UK aid — the budget wielded by the British Department for International Development (DfID) to end extreme poverty — is a gargantuan force for good in an extremely challenging world.
Global Citizen has reported this quite extensively: basically, UK aid works.
And in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there’s a project that drives the point home: a programme that has helped reduce violence against women by more than half in just two years.
You heard that right. In less time than it’s taken the UK come up with a Brexit deal to leave the European Union, a UK aid project reduced rates of domestic violence from 69% to 29% across 15 remote villages in the Ituri region of DRC.
In a country ravaged by war and described as the “rape capital of the world” in 2010 by Margot Wallström — former special representative on sexual violence to the UN — the programme oversaw a five-fold decrease in sexual violence from a non-partner, dropping from 24% to 4%.
The “What Works to Prevent Violence” programme trained faith leaders and community volunteers to challenge harmful gender attitudes, and urged them to make violence against women and girls socially unacceptable.
Through nonprofit organisations Tearfund and Heal Africa, it drove the leaders to discuss such issues openly in youth groups, sermons, and prayer sessions.
It’s part of a £25 million research project to study different ways to tackle violence against women in 13 countries around the world.
“Shockingly, 1 in 3 women are beaten or sexually abused during their lifetime, making violence against women and girls one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world,” said the UK’s International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.
“But this evidence shows it can be stopped, by working with local communities to challenge outdated attitudes about gender and violence.”
War and conflict are often the biggest drivers of poverty — and within communities affected by poverty, gender violence is more likely to erupt.
The “What Works” project has also seen excellent results in Ghana. In just 18 months, physical partner violence was halved, while sexual partner violence dropped by 55%.
That’s why DfID uses UK aid to tackle sexual violence and help the 736 million people around the world who live in extreme poverty, defined as a person who lives on less than £1.50 a day.
Britain spends 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on that budget. In 2017, that equated to just over £14 billion, with Pakistan (£402 million), Nigeria (£327 million), and Ethiopia (£326 million) as the largest recipients, according to Bond, a network of charities working in international development.
The results in DRC are exciting; it will be interesting to watch the next stages & see how programmes can be widely rolled out @WhatWorksVAWG— Sarah Newey (@sneweyy) March 13, 2019
"The thing that everybody is always surprised about is how quickly change happens" - Charlotte Watts, @DFID_UK chief scientific adviser https://t.co/tTg423gY8F