Exploring Intersections Of Localised Gender Norms And Unanticipated Effects Of A Sexual And Reproductive Health Intervention: Implications Of Respect And Being A “Good Girl” In Zambézia Province, Mozambique
Women First was a combined economic and social empowerment intervention implemented between 2010 and 2015 in Zambézia Province, Mozambique. The intervention was designed to reduce adolescent girls’ risk of HIV and gender-based violence, improve school attendance and empower girls. However, perceptions of girls’ improved respectfulness also emerged as an unanticipated effect during the programme evaluation. In this paper, we explore emic definitions of respect and girls’ good behaviour and perceptions of how the intervention caused improvements in behaviour from the perspective of intervention participants, their heads of household, influential men in their lives, and community members. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions were conducted at two-time points in 12 rural communities where the intervention was implemented. Respondents described “good girls” as deferential and obedient; productive and willing to serve their families and communities; and sexually chaste and modestly dressed. Respondents believed the intervention had reinforced or taught these behaviours, although they were generally aligned with gender norms that were not part of the formal intervention content and sometimes contrary to the intervention’s primary goals. Implications for future sexual and reproductive health programmes are discussed.