Find the Truth Description
#GETREEL runs from September 12 – October 24, 2017. Each week features important elements to PMC’s work to empower women and girls. If a specific theme speaks to you or those in your network, please use it at any point during the campaign.
Week Four: Find the Truth
(October 3 – 10, 2017)
Video: Find the Truth (Coming Soon!)
- It takes effort to understand the real reasons people behave the way they do. Solutions to social and environmental challenges rarely have simple fixes. To demonstrate what we mean, we’ll focus on PMC’s work on family planning and reproductive health around the world.
- PMC’s analysis of multiple USAID Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) reports over the last two decades have consistently demonstrated the major impediments to contraceptive uptake are rooted in apprehension, fear-inducing rumors, or personal antagonism towards contraception (often grounded in fatalism or patriarchal social norms).
- A recent study from the Guttmacher Institute reinforces PMC’s findings. Guttmacher found non-users in developing countries who actually “lack access” to contraception at around 5 percent. Fear of health effects and personal or spousal opposition to contraception account for 49 percent of non-use.
- Another driver for women not using contraception is simply that fact that they are not trying to avoid pregnancy due to social norms related to high-desired family size.
- To be absolutely clear, PMC strongly believes that supply chains and market availability of contraceptives need continual improvement. However, PMC also knows that addressing restrictive social norms should be a priority because they represent the most formidable obstacle. A clinic won’t benefit people’s health unless people use it.
- PMC uses social and behavior change science to engage people with theory-based entertainment programs that are able to correct misinformation and dispel myths and rumors – cost-efficiently and without community backlash.
Find the Truth:
It takes effort to understand the real reasons people behave the way they do (“the truth”). Solutions to social and environmental challenges rarely have simple fixes. To demonstrate what we mean, we’ll focus on PMC’s work on family planning and reproductive health around the world.
Many well-intended sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates commonly assert that there is a troubling “lack of access” to contraception for women around the world. This refrain stems from the fact that there are 214 million women in the developing world who want avoid a pregnancy for at least the next two years – but who are not using modern contraception.
However, Population Media Center’s analysis of multiple USAID Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) reports over the last two decades have consistently demonstrated something different: women with unmet need for contraception rarely cite cost, convenience, or a “lack of access” as the reason they are not using contraception. Rather, the major impediments to behavior change – contraceptive uptake – are rooted in apprehension, fear-inducing rumors, or personal antagonism towards contraception, often grounded in religiosity, fatalism, or patriarchal social norms.
Increasingly, new analysis are pointing to similar conclusions. In June 2016, for example, Guttmacher Institute scrupulously analyzed a decade’s worth of data related to reasons for non-use in 52 developing countries. Guttmacher found non-users who actually “lack access” measure out to only around 5 percent. Meanwhile, fear of health effects and personal or spousal opposition to contraception account for 49 percent of non-use. In other words, non-use of contraception related to informational and socio-cultural barriers out-numbered non-use related to a lack of access by a factor of 10.
Another key constituency of non-users of contraception in the world, and one that hardly ever receives popular attention, are those who are simply not seeking to avoid pregnancy. Statistics from the developing world, for example, show 1.6 billion women of reproductive age living in these regions, but only about half of them (885 million women) want to avoid a pregnancy at all. Again, evidence suggests social norms related to high-desired family size are major drivers of this type of non-use. Changing these dynamics requires helping people understand the personal benefits in health and welfare for them and their children of fewer, spaced births. It requires a major shift in societal attitudes and knowledge. It involves role modeling small family norms and making them popular.
To be absolutely clear, PMC strongly believes that supply chains and market availability of contraceptives need continual improvement. But, these aspects of contraceptive prevalence are not currently the primary areas needing investments. As Guttmacher states, “…family planning programs have existed for some time in most of the developing world, sources of supplies have expanded, and methods are offered at low cost or free of charge in public-sector health services. [Our] findings do not necessarily show that access-related problems have been resolved, but suggest that women perceive other reasons for nonuse to be more important.”
In other words, accumulated evidence shows the most acute need in global family planning programs today are interventions that can challenge and spark changes in long-established and widely practiced social norms – the daily habits, unwritten rules and normalized behaviors that everyone in the community accepts, and to a large degree, expects. Cost-effectively correcting misinformation, myths, and rumors around family planning is also a priority.
However, because social norms are, by definition, resistant to change – and because socially trafficked rumors and falsehoods wield enormous influence over individuals and families – standard service provision or direct messaging campaigns such as door-to-door counseling, billboards, or PSAs are unlikely to succeed, and may even further entrench the behavior in question.
Decades of work in the social and behavior change sciences has shown that engaging people with theory-based entertainment programs can spark emotive, psychological desires to reject oppressive social norms, while also providing the tools and confidence necessary to pioneer new social norms. Moreover, when delivered to large audiences via broadcast media, misinformation, myths, and rumors can be subverted cost-efficiently and without backlash. This is exactly what Population Media Center does.
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