rural areas. Additionally, school drop-out rates are very high in Rajasthan, particularly in secondary school. According to DLHS-3 (2007-08), 41% of 14-17 year girls are out of school, compared to 14 per cent among 11-13 years.

While there are many programs focused on adolescent girls, most programs focus one issue at a time –education, health, livelihood, or life skills. The proposed program is an effort to find opportunities and an approach that can combine various platforms in ways that would provide greater options to girls through shifts in norms and beliefs about girls and young women and will help create safe spaces for women and girls.

In this project, ICRW will work with around 2,500 unmarried and married adolescent girls between the ages of 12-19, as well as their parents, in-laws, community, schools, local health systems and other key stakeholders through an integrated safe-space model program designed to improve safe spaces and the sexual and reproductive health of the adolescent girls, specifically with a focus on the right to comprehensive maternal health care. The concept of safe spaces on a continuum of home, community and schools will provide girls a sense of safety and esteem, and opportunities to remain mobile, form network and access mentors for guidance and help. These spaces will help them gain wider knowledge and skills to face challenges and feel motivated to raise voices to resist pressures against marriage at an early age; to adopt positive sexual and reproductive health related knowledge and attitudes and negotiate access and utilization of SRH services and  continue in schools.

The project will specifically work to enhance community support to keep girls in schools and promote higher education, through delayed marriages, and work to create public spaces free from violence. The program will improve girls’ knowledge about sexual and reproductive health services, and improve their access to services.

The objectives of the project are as follows:

  • Improved use of sexual and reproductive health services, including more girls using contraceptives;
  • Increased support from the parents and community to delay marriage and help girls gain increased access to reproductive health services; and
  • Increased support from parents and other community members to end violence against women and girls.

UNFPA Press Release: UNFPA-ICRW Study Deconstructs The Mind Of The ‘Masculine’ Indian Male

Tue, 11/11/2014

 UNFPA Press Release

A new study, ‘Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India’, by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) explores how the average Indian male interprets the idea of ‘masculinity’ and how that shapes his interactions with women and increases his desire for sons.

The study explores two areas that are particularly important in the Indian context: intimate partner violence and son preference. It is well-established that Indian women face social and familial pressures to produce sons, and the failure to do so increases the threat of violence and abandonment in marriage.

Indeed, not all men think, feel or respond in the same way, which is why the study uses a masculinity index to measure the degree of behavioural rigidity, based on the levels of control men practice in intimate relationship and their attitudes towards gender equality.

According to Frederika Meijer, UNFPA India Representative, “Gendered ideas of masculinity and childhood experiences are significant contributing factors behind men using violence. This research identifies alternative expressions of masculinity that offer pointers to effectively engage men and boys in achieving gender equality. It identifies triggers that could enable them to become change agents in addressing gender discrimination.”

Results from the 9,205 men interviewed show that the average India man is convinced that masculinity is about acting tough, freely exercising his privilege to lay down the rules in personal relationships, and, above all, controlling women.

Take a look:

  • One-in-three men surveyed didn’t allow their wives to the wear clothes of their choice.
  • Sixty-six per cent men believed that they had “a greater say than their wife/partner in the important decisions that affect us”.
  • 75 per cent men expected their partners to agree to sex. Moreover, over 50 per cent men didn’t expect their partners to use contraceptives without their permission.

Clearly, “being a real man” is characterised by authority, while a woman has to prove her femininity with qualities of “tolerance and acceptance”. The study shows that often a departure from these mannerisms could provoke a violent reaction from men.

Sure enough, the study shows a very high prevalence of intimate partner violence in India. Around two-out-of-five men from the seven study states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya

Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Punjab and Haryana were found to be ‘rigidly masculine’ in their attitude and behaviour, as they firmly stated that women should neither be seen nor heard.

What’s more, 60 per cent admitted to using violence to assert their dominance over their partner if she wanted to step out of her traditional roles or was unable to meet the expectation of bearing a son. In fact, more than half - 52 per cent - of the 3,158 women surveyed talked about experiencing some form of violence during their lifetime, with 38 per cent suffering physical violence, including being kicked, beaten, slapped, choked and burned, and 35 per cent were subjected to emotional violence, including insults, intimidation and threats. While Odisha and Uttar Pradesh emerged as the states with the highest incidence of intimate partner violence at 75 per cent, Punjab and Haryana followed at 43 per cent and Maharashtra at 37 per cent.

“The study reaffirms and demonstrates that addressing inequitable gender norms and masculinity issues are at the heart of tackling root causes of intimate partner violence and son preference,” states Luis Mora, Chief, Gender-Human Rights and Culture, UNFPA.

