Communications to change discriminatory gender norms affecting adolescent girls

Research reports and studies
August 2015
Rachel Marcus, Caroline Harper
This Research and practice note explores insights into the power of communications programmes in changing gender norms that affect adolescent girls. These programmes cover a range of approaches, such as TV and radio-based messaging, community dialogue and non-formal education, all aiming to challenge discriminatory gender norms and promote gender equality, either by giving girls the information and skills they need to change their lives and claim their rights, or by seeking to change the views of people who influence and make decisions about girls’ lives.

Drawing from an ODI systematic review of 61 communications programmes, and in-depth case studies from Ethiopia, Nepal, Uganda and Viet Nam, the note highlights programmes and components that have proven effective in changing community attitudes and behaviours related to girls’ education, the ideal age of girls at marriage, and how household chores should be divided between girls and boys. Effective approaches include communications with relevant content and engaging formats, such as giving families information about the health risks of child marriages and using real-life or fictional characters as role models, such as India’s Meena Communication Initiative developed by UNICEF. The note also outlines the limitations of such approaches, including the reality that popular media, radio and TV may not reach everyone, especially the most vulnerable groups and girls themselves; and effectively emphasises the vital need to deliver communications as part of a ‘package’.