Autonomy, intimate partner violence, and women's health in northern Botswana: The Maun women's study

Francis Harper Barchi, University of Pennsylvania


Research purpose. This study, conducted with Women against Rape, an NGO located in Maun, Botswana, examines women's autonomy, health, and intimate partner violence (IPV). Methods. Structured interviews with 469 women held in August 2009, yielded complete data on 358 respondents. We examined the effects of four indicators of autonomy as well as various socio-demographic characteristics, including age, education, employment, relationship status, income, chronic disease status, and alcohol use, on three health outcomes—self-reported health status (SRHS), depression, and suicidal ideation. IPV was examined both as a predictor of health as well as an outcome of autonomy. Results. Two autonomy measures—economic independence and control of household resources—were positively associated with SRHS. Poor SRHS increased with age and alcohol use. None of the autonomy measures predicted depression or suicidal ideation. Depression was half as likely for women whose partners did not consume alcohol. IPV was the largest predictor of depression and suicidal ideation in this population; women who reported IPV were two and one-half times more likely to suffer from depression and three times more likely to have contemplated suicide than women who had not. Forty-five percent of the women interviewed had experienced IPV within the past year. Autonomy was not a significant predictor of IPV. Alcohol use was, increasing a woman's odds of violence by a factor of 2.26 if her partner alone consumed alcohol and 7.8 if both she and her partner did. Seventy-six percent of women in relationships where both parties consumed alcohol reported IPV in the past year. Conclusions. Autonomy is an inadequate predictor of SRHS, depression, and suicidal ideation in this setting absent the consideration of IPV. Alcohol and IPV are both significant predictors of depression and suicidal ideation, suggesting that interventions to reduce alcohol use and IPV may significantly reduce the burden of these conditions in this population. IPV should be recognized as a major public health issue in Botswana and primary health care services for women in this setting should include screening for partner violence.

Subject Area

Social work|Womens studies|Public health

Recommended Citation

Barchi, Francis Harper, "Autonomy, intimate partner violence, and women's health in northern Botswana: The Maun women's study" (2011). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3475912.