Professor Catherine Maternowska

Professor of Violence Prevention for Young People


Dr Catherine Maternowska, Professor of Violence Prevention for Young People is co-director of the End Violence Lab at the University of Edinburgh.  She brings three decades of field-based research and programming spanning the Americas, Africa and Asia focusing on violence prevention and response, gender equity, and sexual and reproductive health.  Trained in economics, public health, and medical anthropology, she uses mixed methodology approaches to achieve improved outcomes.  She has published dozens of policy-influencing peer review articles on gender-related issues and violence prevention, a book Reproducing Inequities: Poverty and the Politics of Population in Haiti and has been featured in the popular press on public health and children's issues.  Her most recent work addresses violence prevention and the online-offline continuum. She held a faculty position at the University of California, San Francisco for ten years working in Haiti, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Kenya.  From 2012-2017, she worked for UNICEF--Office of Research-Innocenti leading the Multi-Country Study on the Drivers of Violence which was subsequently replicated in twenty-three countries globally. From 2017-2021 she led Data, Evidence & Learning at the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. At the End Violence Lab, she provides technical accompaniment around generating and curating data and evidence, sharing knowledge directly with stakeholders and mobilising the evidence-and practice-based knowledge to create sustainable policy and practice change. Increasingly, she is focusing on child sexual abuse and exploitation working on ways to improve prevention, healing and justice. Professor Maternowska has a PhD from Columbia University, in New York City, a MPH from the University of Michigan and BSc (Econ) from the London School of Economics.


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Research summary

For nearly 30 years I have been researching gender and forms of violence inflicted on women and children globally. This work is based on the structural determinants of health and steeped in political economy analyses. While a local, community focus is important, so too is a systems approach, characterized by feedback loops and discontinuous change that is rarely in straight lines. Systems—such as child protection systems—change according to their history—path dependence is everywhere; systems are inherently complex and their impact on young people is determined by social and political processes. It is this kind of politics in public health (and its nexus with practice in the field) that frames most of my work.  I have a strong interest in violence prevention and response and testing whether models of delivery to children and young people are effective.  Within this interest are innovative ways of measuring—using mixed methods—and including the development of indicators and evaluations that look at behavioural change and much as social change.  I am interested in debates around epistemologies and power/knowledge, research techniques that capture these constructs and different models of development that are directly confront inequalities for the marginalized.

Current research interests

I remain interested in the core body of work I have co-produced around the drivers of violence (the conditions in which violence occurs) and how stakeholders can best respond to it. Increasingly, I am focusing on child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) and the online offline continuum. Sexual abuse is among the most egregious types of abuse and is often tied to other types of abuse including physical and emotional abuse. I am currently building a CSEA Solutions Hub to create a unique community and space where stakeholders in the CSEA prevention field can access, debate, create and use solution-based products based on high quality evidence and practice. The Hub will have three goals: to mobilise knowledge (connecting and encouraging people to learn about and share existing high-quality evidence and practice to inform their decision-making): to transform knowledge (making evidence- and practice-based knowledge more accessible to different audiences for different purposes by translating it, with stakeholders, into useful tools and products); and to generate knowledge (curating and generating high quality CSEA evidence from science and practice complemented by user research). I am interested in ways to measure uptake of solutions and interested in the politics of knowledge.

Past research interests

• Sexual and reproductive health; emergency obstetric care including safe abortions (Haiti, Kenya and Zimbabwe) • Studies of gender, power and culture (USA and Mexico) • Adolescent girls and HIV (Zimbabwe)

Knowledge exchange

I am an applied researcher and everything I study, or support, is intended to create change from the level of the community where practice is implemented to the corridors of power where policy is made (and sometimes implemented). All my previous research studies can trace ways that the research itself contributed to change. Impact in the field of gender norms and violence prevention happens in incremental ways which is why measuring change is so fundamental to my research practice. In several countries around the world, I can demonstrate how there have been shifts in social norms, shifts in capacity, an expanding base of support, strong alliances and improved policies.

I have run dozens of multi-courses focusing on leadership development with policy makers and with young people where knowledge can be shared across international borders. Knowledge exchange is at the heart of my current work on the CSEA Solutions Hub.