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Diagnostic tool on social norms tested in Bangladesh

The Empower Youth for Work programme collaborates with the Knowledge Hub on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Agriculture in learning and research. Building knowledge on shifting social norms in the economic sphere: what are they, how can we diagnose them, and how can we design strategies to change them? Empower Youth for Work programme adapted and tested a diagnostic tool to identify specific social norms in the economy that influence women's inclusion and leadership.

The Empower Youth for Work Bangladesh team tested the tool by implementing selected exercises in two communities. In each community, a one-day workshop was facilitated with 12 community members attending. The test of the Diagnostic Tool provided findings on social norms in the economy. They where related to; unpaid care work and paid/productive work; gender based violence (GBV); and sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The results of the test showed:

  • Distinct difference in the ‘economic worth’ to on the one hand unpaid care work and on the other paid/productive work.
  • Strong gender norms were present when it comes to who carries out care activities and who engages in paid/productive work.
    • Beliefs underlying these gender norms were for example the reasoning that women are instinctively better at domestic and care work;
    • that women and men are not physically equipped to do each other’s work;
    • or simply that neither has the time for each other’s work given existing responsibilities.

The transgression of the gender norms on unpaid care and paid/productive work can come with the risk of violence, harassment or mocking. It was seen as acceptable to harass women in public spaces or mocking men doing care activities. Fear of violence, community censure or gossip can prevent women taking on paid/productive work, while mocking can discourage men to take up care work.

Keeping in mind that the test was on a small scale, a number of recommendations came out of the test for the Empower Youth for Work programme in Bangladesh. We can think of the importance of making use of entry-points to challenge social norms, such as men doing care work before marriage or women doing agricultural work when it is home-based. Another example is the potential to create new, ‘positive’ identities for women and men to replace those attached to traditional gender roles.

At the end of August 2017, the Empower Youth for Work and Knowledge Hub on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Agriculture held a webinar to present the testing of the diagnostic tool in Bangladesh.

The webinar recording

A summary of the report on the test of the social norms diagnostic tool in Bangladesh can be found here.

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