PSI and Partners Take On Social Norms in DRC

By Aubrey Weber, FHI 360

Instances of early pregnancy, gender-based and intimate partner violence, and child marriage are an unfortunate reality for millions of women. In many settings, sustained improvements in family planning and sexual and reproductive health will only be obtained by addressing the social norms—unspoken rules that govern behavior—that inhibit family planning access and use. These social norms often compromise overall health, well-being, and adolescents’ ability to live productive lives. Passages Project addresses the root of these chronic challenges by working to transform negative social norms, focusing on interventions that aim to reduce stigma and myths related to family planning use, increase male engagement in family planning, reduce gender-based violence, and improve gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors.

In partnership with a team of global health experts—Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health, FHI 360, Johns Hopkins Global Early Adolescent Study, Population Services International, Save the Children and TearfundPassages is establishing an evidence base on scalable social norm change by assessing interventions, researching pathways to change, and providing technical assistance for scaling up existing social norm change interventions. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Passages is working on two interventions to strengthen normative environments, improve access to and involvement with quality reproductive health services, and provide necessary education to young adolescents, newly married youth, and first-time parents:

Transforming Masculinities/Masculinité, Famille, et Foi

The DRC holds some of the highest rates of gender-based and intimate partner violence in the world, which is largely due to a common belief that acceptable male behavior includes asserting one’s control through violent actions. Known locally as Masculinité, Famille, et Foi, the intervention adapts the original Tearfund-developed Transforming Masculinities approach to include reflection on normative environments and the acceptability of family planning. It works with men and women to create  community structures that enforce social norms to promote gender equity and positive masculinities through trainings, community dialogue and diffusion activities that embrace positive behaviors and identities. At its core, Transforming Masculinities intervention encourages reflection, discussion and action between faith leaders, gender champions, newly married couples and first-time parents, and congregations to build positive norms that translate into improvements in sexual and reproductive and family health.

Establishing a supportive community foundation equips individuals and young couples with the tools and skills necessary to actively work on their relationships, improve communication skills, and, as a result, significantly reduce the likelihood of intimate partner violence.

Read the brief in English and French.

Growing Up GREAT!/Bien Grandir!

Growing Up GREAT!  aims to answer the question: does an intervention for early adolescents that addresses gender norms, gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health lead to more equitable gender roles, delayed sexual debut and pregnancy and increased family planning use? Evidence from the two adapted elements of this program—GREAT Project from Uganda and GrowUp Smart from Rwanda—suggest that these types of interventions encourage reflection and group engagement in building more equitable social norms that support adolescent development and well-being. Growing Up GREAT! mobilizes very young adolescents, parents and caregivers, teachers and providers, and community members together to improve inter-generational communication surrounding puberty and sexuality.

Adolescence is an important transitory period during which ideas and expectations of what is the “norm” are formed. By engaging positive mentors and other trusted adults to guide young people through these confusing and often uncomfortable times, girls and boys will be more confident in making healthy decisions related to their reproductive health, and have the information and guidance they need to grow up great.

Read the brief in English and French.


Follow along with Passages research and resources, and learn more: https://healthcomspringboard.org/passages/

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