The SASA! Initiative

About the Program

The SASA! initiative in Uganda is one example of a social norms community mobilization program, widely considered good practice for social norms interventions.

SASA! seeks to change community attitudes, norms, and behaviors around gender, violence, and the risk of and vulnerability to HIV infection among women. Premised on the ecological model of violence, the program incorporates activism and then action at the community level. 

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Photo courtesy of Raising Voices and Heidi Jo Brady

A cluster-randomized evaluation sought to identify changes in attitudes toward and acceptance of gender inequality and intimate partner violence, changes in the prevalence of intimate partner violence, improvements in responses to women experiencing violence, and decreases in high-risk sexual behaviors. The evaluation found that there was a clear shift in behaviors, with the experience and perpetration of physical intimate partner violence significantly decreasing in intervention communities.

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Photo courtesy of Raising Voices and Heidi Jo Brady

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Photo courtesy of Raising Voices and Heidi Jo Brady

While SASA! targeted primarily adults’ experiences of physical and sexual intimate partner violence, the approach provides direction for broad community mobilization strategies that focus on children and adolescents, specifically.

Lessons From SASA! on the Intersection Between Violence Against Women and Children

Research by Guedes, Bott, Garcia-Moreno, and Colombini found that there are several shared risk factors between violence against women and children, many of which are supported by broader social norms. Child maltreatment and abuse often occur within the same household in which intimate partner violence is occurring, and there is significant evidence that both can have intergenerational consequences. Additionally, violence against women and violence against children intersect during adolescence, when individuals are considered highly vulnerable to different kinds of violence. This all points to the need for more integrated and early interventions, particularly among adolescents.

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Photo courtesy of Raising Voices and Heidi Jo Brady

Studies of the SASA! program reinforce that there are significant intersections between violence against women and children. A more recent study in Kampala, Uganda, found that the patriarchal family structures can create an environment that normalizes, and therefore facilitates, all forms of violence against women and children simultaneously. 

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Photo courtesy of Raising Voices and Heidi Jo Brady

Drawing on participant experiences, the authors suggest that intimate partner violence and violence against children intersect within the family, which has a range of consequences, including the sustaining of cycles of emotional and physical abuse, bystander trauma, negative role modeling, ongoing victimization, and aggression.

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Photo courtesy of Raising Voices and Heidi Jo Brady

Learn More:

This spotlight was pulled from “What Works to Prevent Sexual Violence Against Children,” a systematic review of proven solutions and best practices to prevent and respond to sexual violence against children and youth (SVAC). The review was completed in collaboration with a group of experts and allied organizations and highlights evidence-based solutions from around the world. Read the whole set of #SVSolutions Program Spotlights here.

Program Overview

  • Program: SASA!
  • Organization: Raising Voices
  • Strategy: Norms & Values
  • Intervention Type: Community mobilization programs to change attitudes, norms and behaviors with direct intervention at the community level
  • Ranking: This intervention is categorized as EFFECTIVE
  • Location: Uganda 
  • Age Group: Early and late adolescence
  • Gender: All

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