This research explores how empowerment programs impact gender-based violence and the social structures that lead to such violence in the first place. Drawing from interviews with former participants in empowerment programs that focus on building community leaders, the study examines how grassroots women lead interventions and their effects on leaders’ and survivors’ lives. We find that although most survivors had displayed some agency in independently resisting violence, their efforts were more effective when coupled with a support network and access to resources. With the intervention of leaders, the survivors were able to better negotiate for justice with a renewed sense of agency. For the leaders, participation in programs gave them an identity independent of their status within the family. They promoted change by developing independent, innovative intervention strategies that worked despite the tight structural constraints of gendered norms.

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