In sub­Saharan Africa urban informal settlements are growing rapidly with an estimated 70% of residents in cities living in these spaces. Residents of informal settlements are very vulnerable to poor health, with studies showing high HIV­incidence and gender­based violence. Interventions to prevent HIV and gender­based violence in informal settlements are needed, but only a limited number have been designed for this particular environment.

HEARD researchers investigated whether combining a broad economic empowerment intervention Creating Futures, together with Stepping Stones (a gender transformative intervention) could reduce young men’s perpetration and young women’s experience of intimate partner violence. Creating Futures was developed as a new generation of economic empowerment intervention which supported livelihood strengthening by encouraging participants to reflect on opportunities for work and their already existing skills and experiences, and did not give cash or make loans.

Results indicate that the Stepping Stones and Creating Futures intervention had the potential to strengthen livelihoods, improve gender relations, reduce violence experienced by women and improve men’s mental health among young people in South Africa’s informal settlements.