Evidence-Based Recommendations for Gender and SBCC

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These recommendations were developed based on the evidence from SBCC programs that have applied a gender lens. 

1 Gender and health are inextricably linked and should be addressed in tandem. SBCC campaigns, whether interdependent or independent, should be more explicit and strategic in gender transformation and the linkages to health outcomes. For examples, interventions may address:

  • Household decision-making
  • Spousal communication
  • Power relations between men and women (both in relationships and in the community)
  • Unequal access to opportunities, such as employment, education and healthcare
  • Cultural norms like gender preference
  • Feminine norms that often relegate women to physically taxing work, household responsibilities and/or reproduction
  • Masculine norms that encourage dominance, aggression and power
  • Gender-based violence

2 Acknowledge that gender norms are not universal. It is important to note that although many of the same relationships between gender norms and inequalities and health exist in different areas of the world, how men and women live, interact and are treated is tied to broader cultural norms that can and do differ across communities and by social identities, including but not limited to social class, ethnicity, caste, etc.. Those involved in program design and implementation must ensure that their work is culturally sensitive and not built on assumptions about gender equality. 

3 Balance the priority health needs of men and women, boys and girls. A focus on women’s reproductive and maternal health are common, but more SBCC programs should explore how men and women interact as well as the health needs of men independent of women. 

4  Improve couple communication. Communication between partners plays an important role in women’s access to and use of healthcare services. Facilitating this conversation so women and men are involved in health-related decisions is an essential contribution of SBCC programs. 

5 Programs should highlight the benefits to both men and women of working towards gender equity, which does not represent a zero-sum game but capitalizes on the strengths of interdependence. It may be important to target men directly to ensure that women’s empowerment does not come at the expense of men feeling disenfranchised. 

6 Consider socio-cultural contexts when defining male involvement. Although research has demonstrated the importance of greater male involvement for improved health outcomes, few studies have defined how and to what extent such involvement should occur. Programs must acknowledge that socio-cultural contexts, and individual preferences, play an important role in defining “ideal” male involvement. For example, some women may not want their partners to go to the clinic with them, but may desire their support in other ways. Therefore, programs should identify the gender norms and practices that are culturally and individually relevant barriers to health services.

7 Gather data from both men and women. Often, our knowledge about gender norms and practices are drawn from responses from women. In formative research and M&E, programs must also collect information from men on their attitudes, concerns and aspirations.

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