The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is pleased to announce the creation of a new framework for measuring and tracking changes in social norms related to FGM. The ACT Framework, developed in partnership with Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health, in consultation with experts around the world, is being validated in two countries (Guinea and Ethiopia), and will provide programme planners with new practical resources for measuring and tracking changes in social norms related to FGM. While this document provides a summary of the framework, a revised full version will be published in 2020 following completion of a validation process in two countries.
The need for the ACT Framework
An estimated 3 million girls living in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia are at risk of undergoing the harmful practice of FGM every year, and more than 200 million girls and women alive in the world today have experienced FGM. Despite significant global investment and efforts to eliminate the practice, it persists largely because of its deep rooting in long-standing social norms. Recognizing the central role that social norms play in both upholding and ending FGM, international and national efforts have increasingly put rights-based, culturally sensitive, social norms change at the centre of programme strategies. These efforts have been challenged, however, by a lack of tested approaches, indicators and tools for measuring social norms change.
AN ANSWER TO THE MEASUREMENT CHALLENGE
Tracking changes in the social norms that sustain FGM over time is a methodological challenge because measurement has traditionally relied on two sources of data, each with significant blind spots.
• Population-level data, collected only periodically, are unable to capture community-level changes attributable to social and behaviour change interventions.
• Monitoring and evaluation methods that employ proxy measures of community-level change (often in the form of communities making public FGM-abandonment declarations) do not adequately capture local shifts in social norms or the ultimate changes in the practice.
The ACT Framework addresses these measurement challenges by providing a macro-level framework, based on leading research in social norms, that is accessible and practical for programme planners, and adaptable to local contexts.