Skip to main content
Community discussion


Because social norms are held in place by community expectations, working for girls means working with communities—making sure to target the local leaders who can either speed or slow change and the in-laws who shape married girls’ daily lives.

What we know now:

Community-level programming is both common and under-evaluated. While a great deal of girl-focused programming has included some element of community-level work, there have been very few systematic evaluations of who to target and how and how often to message. That said, the most successful programmes share important elements. They:

  • Secure the buy-in of local community and religious leaders, who can help ’kick start’ change;
  • Support communities to identify their own problems and find their own solutions;
  • Tailor messages to fit local experience and need—making sure to target specific audiences by age and gender and using group leaders and trainers who are felt by community members to be ’insiders’;
  • Use multiple channels (leaflets, posters, radio, TV, door-to-door chats, public events, street theatre, film shows);
  • Pair norm change work with practical interventions such as building water taps of offering girls’ literacy classes;
  • Create longer-term and sustainable programming.

GAGE’s contribution:

GAGE will focus on how to accelerate the social norm change that supports the expansion of girls’ capabilities by engaging with broader communities.  For example, we will explore:

  • Whether and how interventions’ reach and impact can be maximised by pairing relatively less expensive mass media approaches with more limited face-to-face programming. Evidence suggests the combination can be powerful, but knowing who to target with which approach is critical.
  • Whether messages should be framed in terms of social norms and human rights or whether more pragmatic messaging might speed change. Helping parents and families understand how investments in girls might pay off for them—in terms improving girls’ ability to contribute financially, for example-- may be the fastest way to encourage parental buy-in to girls’ capabilities. However, a pragmatic approach may ultimately over sell girls’ instrumental value at the cost of their worth as human beings.
  • How can interventions minimise the chance of backlash—and how should they respond if backlash happens?  These questions have become especially pertinent as religious fundamentalism continues to spread, threatening not only to slow new progress, but to erase the old.
  • How long must programming run before it can be ‘safely withdrawn’ without risk of reversal?