Empowering girls can curtail rape, sexual assault

California, April 15: Simply empowering women to take responsibility to protect themselves can sharply reduce cases of rape and sexual harassment, a significant study reveals.

A low-cost empowerment programme for adolescent girls in Kenyan slums sharply curtailed rape and sexual harassment of these girls.

They were living in an environment where women have low status and are frequently attacked, the researchers added.

The researchers at Stanford University’s school of medicine, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and a non-profit ‘Ujamaa-Africa/No Means No Worldwide’ found that nearly 18 percent of participants had been raped in the year before their programme began.

The intervention involved teaching girls verbal and physical techniques to prevent sexual harassment and assault.

The study evaluated the effectiveness of these techniques for 1,978 adolescents living in Nairobi slums.

The girls received 12 hours of empowerment training over six weeks as well as two-hour refresher courses at three-, six- and 10-month intervals.

The empowerment training included lessons on self-efficacy, personal awareness, assertive communication skills and a variety of physical skills for defending against and escaping from single or multiple attackers.

“This study demonstrated that a simple intervention empowers girls to take responsibility for protecting themselves and leads to a major decrease in violence against those girls,” explained Yvonne Maldonado from Stanford University.

“We are teaching girls that it is OK to say no without feeling guilty, teaching them that ‘I have permission to defend myself’,” added Lee Paiva, co-founder of ‘No Means No Worldwide’.

Girls who received training were also much more likely to disclose an assault, said the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

IANS