SBCC and Gender Theories

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A theory can help provide an understanding of the influencing factors on behavior and how they change behavior, as well as to identify potential entry points for interventions.

There are a number of theories commonly used in behavior change programs, as well as those that specifically focus on gender. When theories are not focused specifically on gender, it is particularly important to apply a gender lens to different theoretical constructs. For example, how is “self-efficacy” different for men and women? How are “beliefs” influenced by entrenched gender norms? How would gender affect the “triability” of new innovations?

Below are some of the most commonly used theories in behavior change programs.

Theory of Planned Behavior

Consider using the Theory of Planned Behavior to design interventions that target health-enhancing individual behavior that may be socially unacceptable, such as condom use, self check-ups, voluntary testing, medication adherence, delivery by a male health worker and other behaviors that warrant individual decisions but have varying levels of social acceptability. When applying a gender lens to the Theory of Planned Behavior it is important to consider if the barriers to and enabling factors that support individual behaviore change differ for men and women, and if yes, how?

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Extended Parallel Processing

Extended Parallel Processing is useful in SBCC campaigns when a health issue poses a real or perceived threat to personal health. For example, Extended Parallel Processing may be more useful in HIV or malaria campaigns where there is a more obvious and immediate disease threat and less useful in a child nutrition campaign where the threat of malnutrition is less immediately obvious or is longer term. For gender programming, it is important to identify how women perceive the particular threat and how, if at all, this differs for men. Specifically determining what will enhance a woman's efficacy regarding the issue, as well as a man's, is necessary when using Extended Parallel Processing.

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Theory of Social Learning

The principles of Social Learning can be applied to almost any SBCC program that aims to influence social behaviors, particularly behaviors that are complex or involve interactions with other people. It may be especially useful when a particular behavior is difficult to describe, but can be explained through demonstration or modeling. Also, when adopting or practicing a particular behavior requires overcoming barriers or challenges, social learning principles can be used to demonstrate how a person can overcome those challenges and succeed. In a gender-focused program, it may be useful to identify the types of role models women find compelling and if, at all, this differs from men.

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Ideation should be used when trying to identify the psychosocial factors that predict behavior or when trying to causally attribute behavior change to communication interventions. When using Ideation Theory in gender programming, it is important to identify which psychosocial factors related to the behavior of interest are the most salient specifically for women and men.

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Diffusion of Innovations

Consider using the Diffusion of Innovations model for interventions that have a limited amount of time to make an impact on entire communities. Diffusion of Innovations approaches work best when applied to issues that can be influenced by prominent members of society or spread through traditional methods of communication. For programs wanting to integrate gender, identify who are the female innovators, early adopters and laggards in the community and how this may differ for men.

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Theory of Gender and Power

Consider using the Theory of Gender and Power for interventions that aim to address structural barriers or facilitators at the lower levels of the socio-ecological framework. Three social structures that make up the theory of gender and power: sexual division of labor, sexual division of power, and the structure of social norms and affective attachment. These constructs identify exposure and risk factors as well as biological factors in relation to issues that adversely affect women’s health such as HIV and STD risk in relation to condom usage as well as violence against women.

Feminist Political Ecology

Similar to the Theory of Gender and Power, consider using the Feminist Political Ecology theory for interventions that aim to address structural barriers or facilitators at the lower levels of the socio-ecological framework. Feminist political ecology examines the place of gender in the political ecological landscape, exploring gender as a factor in ecological and political relations. Specific areas in which feminist political ecology is focused are development, landscape, resource use and rural-urban transformation. This theory can also inform health outcomes, particularly in light of global warming and climate change.

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