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Evidence suggests adolescent self-esteem is influenced by beliefs of how individuals in their reference group perceive them. However, few studies examine how gender- and violence-related social norms affect self-esteem among refugee populations. This paper explores relationships between gender inequitable and victim-blaming social norms, personal attitudes, and self-esteem among adolescent girls participating in a life skills program in three Ethiopian refugee camps.
Ordinary least squares multivariable regression analysis was used to assess the associations between attitudes and social norms, and self-esteem. Key independent variables of interest included a scale measuring personal attitudes toward gender inequitable norms, a measure of perceived injunctive norms capturing how a girl believed her family and community would react if she was raped, and a peer-group measure of collective descriptive norms surrounding gender inequity. The key outcome variable, self-esteem, was measured using the Rosenberg self-esteem scale.
Girl's personal attitudes toward gender inequitable norms were not significantly predictive of self-esteem at endline, when adjusting for other covariates. Collective peer norms surrounding the same gender inequitable statements were significantly predictive of self-esteem at endline (ß = −0.130; p = 0.024). Additionally, perceived injunctive norms surrounding family and community-based sanctions for victims of forced sex were associated with a decline in self-esteem at endline (ß = −0.103; p = 0.014). Significant findings for collective descriptive norms and injunctive norms remained when controlling for all three constructs simultaneously.
Findings suggest shifting collective norms around gender inequity, particularly at the community and peer levels, may sustainably support the safety and well-being of adolescent girls in refugee settings.
Women living in war-affected contexts face high levels of gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence (Stark & Ager, 2011). Despite well-documented negative consequences, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Garcia-Moreno et al. 2006; Steel et al. 2009), evidence remains thin regarding intervention effectiveness to mitigate consequences in these settings.
This study used a two-armed parallel pilot randomized controlled trial to compare the impact of a group savings only (control) to gender dialogue groups added to group savings (treatment) on women's symptoms of PTSD in northwestern Côte d'Ivoire. Eligible Ivorian women (18+ years, no prior experience with group savings) were invited to participate and 1198 were randomized into treatment groups.
In the ITT analyses, women in the treatment arm had significantly fewer PTSD symptoms relative to the control arm (β: −0.12; 95% CI: −0.20 to −0.03; p = 0.005). Partnered women in the treatment arm who had not experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) at baseline had significantly fewer PTSD symptoms than the control arm (β = −0.12; 95% CI: −0.21 to −0.03; p = 0.008), while those who had experienced IPV did not show significant differences between treatment and control arms (β = −0.09; 95% CI: −0.29 to 0.11; p = 0.40).
Adding a couples gender discussion group to a women's savings group significantly reduced women's PTSD symptoms overall. Different patterns emerge for women who experienced IPV at baseline v. those who did not. More research is needed on interventions to improve mental health symptoms for women with and without IPV experiences in settings affected by conflict.
Girls at early stages of adolescence are vulnerable to violence victimization in humanitarian contexts, but few studies examine factors that affect girls’ hope in these settings. We assessed attitudes toward traditional gender norms as an effect modifier of the relationship between violence exposure and future orientation in displaced girls.
Secondary analysis, using multivariable regression of cross-sectional data from girls ages 10–14 in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Key variables of interest were attitudes toward intimate partner violence (IPV), Children's Hope Scale (CHS) score, and exposure to physical, emotional, and sexual violence within the last 12 months. Additional covariates included age, educational status, and territory.
The interaction of exposure to violence and attitudes toward IPV magnified the association between violence exposure and lower CHS score for physical violence (β = −0.09, p = 0.040) and unwanted sexual touching (β = −0.20, p = 0.003) among girls age 10–14, when adjusting for other covariates. The interaction of exposure to violence and attitudes toward IPV magnified the association between violence exposure and lower CHS score for forced sex (β = −0.22, p = 0.016) among girls age 13–14, when adjusting for covariates. Findings for emotional violence, any form of sexual violence, and coerced sex trended toward lower CHS scores for girls who reported higher acceptance of IPV, but did not reach significance.
Findings support the utility of gender norms-transformative programming in increasing resilience of girls who have experienced sexual violence in humanitarian contexts.
Conflict-affected communities face poverty and mental health problems, with sexual violence survivors at high risk for both given their trauma history and potential for exclusion from economic opportunity. To address these problems, we conducted a randomized controlled trial of a group-based economic intervention, Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA), for female sexual violence survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In March 2011, 66 VSLA groups, with 301 study participants, were randomized to the VSLA program or a wait-control condition. Data were collected prior to randomization, at 2-months post-program in June 2012, and 8-months later for VSLA participants only. Outcome data included measures of economic and social functioning and mental health severity. VSLA program effect was derived by comparing intervention and control participants' mean changes from baseline to 2-month follow-up.
At follow-up, VSLA study women reported significantly greater per capita food consumption and significantly greater reductions in stigma experiences compared with controls. No other study outcomes were statistically different. At 8-month follow-up, VSLA participants reported a continued increase in per capita food consumption, an increase in economic hours worked in the prior 7 days, and an increase in access to social resources.
While female sexual violence survivors with elevated mental symptoms were successfully integrated into a community-based economic program, the immediate program impact was only seen for food consumption and experience of stigma. Impacts on mental health severity were not realized, suggesting that targeted mental health interventions may be needed to improve psychological well-being.
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