Social norms change
There are many different factors that influence behavior, including individual-level factors such as personal attitudes and knowledge, structural factors such as laws, social factors such as power dynamics in relationships, and material constraints such as access. Within this interplay of factors, social norms can act as either a “brake” in the process of behavior change, or an accelerator; thus, understanding more about the potential role that social norms play in sustaining specific behaviors and in what contexts is important.
Drawing from research on the topic, CARE articulated 8 design principles for engaging with social norms change, which include:
- Find early adopters: Often, people are already living their lives in positive ways that support girls’ choices and opportunities. Find them.
- Build support groups of early adopters: It can be hard to embody positive, rights-based change alone. Groups help individuals support, encourage and trouble-shoot.
- Use future-oriented positive messages: Help people imagine positive alternatives. Change is possible.
- Open space for dialogue: Get people talking to each other about new ideas. Challenge the implicit assumptions that everyone holds the same views, experiences and preferences.
- Facilitate public debate: Engage publicly with community members to debate on what is OK in this context.
- Expect by-stander action: Move from envisioning possibilities of justice to action. This involves building community and accountability, so that people show up for girls’ rights in their words and actions.
- Show examples of positive behavior in public: Demonstrate that the positive shift we hope for already exists. And it is totally normal.
- Map allies and ask for their support: Identify the resources and networks we need to support positive change for individuals, families and communities.
Selected initiatives applying social norms change approaches
CARE’s Tipping Point initiative focuses on addressing the root causes of child, early and forced marriage (CEFM), promoting the rights of adolescent girls through community level programming and evidence generation in Nepal and Bangladesh, and multi-level advocacy and cross-learning efforts across the globe. Based on these experiences, they published a set of innovation briefs related to social norms interventions:
- Innovation Brief: Raksha Bandhan
- Innovation Brief: Girls' Football
- Innovation Brief: Tea stall conversation
- Innovation Briefs: Intergenerational DialoguesInnovation Briefs: Intergenerational Dialogues
- Innovation Brief: Amader Kotha
- Innovation Brief: Street DramaInnovation Brief: Street Drama
- Innovation Brief: Amra-O-Korchi
- Innovation Brief: Cooking Competition
The Indashyikirwa ('champions of change' in Kinyarwanda) project is a gender based violence (GBV) prevention programme that is being implemented in 14 sectors across seven districts of Rwanda from 2015 to 2019. This innovative partnership brings together practitioners and researchers to better understand what works to address intimate partner violence (IPV) and to implement a package of interventions. These interventions are designed to work at individual, family and community levels to shift attitudes, practices and social norms that perpetuate gender inequality and GBV.
The EMERGE project worked to shift social norms and support men and boys as allies for gender equality, so as to advance respect for women and reject violence in their families and the broader community. To do this, CARE Sri Lanka worked at multiple levels:
- At the household level, CARE worked with married couples to strengthen healthy communication, reject violence against women and promote gender-equality in households.
- At the community level, the project hosted village-level forums to discuss issues of gender-based violence. EMERGE also supported male change agents at the village level to act as peer educators around issues of GBV and toxic masculinity.
- At the district level, the project worked with local government to address broader structural concerns around gender inequality.
- At a national level, the EMERGE project undertook a research study in collaboration with Partners for Prevention in four districts of Sri Lanka, on the knowledge, attitudes and practices around Gender-Based Violence – one of the largest studies of it’s kind in the country at the time.
Following the EMERGE project, CARE Sri Lanka began a new phase of work with selected communities in Sri Lanka’s tea plantations under the RENEW Project (Redefining Norms to Empower Women), to challenge social norms around intimate partner violence, promote gender-equal norms through media campaigns, school-based interventions and work through community influencers.