How communications can change social norms around adolescent girls

Research reports and studies
February 2016
Carol Watson, Caroline Harper

Poised at the intersection between childhood and adulthood, adolescent girls face unique challenges to the full development and exercise of their capabilities. Child marriage and under-investment in girls’ education are two such challenges that continue to limit girls’ trajectories, fuelled in part by discriminatory social norms that uphold these practices within local settings that are often circumscribed by poverty and lack of opportunity.

A multi-year, multi-country study has been exploring the complex ways in which adolescent girls’ capabilities are shaped and/or constrained by gender-discriminatory social norms, attitudes and practices, and under what conditions positive changes may be brought about, particularly around norms and practices related to child marriage and education.

Evidence from this report showed that communications programmes could be an effective way of challenging gender-discriminatory attitudes and practices, reaching a variety of stakeholders with both broad pro-gender equality messages and messages on specific discriminatory norms. While no one approach was found to be more effective than others, programmes with more than one communications component and those integrated with activities other than communications were found to achieve a higher proportion of positive outcomes.

The study has been conducted by ODI in partnership with national research teams in Viet Nam, Nepal, Ethiopia and Uganda, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) as part of a flagship programme on Transforming the Lives of Girls and Young Women.