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Preventing violence against children

Girls smiling in Pakistan

Dr. Rozina Karmaliani, Interim Dean and Professor, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Community Health Sciences , The Aga Khan University

In Pakistan, many families struggle with poverty and domestic violence. Many children in our communities experience physical punishment, and witness violence in their homes as a result of unequal gender attitudes and the normalization of aggression in conflict. My colleagues and I at the Aga Khan University have worked extensively to promote violence prevention and women’s empowerment. Our partnership with Right To Play began because of our common goal to reduce violence and depression among adolescents in Pakistan.

Dr Rozina Pakistan - Group of Girls
Dr. Karmaliani (front, centre) with girls from our Youth Development Programme

In Pakistan, Right To Play runs the Positive Child and Youth Development Programme, a project that engages girls and boys to address root causes of violence and promote gender equality. Coaches and leaders facilitate games in the classroom, then girls and boys apply the concepts they learned to a group discussion, focusing on how to peacefully resolve conflict, develop positive relationships with their parents and peers, strengthen their communication skills, and treat others with respect, regardless of gender.

We set out to assess the successful outcomes of this program in a rigorous independent study led by three universities. In a randomized control trial conducted over two years, our research found Right To Play’s approach to learning is effective in reducing violence at school and in the home, and positively influences children’s mental health. Girls and boys who participated in Right To Play’s experiential learning activities said the program helped them gain confidence, develop more gender-equitable attitudes, and improve their mental health. Schools that implemented Right To Play’s experiential learning activities saw a 59% decrease in peer violence against girls and a decrease in the number of girls exhibiting depression from 18% to 5%. Furthermore, the skills children are learned also have the potential to save their lives. The mother of a girl in the program told us how her daughter used the confidence and quick-thinking skills she learned to stand up to a group of attackers who threatened her after school and escape a very dangerous situation.

A randomized control trial independently conducted by three universities found peer violence against girls decreased by 59% in schools implementing Right To Play’s programs.

Based on the results of the RCT, the World Health Organization highlighted Right To Play’s model as one of the three best interventions for preventing violence against women in their RESPECT manual. The results of our study have also been published in more than 10 peer-reviewed academic papers that address violence against women. We are thrilled the findings from this partnership can be used as a resource to support others to effectively address root causes of violence.

We would like to thank Dr. Rozina Karmaliani for contributing this article about our valuable work reducing violence against women and children in Pakistan. Dr. Karmaliani is the Interim Dean, School of Nursing and Midwifery and Professor at the Aga Khan University. She conducts valuable research in the following areas: Women and Child Health: Mental health, Domestic and Workplace Violence, Gender and equity, Women empowerment and child abuseCommunity/Public Health Nursing, Health Systems, Bio-ethics, Program Evaluation and Nursing Education.