What works to prevent violence against children in Afghanistan? Findings of a school-based peace education intervention in Afghanistan

What works to prevent violence against children in Afghanistan? Findings of an interrupted time series evaluation of a school-based peace education and community social norms change intervention in Afghanistan.

By Julienne Corboz, Wahid Siddiq, Osman Hemat, Esnat D. Chirwa, & Rachel Jewkes
PLoS ONE 14(8)

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Abstract

Background

Against a backdrop of more than four decades of war, conflict and insecurity, Afghanistan is recognised as suffering from endemic violence and children are exposed to multiple forms of violence, including at the family and school levels. This paper presents the results of an evaluation of school-based peace education and a community-based intervention to change harmful social norms and practices related to gender and the use of violence in conflict resolution, implemented in Afghanistan with the aim of reducing violence against and between children.

Methods

The evaluation consisted of a cross-sectional, interrupted time series design with three data collection points over 12 months. Data was collected from students in 11 secondary schools (seven girls’ and four boys’ schools) in Jawzjan province of Afghanistan, with a total of 361 boys and 373 girls sampled at endline. All children were interviewed with a questionnaire developed for the study. Key outcomes included children’s experience of peer violence (both perpetration and victimization) at school, corporal punishment both at home and at school, and observation of family violence. Other outcomes included children’s gender equitable attitudes, attitudes towards child punishment, depression and school performance.

Results

Between baseline and endline evaluation points, there were significant reductions in various forms of violence at the school level, including both boys’ and girls’ past month experience of peer violence victimization, peer violence perpetration, and corporal punishment by teachers. There were also significant reductions in boys’ and girls’ experience of corporal punishment at home and observation of family violence, with a particularly strong effect observed among girls. Both boys and girls had significantly more equitable gender attitudes and significantly less violence-supportive attitudes in relation to children’s punishment, and significantly fewer symptoms of depression. Girls’ school attendance was also significantly higher at endline.

Discussion

To our knowledge this is the first time that a peace education program has been evaluated in Afghanistan, with or without a community intervention to change harmful social norms and practices related to gender and the use of violence for conflict resolution. The evaluation suggests that the intervention may have led to a reduction in various forms of violence, including children’s peer violence, corporal punishment of children both at school and at home, and in children’s reports of domestic violence against women at the household level.

Citation

Corboz J, Siddiq W, Hemat O, Chirwa ED, Jewkes R (2019) What works to prevent violence against children in Afghanistan? Findings of an interrupted time series evaluation of a school-based peace education and community social norms change intervention in Afghanistan. PLoS ONE 14(8): e0220614. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220614

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