Women's perceptions of effects of war on intimate partner violence and gender roles in two post-conflict West African Countries: consequences and unexpected opportunities

Rebecca Horn, Eve S Puffer, Elisabeth Roesch, Heidi Lehmann
Conflict and Health 2014, 8: 12

BACKGROUND: The aim of this paper is to explore women's perceptions of the causes of intimate partner violence (IPV) in West Africa, and the ways in which they understand these causes to interact with the experiences of war.

METHODS: The study was conducted in two locations in Sierra Leone and two in Liberia, using focus group discussions (N groups =14) and individual interviews (N = 20).

RESULTS: Women perceive the causes of IPV to be linked with other difficulties faced by women in these settings, including their financial dependence on men, traditional gender expectations and social changes that took place during and after the wars in those countries. According to respondents, the wars increased the use of violence by some men, as violence became for them a normal way of responding to frustrations and challenges. However, the war also resulted in women becoming economically active, which was said by some to have decreased IPV, as the pressure on men to provide for their families reduced. Economic independence, together with services provided by NGOs, also gave women the option of leaving a violent relationship.

CONCLUSIONS: IPV was found to be a significant problem for women in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The interactions between war experiences and financial and cultural issues are multi-faceted and not uniformly positive or negative.

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