HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis Global Program

Evaluating Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program

Finding out what works to prevent gender-based violence in Senegal

An outreach worker leads community members in a focus group discussion. Photo: PATH.

Gender-based violence (GBV) has widespread effects on individuals, families, and societies, and community engagement may play an important role in changing the deep-rooted causes of violence. Most GBV victims worldwide are female: a multi-country study conducted by the World Health Organization, for example, found that between 15 percent and 71 percent of women reported experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Men and boys are also victims of GBV, especially in trafficking, conflict, and educational settings.

These forms of violence result in physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health and other health problems, and may increase vulnerability to HIV. However, there is little research to show which kinds of community interventions are most effective in changing community norms and behaviors related to GBV.

PATH is using its longstanding expertise in gender and health to help address this evidence gap and contribute to stronger programming in Senegal, where women make up an estimated 52 percent of the population. Through a four-year evaluation of a community-based health and human rights awareness initiative called the Community Empowerment Program, we are examining the program’s impact on GBV—including including intimate partner violence (IPV)—women’s empowerment, and related health issues. This program is led by Tostan, a local NGO that works in several African countries to support communities to abandon harmful practices and lead healthier lives.

Tostan’s approach for empowering communities

Tostan’s community-led approach to social change combines a 30-month long, informal education curriculum with community mobilization and capacity building activities. These activities engage the entire community—girls and women, men and boys, community and religious leaders, and local service providers—in a dialogue about the vision for the community’s future and development. Learn more about Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program.

Understanding the effectiveness of community-based programming

In designing and implementing the study, PATH draws on its in-depth experience conducting rigorous assessments, research, and evaluation studies—often using community-based participatory methods—to identify and support effective approaches for transforming gender norms and preventing GBV.

The findings will substantially contribute to understanding the effectiveness of community-based efforts to prevent IPV and GBV, and will strengthen program efforts in this field. PATH is working with the local research organization Centre de Recherche pour le Développement Humain to conduct the evaluation in selected villages in Goudiry Department, in the Tambacounda Region of eastern Senegal. The evaluation includes:

  • A community-level survey conducted at four points during program implementation.
  • A survey with project participants (i.e., individuals participating directly in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program).
  • In-depth interviews with project participants, as well as their social contacts.

Qualitative and quantitative data generated through these methods will illuminate the key actors and pathways through which social change and diffusion happens, explore how support for gender equity and non-violence is built, and highlight participants’ perspectives on the strengths and challenges of the intervention. PATH has just completed data collection for the first baseline study.

Additional resources

Addressing Gender to Improve Health fact sheet