Do No Harm Toolkit

We know that women’s economic advancement and empowerment are critical to women achieving gender equality. The Do No Harm research found that some women in women’s economic empowerment programs experience an increase in, or commencement of, domestic violence relating to their increased economic independence. In this instance, women’s economic empowerment challenges unequal gender roles and norms and this can lead to men using VAW as way of reinforcing their power over women and gender inequality.

Do No Harm also found that increasing women’s economic contribution to the household did not necessarily result in greater economic equality within the partnership, and in some instances resulted in men withdrawing their work and economic contribution to the family. Do No Harm, similar to global evidence, found that women tend to spend their income on family needs rather than personal needs. This is a result of gender norms where women learn and are taught to prioritise the needs of the family and others over their own needs.

Do No Harm also found that women’s economic empowerment programs can be entry points to address other issues affecting women such as health, education, leadership and VAW. Do No Harm found that women’s economic empowerment programs:

  • Provide women greater access to and control over the money they earn.
  • Assist women to meet the basic needs of their family.
  • Allow women to save for security, emergencies and other unexpected costs.
  • Develop women’s financial literacy, small businesses and administration skills.
  • Increase women’s confidence, leadership skills and participation in decision-making.
  • Challenge unequal gender norms at family and community level.
  • Enable peer support, learning and solidarity among women.
  • Provide opportunities for women to show their leadership capacity, increasing women’s recognition and position in the community.

Read IWDA’s Briefing Note summarising the key research findings and toolkit principles here.

Do No Harm Research Project

Partnering with The Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University and funded by the Australian Government’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development, the Do No Harm: Understanding the Relationship Between Women’s Economic Empowerment and VAW in Melanesia research project (Do No Harm) explored the relationship between women’s economic advancement and empowerment and women’s experience of domestic violence.

The research was conducted in Solomon Islands (2014) and Papua New Guinea in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (2015) and the Highlands (2016) with a range of programs working to increase women’s economic advancement and empowerment at the community level and with women business owners. Most of the programs included in the research focused on women earning an income in the informal economy. As a result, the findings will not be inclusive of all forms of women’s economic empowerment programs.

The aim of Do No Harm was not to criticise or question women’s economic empowerment programs. The aim was to understand women’s experience of domestic violence and how it relates to their participation in women’s economic empowerment programs so that we can improve our programs. While the strategies recommended require more work and resources, they will strengthen programs to improve outcomes for women.

Do No Harm Toolkits

IWDA used the research findings to develop a series of practical tools to support organisations working at a community level on women’s economic empowerment programming. The tools will help to integrate the elimination of VAW into these programs.

Two kits have been produced, one with a specific focus (Savings Clubs in the Solomon Islands) and the other with a broader remit, to support broad-based women’s economic empowerment programs to integrate approaches to address violence against women. The Toolkits are framed around program design, implementation and monitoring and demonstrate the importance of

  1. Supporting women victims/survivors of violence
  2. Transforming gender inequality
  3. Increasing women’s participation in programs.
  4. Changing men’s attitudes and behaviours that support gender inequality and VAW.
  5. Partnering with experienced VAW providers.


IWDA also conducted research to learn more about women’s experience of violence in the context of women in the formal economy. Download the Do No Harm Women in the Formal Economy Survey Report.

You can also read an early briefing on the project and an early policy brief, and view a video from the start of the project.

Thanks for your interest in Do No Harm. IWDA would like to keep track of how these materials are used. Please let us know if you are downloading these documents for research, programming, policy/advocacy purposes

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