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V4C reveals the extent to which social norms shape Nigerian attitudes towards gender

V4C reveals the extent to which social norms shape Nigerian attitudes towards gender

By In V4C knowledge and learning On January 30, 2017


Over the past three years, the Voices for Change (V4C) programme in Nigeria have been piloting several innovative approaches to tackle social norms underpinning gender inequality. At the beginning of this work V4C identified three key behaviours which it specifically seeks to transform: i) the role of women in household decision-making, ii) the prevalence of violence against women and 
girls (VAWG) and iii) the prevalence of women standing for leadership positions.

In 2015, the programme undertook a baseline survey to understand whether social norms play a significant
role in determining these behaviours among young people in Nigeria and provide the programme with a measurement of how these might change over time. The findings of the Attitudes, Practices and Social Norms Survey Report are now being used to enable V4C and its implementing partners to plan and conduct interventions better tailored to the current attitudes of Nigerian youth, as well as to identify the common patterns of influence which they experience.

The findings demonstrate the importance of conducting an initial social norms analysis in development initiatives. Without a social norms analysis, assumptions are made about how personal knowledge versus social pressure affecting behaviour, and these assumptions shape programming. With clearer measures of whether social norms exist, programmes are empowered to choose outreach strategies that more accurately (and effectively) map onto a population’s personal decisions and social dynamics.

Main findings

The KAP survey findings include, but are not limited to:

The role of women in household decision-making:

  • Women currently play a limited role in household decision-making, and this is both expected and accepted across ages and for both genders.
  • Of the three issues explored in this report, women’s opinions in household decision- making is the most entrenched in the
old behaviours and attitudes.
  • The private nature of household decision-making suggests that public knowledge and sanctioning are likely have limited effect in shaping private household dynamics.

The prevalence of violence against women and girls (VAWG):

  • Women appear to have a more accurate perception of how common VAWG is and whether the practice is approved of than men.
  • Across the four states, more than one out of five women disapprove
of VAWG but still personally experience it at least occasionally. 
Yet, public disapproval of VAWG is already strong (nearly universal). This suggests that the private nature of VAWG is likely to contribute to the disconnect between public attitudes and private practice.
  • While condemnation of VAWG is widespread, further probing shows that both men and women still may rationalise VAWG in certain situations. 30 per cent of young men consider VAWG to be justified in certain situations.

The prevalence of women standing for leadership positions:

  • Of the three behaviour areas, women in leadership displays the strongest signs of being a social norm, and a behaviour where young people are ready to embrace
a new norm of greater women’s participation.
  • Young men and women approve of women participating in local leadership at higher rates than the approval they expect among others.
  • The survey results highlight a number of common perceptions about women’s ability to lead and make decisions under pressure which justify the current low level of women in leadership positions.

Programming implications

The report provides programming implications, with an eye towards informing and strengthening future V4C programmes. These can also serve as important recommendations for other programme implementers concerned with transforming social norms that benefit girls and women’s empowerment – in Nigeria and beyond.

The role of women in household decision-making:

  • Conceptions of masculinity matter – conversations on what it means to be a strong man, if messaged from key influencers and targeted reference groups, could
shift how both men and women think about masculinity, with implications for household dynamics.
  • Different programme strategies that promote women’s decision-making need to be sensitive to regional differences. In the case of V4C, this means between the north and the south of Nigeria.
  • Addressing stereotypes of both masculinity and femininity also appears to be a key component for shifting beliefs about decision-making.

The prevalence of violence against women and girls (VAWG):

  • Programming may be more effective if it targets reference groups and creates publicity about how widespread disapproval of VAWG is.
  • Strengthening laws against VAWG and empowering people to take a stand against it in their social circles could put additional pressure on men to stop this unpopular practice.
  • Programming could also include empowerment initiatives that give young people the skills to share with others, why VAWG is not acceptable and about how widespread disapproval of VAWG is among the younger generation. Programming may be more effective if it is tailored to the regional differences in
the norms observed.
  • It is important
to consider how sharing information may have effects contrary to those desired by the programme. For example, cases where people might realise that their positive behaviour is in the minority and thus
feel pressure to revert.

The prevalence of women standing for leadership positions:

  • Mentorship programmes, training, or leadership pathways could help more women have access to leadership roles.
  • Stories of women’s leadership should be publicised so that other men and women start
to shift their attitudes about whether women in leadership is desirable. This assistance could also address the practical concern that appears to
be experienced by men and women who want to take a more active leadership role: financial backing or the wherewithal to garner the local support needed to win the position.
  • Programming that targets these elders and influencers who often oppose women taking on leadership positions could help catalyse a faster change.

Download the full report


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