This helpdesk report surveys literature on strategies and initiatives designed to increase awareness and to change attitudes and behaviours in order to promote greater gender equality. The structure of the report is based on the following areas: religious influences; community-level processes, alongside media and social campaigning; and activities targeting men’s attitudes and behaviours.
There is very limited research that looks at the role of religion and religious institutions in promoting issues of gender equality. Becker (2007) finds that religion can be an important influence in the development of beliefs about HIV/AIDS among other key factors. Research on promoting awareness and behaviour change in relation to gender equality emphasises the need to involve religious leaders in order to secure buy-in for programmes and their aims and to increase the reach of initiatives (see Friej, 2010). Similarly, faith-based organisations often have a natural authority and can be effective in reaching isolated communities (Clarke et al., 2011).
Communication initiatives aimed at changing individual attitudes and behaviours initially adopted a diffusion approach, involving large-scale media and social marketing campaigns and other one-way communications. More recently, focus has been on adopting interpersonal (one-on-one or small group communication) and participatory approaches. Entertainment education (edutainment) has in some cases been a powerful mechanism to achieve change. Participatory methods can be integrated into many edutainment initiatives. In some instances, edutainment initiatives have incorporated skills development and capacity building.
Community-based initiatives can be effective in mobilising communities, empowering women and promoting community dialogue and changes on issues of gender equality. The emergence of community leaders, including women leaders, as advocates for greater gender equality has been particularly beneficial. Group education is considered effective in promoting attitudinal and behavioural change. The aim is to promote critical reflection on how gender norms are social constructed. Community educators and facilitators can be trained to lead and moderate sessions, contributing further to community participation. Educative methods (workshops, peer groups and mass media) have been found to be effective in contributing to improved health and gender outcomes (Rottach et al., 2009).
There is a growing recognition of the need to understand the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality and to involve them in gender equality efforts. Many of the successful gender-transformative interventions in HIV/AIDS prevention have been ones that have engaged and targeted young men (C-Change, 2009). Group education activities have been found to be particularly effective in engaging men and boys in issues of gender equality and equity in health, and in some cases contributing to changes in attitudes and behaviours (Barker et al., 2007). A recent review of interventions, including social norm initiatives and educational campaigns, in eleven countries targeting individuals and groups found substantial evidence of the effectiveness of such interventions in improving the attitudes of young men and boys toward gender-based violence and rigid gender stereotypes that condone or allow violence. There was little evidence available, however, of actual changes in behaviour in the long-term (Ricardo et al., 2011).