Journal article
5 November 2019

Shifting and transforming gender-inequitable beliefs, behaviours and norms in intimate partnerships: the Indashyikirwa couples programme in Rwanda

Author: Lyndsay McLean, Lori Heise, Erin Stern
Published by: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care
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This paper explores the relationship between changes in individual beliefs and behaviours, couple relationship dynamics and gender norms – and how interventions can influence these. It draws on longitudinal qualitative research with heterosexual couples who participated in the Indashyikirwa programme in Rwanda. The couples followed a curriculum designed to improve relationship skills and reduce the gender- inequitable beliefs, behaviours and norms that underpin intimate partner violence. Qualitative findings show that the programme resulted in moderate, but significant, positive ‘shifts’ in individual beliefs and behaviours, couple relationship dynamics and levels of inequality - increasing men’s engagement in domestic duties, women’s participation in household decision making, and women’s access to economic resources. They also suggest which parts of the couples’ curriculum were most effective in catalysing these changes. However, the data also show that these ‘shifts’ occurred without fully transforming deeply-entrenched beliefs and norms around gender roles and male authority over
economic resources. The paper suggests that the persistence of these beliefs and norms constrained the extent of changes among couples – and could potentially constrain their longevity and act as an obstacle to longer-term, larger-scale changes in gender inequalities and violence.