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Inspiring a Generation

By In V4C knowledge and learning On September 11, 2017

V4C’s mission was to inspire a generation of new voices to speak up and speak out, empowering young women to achieve their real potential. Conceived as the pilot stage of a twenty-year vision to address structural barriers to gender equality, implementation began in October 2013 and ended in November 2017. 

Inspiring a Generation is a final review of the programme and a celebration of the achievements made by V4C, its partners and the young women and men and their supporters now taking positive action as a result of our work. 

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V4C’s work has been both ambitious and experimental, and is therefore a story of trial and error, of innovation and risk, and of the critical role of flexible and adaptive programme design. With long-term social norm change at scale as our goal, V4C did not focus on the poorest of the poor, but has instead targeted young women and men with the potential to become change makers and influencers within their communities, and who are potential leaders of the future.

Social transformation does not happen quickly, especially in a complex society with deep-rooted traditions and cultural practices such as Nigeria. We’ve always known that changing deeply entrenched social norms regarding violence against women, women’s roles as leaders and women as decision-makers would take time. But with support from UK Aid, the response to our work has exceeded our expectations.

From our work with young women and men to our collaborations with religious and traditional leaders; from our role in strengthening women’s political participation to our ground-breaking research on national perceptions of masculinity – we have heard countless stories of how people are acting on what they have learned. Stories such as the young woman in Kano advocating for health rights where adolescent girls and women struggle to access even the most basic sanitary products; the young man, inspired by the Purple 50:50 campaign who has taken a stand against domestic violence in his parents’ home and the women in Enugu supported by V4C partners to stand for, and win, leadership elections for the first time.

Whilst many programmes work with young women on empowerment, few also address the barriers obstructing their ability to achieve their goals. V4C recognises that for young women to be better supported, change needs to happen at scale – not only within the self but within legal frameworks and wider society too. The programme’s theory of change is based on this model of multiple relationships and layers in social systems – known in development as the ‘ecological model’.

V4C is also witnessing a shift in attitudes and behaviour change as a result of its work at the societal level. Religious leaders, having undergone personal change after experiencing V4C’s transformative training, report how they have been moved to influence others through their religious teachings. Likewise, traditional leaders have made changes to give a role to women in their structures. Media companies have made gender-positive changes internally and in their broadcasting. In post-secondary institutions, senior staff have been inspired by the changes they have seen in young women and young men in their classes and on campus, and are working to institutionalise the content of our transformative gender courses into their curricula.

Change is also taking shape in formal institutions. Since V4C began, the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP) assented into law and the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill has progressed at the federal level and in Enugu State. With the support of civil society partners assisted by V4C, more than 800 women have been recruited into major political parties of their choice. Young voices are invigorating the women’s movement, whilst new alliances such as those between religious and traditional leaders and the media are helping to amplify positive messages about gender equality.

We hope that the experiences documented in Inspiring a Generation and the knowledge and learning we have gained along the way will help others working towards an end to gender-based inequality and discrimination. Although V4C has come to a close, the work hasn’t ended: there is still so much to be done. We urge donors to continue investing in innovative programmes that tackle gender inequality and for all our readers to lend their voices for change.

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