Research on Discriminatory Social Norms in Relation to Violence against Women and Girls from the Perspective of Girls, Boys, Women and Men in Bangladesh, Egypt and Pakistan
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The purpose of this research was to explore discriminatory social norms and harmful practices with a particular focus on those that relate to violence against women and girls (VAWG) that keep girls
and women marginalised in communities and the wider society. Bangladesh, Egypt and Pakistan were chosen for the research on the basis that they were all engaged in work tackling these norms and trying to bring about positive change, especially for adolescent girls, in contexts that are similar, e.g. highly conservative communities, backlash against a rights and gender agenda, similar drivers around the protection of girls’ sexuality and honour and where risks around girls’ safety in speaking out about sensitive gender issues exist.
Plan UK understands social norms to mean ‘A pattern of behaviour motivated by a desire to conform to shared social expectations of an important reference group’. Discriminatory norms relating to gender and violence against women and girls are widespread and influencing and changing social norms is widely recognized as critically important though challenging work, essential for long-term and sustainable change.
This small scale qualitative research study is considered an important initiative for Plan UK which is committed to increasing its gender transformative work, deepening and sharing learning about this work and becoming recognised for quality programming on adolescent girls’ rights. This research was focused on learning from communities about the dominant social norms that directly affect girls negatively, how these affect girls and boys differently, and how far these are changing through the work of Plan and other agencies, and the wider social changes in their context from government policies and the media.
Listening to groups of girls, boys, men and women in selected communities where Plan works, understanding their perspective and experiences was expected to help Plan (and others) to deepen their understanding of the issues facing the communities and what approaches are enabling positive change. The views and priorities of staff involved in this work were also part of the research as their long term knowledge of communities adds greatly to the insights that outsiders can gain in a short time.