Between 2007 and 2010, Women without Borders (WwB) established the ‘Peace Starts at Home!’ campaign to inspire positive male participation and action in countering the pervasive culture of violence and abuse against women across India. Following an in-depth research study, WwB developed an evidence-based handbook, presented the findings to experts on domestic violence and policy shapers in New Delhi, and launched a series of anti-violence and awareness-raising trainings for men in highly-affected parts of India. These awareness-raising workshops were designed to win over men as partners and agents for positive change.
India has a long track record of violence against women. Over half of the female population has had to endure some form of gender-based violence, yet men tend not to be held accountable for their actions, and they generally are not the focal points of intervention strategies. As the basis for the ‘Peace Starts at Home: Men Included!’ project—supported by the Austrian Ministry for Social and Consumer Protection between 2007 and 2010—Women without Borders (WwB) conducted an in-depth qualitative research study comprising fifty women between the ages of 21 and 45 from two fishing villages in Tamil Nadu.
The interviews revealed that a vast majority of women experience violence from their husband or other male family members; around eighty per cent had been exposed to domestic violence on a regular basis. Most perceived abuse in their homes as an integral part of married life. From among those who admitted to having been abused by their husbands, most justified this ill-treatment by taking on the blame. Many of the interview partners were unaware of their legal rights and had not considered seeking outside help. Concepts of psychological and structural violence were entirely new to the women.
After concluding the research, WwB convened a workshop to discuss the findings with local and international experts in New Delhi in order to develop the ‘Peace Starts at Home!’ training manual for men, women, local stakeholder, and policy shapers. This manual, which had a strong focus on domestic violence, served as a guide for social workers and NGO employees to sensitise and work with men in their respective regions, to raise awareness around the issue of gender-based violence, and to make men a part of the prevention strategy.
Over the course of two years, and based on its manual, WwB cooperated with its local implementing partner SMART to convene workshops with students of Loyola College in Chennai; lecturers and students from Mother Teresa Women’s University Chennai, Jamia Milia University in New Delhi, and Lucknow University; female police officers in Chennai and Mewat; social workers and activists from different NGOs, including UNIFEM and Centre for Women´s Development and Research. As the ‘Peace Starts at Home!’ campaign gained traction across the region, prominent voices like Krian Bendi, India’s first female police officer, and Girja Vyas, Chair of the National Commission for women, joined the project.
The final, sustainability-oriented phase of the project focused on coaching social workers and community leaders to work together with men for a better understanding of the long-term implications that violence has and has had for their families and communities.