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Resumen: Luchando por la Igualdad

Using Social and Behavior Change to Address Gender and Social Norms

En octubre 21, 2021, Breakthrough ACTION organizó una mesa redonda sobre el tema de género y normas sociales. This event provided an opportunity for those working in family planning and reproductive health to learn about Breakthrough ACTION’s work addressing gender and social norms across diverse country programs and to share their own experiences. Perdí esta sesión? You can view the recording on the Avance página de YouTube de ACCIÓN.

Introduction to Gender and Social Norms

This virtual session began with opening remarks from Joanna Skinner, Population and Reproductive Health technical lead with Breakthrough ACTION. She started by defining some key terms:

  • Cambio social y de comportamiento (SBC) is a discipline that uses a deep understanding of human and societal behavior and evidence-based interventions to increase the adoption of healthy behaviors by individuals and influence the social and structural factors that underpin a ellos.
  • Normas de género are the informal, mayormente no escrito, rules and shared social expectations that distinguish expected behavior on the basis of gender.
  • Normas sociales are the perceived informal rules that define acceptable, adecuado, y acciones obligatorias dentro de un determinado grupo o comunidad.
Members of the Kasanje youth club meet to discuss sex education and family planning methods, at the laval clinic. Photo courtesy of Johnathan Torgovnik/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment. Some rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Johnathan Torgovnik/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment. algunos derechos reservados.

Milisegundo. Skinner stressed that social and gender norms are learned, sometimes explicitly but often implicitly, and evolve over time. She then shared some key lessons from Breakthrough ACTION related to gender and social norms:

  • Develop country-specific gender strategies early on (ideally during the first year of the project).
  • Make sure all staff, partes interesadas, and donors are committed to gender integration so that it is built into the project systems from the beginning.
  • Consider broader issues of equity. Recognizing the interconnected nature of social concepts like gender, race, and class is important across countries and contexts.
  • Focus on measurement. More work needs to be done by all working in SBC to standardize measurement around gender integration and outcomes.

Critical Elements for Successful Gender Integration

  • Provide a space for critical reflection of social and gender norms among mixed-gender groups.
  • Foster women’s leadership and influence at the community level.
  • Promote greater harmony and shared decision-making between couples.
  • Tailor gender integration approaches and accompanying messages and materials to the local context.
  • Commit to gender integration among staff, financiadores, and collaborators.
  • Give attention to staff and local partner capacity, including assistance from specific gender experts as well as staff-wide training in gender integration.

Roundtable Discussions

Participants then joined one of four roundtable sessions. They explored how Breakthrough ACTION programs have addressed social and gender norms through SBC programming and what the project has learned. Below are key takeaways from each of these sessions. Click each section to expand.

Group 1—Addressing Social and Gender Norms: Lessons from Engaging Communities in Northern Nigeria with Adalci as a Guiding Principle. facilitador: Chizoba Onyechi, Oficial superior de programas, Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria.

Chizoba Onyechi described the multi-channel SBC strategy used by Breakthrough ACTION in Nigeria. It addresses a range of health areas, from family planning to tuberculosis to nutrition. In Northern Nigeria, the gender work focuses on engaging male and female religious leaders as advocates for gender equality to help shift social and gender norms and leverage positive religious belief systems. She introduced the term adalci, a Nigerian Hausa word meaning “to provide a level playing field” or “ensure fairness and justice.” A commonly accepted principle, this concept provides a culturally appropriate framework for Breakthrough ACTION’s work in northern Nigeria to achieve gender equality and sustain healthy behaviors.

The roundtable discussion focused on the importance of using a multi-channel SBC approach—including community meetings, radio, and others—and ensuring alignment across projects. The group also discussed the importance of engaging community leaders and influencers—specifically religious leaders—so they are better prepared to address health issues in their community. Religious perspectives can aid in the uptake of certain behaviors, and this can be leveraged by SBC programs.

View the seminario web.

Group 2—Gender Dialogue with Health Workers in Ethiopia. facilitador: Esete Getachew, Gender and RMNCH Advisor, Breakthrough ACTION Ethiopia.

Esete Getachew provided an overview of Breakthrough ACTION’s integrated project in Ethiopia, which focuses on reproductive, materno, recién nacido, y salud infantil (RMNCH) and malaria. It uses innovative SBC approaches to influence positive social norms around gender and health. The project builds the capacity of health workers around interpersonal communication and conducts gender dialogues with health workers.

The discussion in this group centered around ways to sustain positive shifts in provider norms—recognizing that health providers are influenced by community gender norms, también. Communities should drive the change process, and there should be mechanisms to hold them accountable. It is important to keep in mind that changing social and gender norms takes time. In addition to identifying gender norms, we would like to change, it is also important to identify positive gender norms.

View the seminario web.

Group 3—How Can Practitioners Feasibly Integrate Social and Gender Norms into Social and Behavior Change Programs? facilitador: Lisa Cobb, Subdirector, CCP Strategic Communication Programs Unit.

