Exploring Couples’ Processes of Change in the Context of SASA!, a Violence Against Women and HIV Prevention Intervention in Uganda

Starmann E., Collumbien M., Kyegombe N., Devries K., Michau L., Musuya T., Watts C., Heise L. Prevention Science, 2017; Read full paper online

There is now a growing body of research indicating that prevention interventions can reduce intimate partner violence (IPV); much less is known, however, about how couples exposed to these interventions experience the change process, particularly in low-income countries. Understanding the dynamic process that brings about the cessation of IPV is essential for understanding how interventions work (or don’t) to reduce IPV. 

This study aimed to provide a better understanding of how couples’ involvement with SASA!—a violence against women and HIV-related community mobilisation intervention developed by Raising Voices in Uganda—influenced processes of change in relationships. Qualitative data were collected from each partner in separate in-depth interviews following the intervention.

Study findings suggest that engagement with SASA! contributed to varied experiences and degrees of change at the individual and relationship levels. Reflection around healthy relationships and communication skills learned through SASA! activities or community activists led to more positive interaction among many couples, which reduced conflict and IPV. This nurtured a growing trust and respect between many partners, facilitating change in longstanding conflicts and generating greater intimacy and love as well as increased partnership among couples to manage economic challenges.

This study draws attention to the value of researching and working with both women, men and couples to prevent IPV and suggests IPV prevention interventions may benefit from the inclusion of relationship skills building and support within the context of community mobilisation interventions.

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