[Passages + USAID] Logo_Vertical w Tagline
Header Photo: © Population Services International / Benjamin Schilling

Why address social norms?

Social norms—unspoken rules that govern behavior—shape the sexual and reproductive journeys of young people. In many settings, sustained improvements in family planning and sexual and reproductive health will only be obtained by addressing norms that inhibit family planning access and use. Passages is uniquely positioned to address this challenge by focusing on interventions that aim to reduce stigma and myths related to family planning use, increase male engagement in family planning, reduce gender-based violence, and improve gender equitable attitudes and behaviors.

About Passages

Passages addresses the root of chronic challenges in sexual and reproductive health such as gender-based violence, coerced sex, and unintended pregnancy by transforming social norms. The project, in partnership with a team of global health experts—Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health, FHI 360, Johns Hopkins Global Early Adolescent Study, Population Services International, Save the Children, Tearfund—is working to foster normative environments that enable young people to use modern family planning and achieve healthy timing of first and subsequent pregnancies through scalable programs. Passages will also build evidence-based programs and services to reach younger adolescents transitioning to puberty to lay the groundwork for their life-long health and well-being. Passages is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Passages is establishing an evidence base on scalable social norm change by assessing pilot and replicated interventions, conducting targeted research on change pathways to inform scale-up, and providing technical assistance for scaling existing social norm change interventions:

Transforming Masculinities consists of a series of trainings, small group discussions and diffusion activities that guide Protestant faith leaders and congregations in Kinshasa, DRC to identify, create, and embrace new, positive masculine identities and gender equitable beliefs. Targeting newly married couples and first-time parents, the intervention seeks to shift gender norms towards greater gender equality and positive masculinities, reduce intimate partner violence, and increase modern family planning use.

Read more | En français

Growing Up GREAT! adapts elements of two tested models—Gender Roles, Equality, and Transformations (GREAT) from northern Uganda and GrowUp Smart from Rwanda—for an urban DRC setting. Growing up GREAT! applies an ecological perspective addressing spheres of influence—individual, family, school, community—that most affect early adolescent life experiences. It consists of a toolkit of age-tailored, gender-transformative materials exploring sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, and gender equality. Targeting four audiences, the intervention encourages reflection and dialogue through community group engagement to build more equitable gender norms that support adolescent development and well-being.

Read more | En français

Passages takes a realist evaluation approach to evaluating social norm interventions, posing a series of questions: “what works, for whom, in what respects, to what extent, in what contexts?” Through participatory processes with project implementers and stakeholders, the realist evaluation approach establishes underlying theoretical change mechanisms leading to an interventions expected results, and identifies evidence gaps that support program theory. As part of planning for expansion, it allows us to use a theory-of-change perspective to assess whether social change mechanisms remain effective at scale, as well as assess long-term change, and/or sustainability. Our efforts also involve organizational capacity building in planning for and scaling up interventions. Two existing interventions selected for realist evaluation and technical assistance under the Passages project include:

Future Husbands Clubs
Niger has the highest fertility rate, one of the highest maternal mortality rates, and one of the lowest gender equality index ratings in the world. To address this challenge, Husbands Schools were developed by UNFPA Niger and SongES to test a culturally-responsive way to engage men on issues relating to sexual and reproductive health, including supporting women’s use of reproductive health services. To influence younger men and adolescents, ‘Future Husbands Clubs’ are being paired with Husbands Schools to create intergenerational support for sexual and reproductive health issues. Currently being tested with scale-up in mind, Future Husbands Clubs aim to create a cadre of men with greater gender-equitable views and sexual and reproductive health awareness for men and their future spouses.

Grandmothers Project: Holistic Girls Development
Although a middle-income country, fertility rates in Senegal’s rural areas remain stubbornly high with adolescent fertility contributing significantly. Child marriage and female genital cutting remain elevated in the Kolda region. To address this challenge, the Grandmothers Project’s Holistic Girls Development intervention aims to increase opportunities for girls to develop and pursue their education, while concurrently decrease risks of early/forced marriage and teenage pregnancy through the active support of grandmothers and reinforcement of community social infrastructure. Grandmothers in particular are culturally-designated and respected advisors to both adult and adolescent family members. The approach is currently being expanded to a new area with a different ethnic group to test its scalability.

Communities of Practice

The primary goal of our communities of practice is to foster a network of collaboration between individuals, researchers, organizations, projects and donors working on normative change interventions aimed at improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health outcomes at scale. This platform provides an opportunity to build and share knowledge and capacity, fostering supportive professional networks across sectors and sharing emerging evidence and promising practices.

Interested in learning more? Join one of our communities below:


(Anyone can join)