Cambodia + 2 more

Real Choices, Real Lives: Girls Challenging the Gender Rules Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam

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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 Southeast Asia and the Pacific (Cambodia, the Philippines, and Vietnam), we found that all 46 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:

  • 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 girls in Cambodia, the Philippines, and Vietnam are aware of harmful masculinities (that associate males with violence and aggression), but this is largely normalised including by caregivers, and goes unquestioned.

  • Laws and policies can influence gendered attitudes, with evidence in Cambodia, the Philippines, and Vietnam of shifts particularly related to child marriage, girls’ education, and gender equality, but less evidence of change related to corporal punishment.

  • Girls’ social context and social influences need to be understood and taken into consideration to positive gender norm change. Indeed, girls from households where there is exposure to non-normative gender roles (e.g., female employment, or fathers/male carers who themselves challenge gender expectations), also express gender non-conforming attitudes.