One woman in Bangladesh highlighted how, “the tension between husband and wife has increased more than before. Now, the husbands cannot pay for their families properly, cannot meet the needs of the family. With all these, strife is being created in families“.
Equally, men acknowledged being unable to fulfil the expected role of provider and the increased pressures that this has brought.
In Somalia, for example, one man acknowledged: “I am affected because I am jobless and can’t provide for my family and my wife, they are just staying in the house waiting for me to provide so there comes misunderstanding. The children don’t go to school and we fight in the house.”
This expectation that men have been conditioned to fulfil has been put under threat and for many, conflict and violence within the household is the way this frustration manifests.
During COVID-19, women have been tasked, even more disproportionately than before, with domestic and caring tasks and accordingly, their levels of mental health and wellbeing have been consistently worse than men’s. It is even more evident that, during a crisis, rigid gender roles become even more harmful than usual.
We’ve been working on these issues for many years.
We facilitate dialogue to help men and women identify some of these rigid and negative gender norms and reflect on how they affect their homes and communities.
We aim to facilitate a process through which they can decide what needs to change in their own behaviour and in their relationships to improve the wellbeing of the whole family. Violence is a major topic within this process, including where it is learned, how it is perpetuated, its consequences and creating healthier, happier homes.
Have a look at our new, short video for more on the approach we use.
Reducing GBV means more education for girls, more income opportunities for women, more peaceful homes and more productive couples that can work together as a team.
On my recent visit to DRC, one woman who has been through such a process of gender transformation told me that previously it was difficult for her to oppose her husband.
“He would say ‘you're a woman, you can't say anything’," she says. "When we are like this, we can't make money. Before we had lots of conflict in the household, and lots of problems. Now we plan together and he doesn’t use the money alone.”
So, not only does challenging harmful gender norms and violence reflect everyone’s human right to life and safety but it also has very tangible, practical benefits for entire families.
Our work continues in many countries throughout the restrictions brought about by COVID-19, at a time when it is needed more than ever.
Even in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh, where restrictions meant that the team could no longer access programme participants directly, we had already trained local ‘Change Makers’ from the community to be able to continue to intervene in cases of child marriage and IPV, and keep reinforcing messaging around violence and gender equality. In Syria, we continue to manage cases of GBV, despite the restrictions.
In Lebanon and Turkey, we have set up specific responses to the rising rates of GBV, such as setting up GBV telephone hotlines.