If men with discriminatory gender views are more inclined to physically abusing their partner, then they are also the ones more likely to want sons, affirms the study. Boys are preferred in many Indian families as they stand to inherit property, carry forward the family lineage and participate in specific religious rituals. Census 2011 data reveals the child sex ratio in the country has dropped from 927 girls per 1,000 boys to an all-time low of 918. Examining the extent of son preference, the study measured daughter discrimination and finds that over a third of the men and women show both high daughter discriminatory and son preferring attitudes.

Undoubtedly, the traditional construct of masculinity increases the tendency for violence and son preference among men. In order to be able to enlist them to become a part of the solution and not the problem, a couple of factors need to be taken into account. Firstly, the study catalogues economic stress as a major trigger for both violence against women and the desire for sons. A crisis that threatens their position as the primary providers at times prompts them to use violence to gain control. Simultaneously, it reiterates their belief that more male children can guarantee better financial security.

The other aspect that plays an essential part in intensifying conventional masculine attitudes is childhood experiences. The more men witness their father exercising greater control at home in their formative years, the less likely they are to develop gender equitable attitudes. Says Ravi Verma, Regional Director, ICRW-Asia, “The findings of the study are extremely clear on lasting impact of the childhood experiences. It is high time we begin to seriously think how we wish to bring up our boys and also present ourselves as adults to younger ones within the families.”

The Masculinity study makes an urgent call for developing policies that build men’s confidence to behave differently. Two solutions that offer promise of real transformation are: breaking the cycle of discrimination by reaching out to young boys with alternative ideas of masculinity, that are not based on power or authority; and ensuring quality education for both sexes along with ensuring women’s access to income.

Mission Statement: 

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled. UNFPA expands the possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives. UNFPA started working in 1969, the number – and rate – of women dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth has been halved. Families are smaller and healthier. Young people are more connected and empowered than ever before.

Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India

Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India

Priya Nanda, Abhishek Gautam, RaviVerma, Aarushi Khanna, Nizamuddin Khan, Dhanashri Brahme, Shobhana Boyle & Sanjay Kumar

In-depth research on gender, power and masculinity and various programmatic efforts to engage men have made it abundantly clear that men and boys must be an integral part of efforts to promote gender equality. This is especially relevant in India, where caste, class and linguistic ethnicity have tremendous influence on how men construct their sense of masculinity and define what it means to be a “real man” or what is expected of them. Recent research suggests that men’s attitudes and more broadly, masculinity, perpetuate son preference and to some extent, intimate partner violence in India.
With this in mind, ICRW conducted research, surveying a total of 9,205 men and 3,158 women, aged 18-49 in the following seven states across India: Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
The study findings emphasize that in India, masculinity, i.e., men’s controlling behavior and gender inequitable attitudes, strongly determines men’s preference for sons over daughters as well as their proclivity for violence towards an intimate partner – both of which are manifestations of gender inequality. Masculine control in women’s lives affects their own experiences of intimate partner violence and preference for sons. The study finds that ultimately eliminate son preference and intimate partner violence in India, it is critical to develop and implement national policies and programs that involve men in promoting gender equity and diminishing socio-cultural and religious practices thatreinforce gender discrimination.
(1.96 MB)

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Gender and Violence: New research from Roma and Pakistan and the IMAGES Survey

October 29, 2014


Jennifer Leaning, Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights; Director of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Jacqueline Bhabha, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health; Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer, Harvard Law School; University Adviser on Human Rights Education; Director of Research, François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights

Brian Heilman, Gender and Evaluation Specialist at the International Center for Research on Women.

The event is cosponsored by the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights (FXB), Harvard School of Public Health, and Academic Ventures, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

For more information, please visit the Harvard University's South Asia Institute website. 

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 4:30pm - 6:00pm
Center for Government and International Studies, South (CGIS)
1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA
United States
François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights (FXB), Harvard School of Public Health, and Academic Ventures, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Law, Justice and Development Week 2014



  • Andrew Novak, Adjunct Professor, International and Comparative Criminal Justice, George Mason University
  • Shingira Masanzu, Associate Counsel, Africa and Middle East & North Africa, Legal Vice Presidency, World Bank


  • Jared Genser, Managing Director, Perseus Strategies and Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law School 
  • Stella Mukasa, Director, Gender, Violence and Rights, International Center for Research on Women
  • Angela M. Banks, Cabell Research Professor of Law, William & Mary Law School

For more information, visit the World Bank's LJD Week website. 

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 9:00am - 10:30am
World Bank Headquarters, Preston Auditorium
United States
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