This report forms part of Plan International’s Real Choices, Real Lives longitudinal, qualitative research study – which is following the lives of girls living in nine countries* around the world from their birth (in 2006), until they turn 18 (in 2024).
This unique study looks in-depth at the experiences of girls as they grow up, offering genuine insights into the choices, decisions and realities that shape their lives as well as expectations of what they can be, and do from the moment they are born.
In 2019, a set of regional reports were compiled taking an in-depth look at how – as the girls enter adolescence – they are noticing, questioning, and in some instances, rejecting expectations around their behaviour and roles across different areas of their lives. Across the three countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Benin, Togo, and Uganda), we found that all 37 girls in the study showed some level of resistance to gendered norms that determine what is expected of them as girls in their different contexts.
Further, we saw that for the girls in Benin, Togo, and Uganda:
- Early adolescence is a significant period of identity formation alongside heightened awareness of gendered norms, making it a critical point for interventions to disrupt gender inequitable attitudes and practices in positive ways.
- The process of questioning gendered expectations is not linear – but varies over time and in different areas of girls’ lives (i.e., at one point in time, a girl may question expectations, but later appear to conform).
- Girls’ social contexts and social influences at the household and wider community level are significant in forming, or breaking, gendered social expectations – with key female role models and extended family members playing a prominent role.
- In the three Sub-Saharan African countries, concerns about gender-based violence and corporal punishment were often cited as a reason for not expressing attitudes, or behaving in ways, that do not align to gendered expectations of what is appropriate.
Download the report
Girls Challenging the Gender Rules: East and West Africa – Full report (English)
Girls challenging the gender rules: East and West Africa – Executive Summary (English)
Findings from the report contribute to understanding how and why gendered social norms shift and provide evidence to inform the focus and scope of interventions to support positive social norm change, with specific recommendations made.
Links to the Synthesis Report and other regional reports from the series can be found on the Real Choices, Real Lives blog page.
*The nine countries are: Benin, Brazil, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, the Philippines, Togo, Uganda, and Vietnam.
**Names used are pseudonyms.