This report covers the research undertaken as part of the project, Do No Harm: Understanding the Relationship between Women’s Economic Empowerment and Violence against Women in Melanesia. The research was a collaboration between the Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs (formerly State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program) and the International Women’s Development Agency and funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program.
It has often been assumed that improving women’s access to income-generating activities would lead automatically to more general empowerment, the theory being that an increased income would improve women’s ‘bargaining power’ within the household. Some researchers believed that this increase in bargaining power would reduce the risk of intimate partner violence, while others believed it would have the opposite effect. Those trying to promote gender equality through economic empowerment initiatives face the vexing issue that their efforts may have unintended consequences, improving one dimension of women’s lives but undermining others.
The Do No Harm (DNH) research addresses the question of how to improve women’s economic agency and the security of their livelihoods without compromising their safety. In an effort to understand the realities women face as they attempt to overcome economic disadvantage, the DNH research gathered detailed accounts from women of their experiences as well as from men and community leaders. Field research was undertaken in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea with 485 interviews completed, including 238 with women and 135 in-depth key informant interviews.