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Shifting social norms to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG)

This guidance note was produced by the DFID-funded Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Helpdesk on behalf of the DFID VAWG team in the Inclusive Societies Department. The lead author and expert is Michaeljon Alexander-Scott (M&C Saatchi World Services). The other authors are Jenny Holden and Emma Bell (Social Development Direct). The note was informed by technical advice from a group of experts: Dr Lyndsay McLean Hilker (Technical Team Leader of VAWG Helpdesk, Social Development Direct), Dr Philly Desai (Turnstone Research), Lori Heise (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Tina Musuya (Director of CEDOVIP, Uganda) and Saugato Datta (ideas 42).Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is the most widespread form of abuse worldwide, affecting on average one third of all women globally in their lifetime. VAWG undermines the mental and physical health of women and girls, violates their human rights and can have a negative impact on long-term peace and stability. In line with its international and national commitments, preventing VAWG is a top priority for the UK Government and DFID.

Although the development community has long recognised the importance of attitudes, norms, and beliefs that justify violence and gender inequality in perpetuating violence against women and girls (VAWG), there has often been a lack of clarity about the definitions of and relationships between these constructs and the practical implications for programme design and evaluation. This Guidance Note therefore aims to clarify these constructs, summarise the role of social norms in sustaining harmful behaviours and contributing to VAWG, and provide practical guidance and advice for DFID advisors and programme managers on how to identify and address harmful social norms in the context of programming to prevent VAWG.

Much research and best practice on social norms interventions derives from programmes designed to tackle harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM). This Guidance Note will focus primarily on tackling the harmful social norms that underpin perpetration of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and non-partner sexual violence, given the high prevalence of these types of violence and the limited practical guidance that currently exists on designing and implementing effective programmes.