Lisa Cobb presented an overview of the “Ponerse práctico” tool, which helps integrate social norms into SBC programs. Developed by Breakthrough ACTION and the Social Norms Learning Collaborative, this tool is intended to be used by program designers and planners in a workshop setting to integrate social norms into program plans.

This roundtable discussed the need to understand pathways and to avoid making assumptions about how norms impact behavior. Participants also talked about the importance of a consultation process and the need to engage diverse community members before implementing an SBC project. They discussed how not all social and gender norms are negative. While projects often talk about shifting norms, there are also norms that can be amplified and fortified to promote healthy behaviors. These norms can serve as an important launching pad for individual and collective reflection.

View the seminario web.

Group 4—How can SBC programs promote couple communication and shared decision-making in support of family planning, Equidad de género, and related health outcomes? Presentador: Carole Ilunga, Gender Advisor, Breakthrough ACTION Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Carole Ilunga presented an overview of how Breakthrough ACTION is using SBC to address social and gender norms and improve outcomes in its family planning and maternal, recién nacido, niño, and adolescent health efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (República Democrática del Congo).

Carole started with a brief overview of social and gender norms that affect family planning uptake and utilization in the DRC, including pro-natalism and women’s low purchasing and decision-making power in households and how they disproportionately and negatively impact women. Carole then broke down the different critical levels of behavior change on the socio-ecological model for both men and women (individual, families/peers/households, comunidad, health service delivery, social and structural). She noted that various forms of SBC communication approaches (p.ej., mass media, social/community mobilization, and interpersonal communication) can be used to address norms that operate at different levels. Building on these examples, Carole discussed various strategies, incluido:

  • Couples meetings.
  • Health quizzes at marketplaces.
  • Community debates.
  • Advocacy sessions with religious leaders implemented by Breakthrough ACTION to:
    • Address these norms.
    • Improve communication/discussions around utilization and adoption of healthy family planning and reproductive health behaviors.
    • Promote shared decision-making between couples and within households.

View the seminario web.


This roundtable session ended with closing remarks from Afeefa Abdur-Rahman, senior gender advisor with USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health. Afeefa emphasized a few key takeaways from the roundtable that align with key USAID gender priority areas for family planning and reproductive health. She noted that examining gender and other social norms is a way to support individuals and communities in addressing imbalances in power and how they negatively affect different groups of people. She pointed to how exploring social and gender norms provides stakeholders opportunities to discuss and challenge the benefits and disadvantages that these norms present for different individuals and groups and enables communities to make shifts. Afeefa also highlighted that using multiple theories and tools to address social and gender norms can help SBC implementers drive change. Afeefa ended her remarks by offering several ways forward in enhancing work on social and gender norms building on the themes of the roundtable:

  • Using SBC to help communities address agencia and empowerment of individuals and couples.
  • Exploring how gender norms play out in the health system, including supporting the health workforce, which is especially relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Engaging men and boys in their roles as parents/partners and agents of change within their communities in order to enhance their health-seeking behaviors and address social and gender norms.
  • Considering how SBC can be further utilized to address social and gender norms affecting people of all genders and those who are non-binary.

Recursos adicionales

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Resumen: Luchando por la Igualdad
sara v. Harlan

Líder del equipo de asociaciones, Conocimiento ÉXITO, Centro Johns Hopkins para programas de comunicación

sara v. Harlan, millas por hora, ha sido un campeón de la salud reproductiva mundial y la planificación familiar durante casi dos décadas. Actualmente es líder del equipo de asociaciones para el proyecto Knowledge SUCCESS en el Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs.. Sus intereses técnicos particulares incluyen Población, Salud, y Medio Ambiente (PHE) y aumentar el acceso a métodos anticonceptivos de acción más prolongada. Es cofundadora de la iniciativa de narración Family Planning Voices. (2015-2020) y dirige el podcast Inside the FP Story. También es coautora de varias guías prácticas., incluyendo la construcción de mejores programas: Una guía paso a paso para usar la gestión del conocimiento en salud global.

sarah kennedy

Oficial del Programa de Planificación Familiar, Centro Johns Hopkins para programas de comunicación

Sarah Kennedy es oficial del programa de planificación familiar en el Centro Johns Hopkins para Programas de Comunicación. (PCCh), Brindar apoyo programático central y de gestión del conocimiento en varios proyectos.. Sarah tiene experiencia en gestión y administración de proyectos de salud global., investigar, comunicaciones, y la gestión del conocimiento y le apasiona hacer del mundo un lugar más justo y humano y aprender de los demás. Sarah tiene una licenciatura en Estudios Globales de la Universidad de Carolina del Norte en Chapel Hill y un MPH con un certificado en Salud Humanitaria de la Escuela de Salud Pública Johns Hopkins Bloomberg..

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