Changing social behaviour

Creating demands to ensure healthy, productive childhood   

সমাজে শিক্ষার আলো আনবে শিশু

The challenge

Identified key household behaviours affect children from before birth to the onset of young adulthood

Human behaviour is complex, and to bring about social change one needs to pay attention to causes effecting social behaviour.

Behaviours that have for long affected the rights of children in Bangladesh, from the health to education sector, point to specific shortfalls.

Traditional and gendered norms, ineffectiveness of laws and development plans and barriers in supplying essential services – these all combine against children’s right to survive, develop and participate. 

Identified key household behaviours affect children from before birth to the onset of young adulthood.

Globalisation and social inequities have been challenging Bangladesh government’s effort to communicate vital information.

Rapid urbanisation has been putting pressure on basic services in a country where 30 per cent of the population live in slums.

Given the limited reach of existing social protection systems, families are not able to respond to their children’s needs or advocate for their right to survival, development and protection, and they are frequently unaware of existing services.

Some disparity lingers in media, with around 20 per cent of the Bangladeshi population still living in “media-dark areas” – outside reach of TV, radio and internet.

To reach out to the children of these families, the government and development agencies require stronger community engagement to support each sector.

Unbiased information, platform for participation and adequate policies will need to replace inadequate knowledge, myths, misconceptions, unfavourable attitudes and harmful practices.

Without on-ground effort to create demand, life-saving services will fall short of reaching universal coverage.  

সাভারের পোড়াবাড়িতে ইউনিসেফের সাহায্যে পরিচালিত একটি স্কুলের ছাত্ররা
সাভারের পোড়াবাড়িতে ইউনিসেফের সাহায্যে পরিচালিত একটি স্কুলের ছাত্ররা

Social norms and cultural beliefs that differentiate based on gender lead to discrimination within the family, community and workplace 

The solution

Change is rooted in 10 key household behaviours

Learning from decades of experience, UNICEF in Bangladesh shifted its approach to plans that envision a complete package of services for children as they grow from infancy to adolescents.

For all these stages of a child’s life, UNICEF has mapped areas of social behaviour that require engagement in the levels of households and communities.

The messages are constructed and distributed using various strengths: research partners, NGOs, frontline government workers and cross-cutting media platforms like TV, national and community radio, cell phones and social media.

Here are the key household behaviours identified for change by UNICEF. They follow the life course of a child, changing behaviour of adults wherever necessary.

Saving newborns  

UNICEF engagement at the roots level ensures that a mother completes all four check-ups during pregnancy and has the delivery at a hospital under the care of skilled attendants. We also reach with instructions on essential new born care practices.

Life-saving hygiene

Knowledge of key hygiene messages is high in Bangladesh, but the practice of effective handwashing is very low. But this behaviour effects all development outcomes.

So UNICEF continues to communicate the need to wash hands with soap at four critical times, (A) after using the toilet (B) cleaning the baby’s bottom (C) before handling food and (D) before feeding children.

To maximise growth of children

Stunting happens when children lack nutrition essential for growth. UNICEF works to accelerate the reduction of this illness in Bangladesh by communicating the need to start early and exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of child’s life.

After six months of just breastfeeding, mothers and family members are instructed to introduce fruits, vegetables and animal protein such as egg, meat in addition to breast feeding.

Timely birth registration

UNICEF talks to father, mothers and members of extended family to ensure birth registration of a child within 45 days of delivery and get hold of a certificate.

Early care and development 

Mothers, fathers and other caregivers of children below the age of five are encouraged to create learning environment at home, stop physical violence, provide at least 3 toys, play and interact, praise good behaviour and enroll children between age three and five at ECD center.

Better access to quality primary education

UNICEF engages with parents of children aged six or above to encourage them to enroll and keep all girls and boys in school. They are at the same time informed on the basics of quality education.

Preventing violence

UNICEF talks to government, teachers and parents to get them to adopt positive disciplining of children in school and at home and utilisation of the National Child Helpline, 1098.

Messages are designed to change existing perceptions of “child” and “childhood” for preventing child labour and violence.

Ending child marriage

Adolescent girls and boys, their parents and community members are informed about girls not being ready for marriage and child birth, physically and mentally, before the age of 18.

They are encouraged not to arrange or participate in marriages of children. UNICEF also talks to communities about their role in raising awareness against this harmful practice, giving them the option to report such incidents by calling helpline 1098.

Access to education for adolescents

Focusing on continuation of education, UNICEF tells adolescents, their parents and community members to enroll girls and boys in high school, remove barriers for them to complete their education and besides support life skills and citizenship education.

Adolescent health and well-being

UNICEF communicates with adolescents, their parents, teachers, local elites, community Health workers and service providers to encourage menstrual hygiene, proper nutrition, protective behaviours related to HIV/AIDS and also create demands for adolescent-friendly health services.  

More adolescents in development         

UNICEF engages with adolescent to provide them platforms for participation and empowerment, focusing on building identities and facilitating the role of youths as agents of change.