Gender norms and economic empowerment intervention to reduce intimate partner violence against women in rural Côte d’Ivoire: a randomized controlled pilot study

Adding an interpersonal dialogue group to economic empowerment programming in Côte d’Ivoire reduced the occurrence of intimate partner violence, economic abuse, and acceptance of wife beating.


Gender-based violence against women, including intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pervasive health and human rights concern. However, relatively little intervention research has been conducted on how to reduce IPV in areas impacted by conflict.

Like other West African countries, IPV levels in Côte d’Ivoire are high, with regional estimates indicating that 47.5% of women reported IPV in the past year, and a community-based survey found that some 60% of Ivorian women reported experiencing IPV over one’s lifetime.

In this study, authors conduct a randomized control trial pairing economic empowerment programming with a dialogue component explicitly addressing gendered social inequalities to see if the combination reduces IPV in rural Côte d’Ivoire. The gender dialogue intervention encouraged women and their male partners to discuss their financial decisions and goals, the value of women in the household, and alternatives to violence. These discussions challenged couples to equalize the gendered balance of power in their relationship.


Adding a dialogue component explicitly addressing gendered social inequalities and norms alongside economic empowerment programming had the following effects:

  • The percentage of women in the gender dialogue + economic empowerment group who reported experiencing sexual and/or physical IPV over the course of the study was lower (20.7%) but not significantly different from the control group (21%), which received the economic empowerment intervention alone. However, physical IPV decreased from 15.4% to 7.5% among women and their partners that attended at least 75% of the intervention sessions.
  • Women who received the gender dialogue + economic empowerment intervention reported less economic abuse over the study than women that received the economic empowerment intervention alone (control group). The percentage of participants in the treatment group who reported experiencing economic abuse decreased by 11 percentage points, compared with an increase of 7.2 percentage points in the control group.
  • Researchers observed a 0.4 percentage point decrease in the number of women in the treatment group reporting that “wife beating” is justified compared to the control group (0.3 percentage point decrease). Among the partners that attended at least 75% of the intervention, the percent that reported “wife beating” is justified decreased even more, from 4.2% to 3.6%.,Changes in attitudes towards wife’s refusal of sex were not different between treatment and control groups.

The gender dialogue + economic empowerment intervention demonstrates the importance of addressing household gender inequities alongside economic programming, as this type of combined intervention has potential to reduce levels of IPV.


Between 2010 and 2012, the authors conducted a randomized control trial in north and northwestern Côte d’Ivoire. Thirty rural villages were selected for inclusion into the trial based on their history of not having previous experience with economic empowerment programming and their status as being a priority area for intervention.

Eligible women were 18 and over and had no prior participation in group savings programs. Participating women were placed into 47 groups of 15–30 women. A baseline survey was conducted in October 2010, and all groups began economic empowerment programming activities (the control) in December 2010. Those in the Gender Dialogue Group (the treatment) group began the gender dialogue component in September 2011.

The Gender Dialogue Group (GDG) consisted of eight sessions that targeted women and their male partner and sought to address household gender inequities. These GDG sessions met on top of the weekly economic empowerment programming sessions.

In total 1,271 women completed the baseline survey, after which 650 women were randomized to the treatment group and 548 were randomized to the control group. Of these women, 934 (513 treatment; 421 control) were included in the follow-up analyses (95.2%).

At the end of the intervention, the authors measured past-year physical and/or sexual IPV. Past year physical IPV, sexual IPV, and economic abuse were also separately assessed, as were attitudes towards justification of wife beating and a woman’s ability to refuse sex with her husband.

Related GAP Studies