'Poverty can break a home': Exploring mechanisms linking cash plus programming and intimate partner violence in Ghana

A growing body of research in West Africa and globally shows that cash transfers can decrease intimate partner violence (IPV). The purpose of this study was to explore how the government of Ghana's Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) 1000 program, an unconditional cash transfer plus health insurance premium waiver targeted at pregnant women and women with young children, influenced IPV experiences. Existing program theory hypothesizes three pathways through which cash transfers influence IPV, including: 1) increased economic security and emotional wellbeing; 2) reduced intra-household conflict; and 3) increased women's empowerment. Informed by this theory, we conducted qualitative in-depth interviews with women in northern Ghana (n = 30) who were or had been beneficiaries of LEAP 1000 and had reported declines in IPV in an earlier impact evaluation. We used narrative and thematic analytic techniques to examine these pathways in the context of gender norms and household dynamics, as well as a fourth potential pathway focused on interactions with healthcare providers. Overall, the most prominent narrative was that poverty is the main determinant of physical IPV and that by reducing poverty, LEAP 1000 reduced conflict and violence in households and communities and improved emotional wellbeing. Participant narratives also supported pathways of reduced intra-household conflict and increased empowerment, as well as interplay between these three pathways. However, participants also reflected that cash transfers did not fundamentally change gender norms or reduce gender-role strain in a context of ongoing economic insecurity, which could limit the gender transformative potential and sustainability of IPV reductions. Finally, while health insurance increased access to healthcare, local norms, shame, fear, and minimal provider screening deterred IPV disclosure to healthcare providers. Additional research is needed to explore interplay between pathways of impact across programs with different design features and implementation contexts to continue informing effective programming to maximize impact.