Learning Collaborative Measurement Project Summaries
Project summary
4 February 2021

Sonke CHANGE trial

Author: Rebecca Justus
Published by: Social Norms Learning Collaborative

Organizations involved

Sonke Gender Justice; University of the Witwatersranz


The Sonke intervention is premised on mobilizing communities to take action to bring about more gender equitable social norms. Activities include workshops, drawing on the CHANGE curriculum and other reflective activities such as door-to-door discussions and deploying community action teams over 18 months, to challenging harmful gender norms and educating men about gender-based violence. The theory underpinning the intervention is that through community outreach and advocacy, harmful values and practices can be transformed toward gender equity and thereby reduce gender-based violence. We conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial aimed to determine the effectiveness of the intervention in reducing sexual and/or physical intimate partner violence (IPV) and the severity of perpetration by men aged 18–40 years over two years. In 2016 and 2018, data was collected from a cohort of men living in a largely informal peri-urban community near Johannesburg, South Africa. Men were recruited from 18 neighborhoods, nine were randomized to receive the intervention, while the nine control neighborhoods received no intervention. A self-administered questionnaire, using audio-computer-assisted software, asked about sociodemographics, gender attitudes, mental health, and the use and severity of IPV.

Social norms of interest

Perceived norms in relation to using and communicating with partners about contraception (the intervention did not target perceived norms directly)

Behaviors of interest

Perpetration of intimate partner violence; sexual violence perpetrated against non-partners; harmful alcohol use (e.g. binge drinking); parental psychological abuse and physical discipline of children; transactional sex

Project components

The Sonke CHANGE Trial tested an intervention that targeted men as individuals, groups, and community members in a peri-urban setting in South Africa. Eighteen neighborhoods were randomly assigned to either the intervention condition or a control group. By speaking to men at baseline, 12 months, and 24 months, investigators studied whether violence and other health behaviors shifted over time. Alongside the trial, qualitative research explored how the intervention took place and why participants may change attitudes or behaviors.

Social norms measurement

Baseline and endline audio computer-assisted questionnaires were conducted with a cohort of men aged 18 to 40 years recruited onto the study. Gender attitudes were measured using the Gender-Equitable Men’s Scale and the gender norms scale on whether a man perceives that his community holds those beliefs.

Key findings to date

Of 2,406 men recruited, 1,458 (63%) were followed to two years. Overall, a reduction was seen in men’s reports of physical, sexual, and severe IPV from baseline to endline. Intention-to-treat analysis showed no measurable differences between intervention and control clusters for primary IPV outcomes (physical, sexual, and severe IPV). A secondary analysis using latent class analysis suggests that among the men living in intervention communities there was a greater reduction in IPV among less violent and more law-abiding men than among more highly violent men, although the differences did not reach statistical significance.

Attribution statement

Christofides, N. J., Hatcher, A. M., Rebombo, D., McBride, R. S., Munshi, S., Pino, A., Abdelatif, N., Peacock, D., Levin, J., Jewkes, R.K. (2020) 'Effectiveness of a multi-level intervention to reduce men's perpetration of intimate partner violence: a cluster randomised controlled trial'. Trials 2020, 21(1):359.
Contact author: Nicola Christofides.


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