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Communication for Development (C4D)

The big picture

Communication for Development at UNICEF

UNICEF Image:  Rushali Gajabhaye, of the Red Ribbon Club (RRCÕs), speaks to village elder Asha Rohane and her daughters.
© UNICEF/Kenya/Leadismo
Volunteer Elizabeth Lemoyog stands up and says NO to FGM/C and child marriage during a women’s public gathering and dialogue forum in Kiltamany village.

Communication for development (C4D) is central to everything UNICEF does. Engaging with women to exclusively breastfeed, with boys and men to prevent domestic violence, with families to send their girls to school, and parents to vaccinate their children – all hinge on UNICEF’s ability to understand people’s attitudes, cultural practices and norms and engage in meaningful dialogue with them. 

If health centres are equipped and staffed, yet unattended; vaccines ordered and delivered, but unused; and schools filled with books and teachers, and no students; then results for children cannot be achieved.

UNICEF has a strong track record of amplifying the voices of children and communities by harnessing the power of communication to promote child survival, development, protection and participation. Working in partnership with national governments, civil society organizations and development agencies, UNICEF Communication for Development (C4D) employs a mix of social mobilization, advocacy and behaviour and social change strategies on issues ranging from polio immunization to birth registration, from Ebola response to girls' education, from exclusive breastfeeding to prevention of HIV and AIDS.

C4D practitioners believe that sustainable and long–term behavioural and social change is the result of a participatory, human rights-based process of social transformation. This process helps shift political, social and support systems by giving voice to members of all communities and providing them with the skills they need to advocate effectively for long-lasting changes. C4D ensures that children with disabilities, as well as indigenous children and minority children, are included in all processes.

C4D employs these principles across all approaches:

Evidence-based - UNICEF uses social and behavioural data and evidence to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate communication initiatives that help increase knowledge, understand and shift attitudes, and facilitate positive behaviour and social change around issues that affect children’s and women’s overall well-being. C4D draws upon the key human-rights principles of participation, equality, non-discrimination, indivisibility and interdependence.

Participatory - The participation of all stakeholders throughout the C4D strategic process allows for local and cultural specificities and perspectives to be included in the design, testing and implementation of communication strategies. Among the many strategic planning models used for behaviour and social change, UNICEF has adopted an approach that integrates the best elements from several models, while also ensuring that key principles of human rights, gender equality and results-based management standards are addressed.

Rights-based - Create awareness of people’s own rights by empowering participation on social and political issues and rights, so that they can successfully advocate for changes and policies that would improve their well-being and living conditions.

UNICEF C4D Principles

  • Create spaces for plurality of voices and community narratives; 
  • Encourage listening, dialogue and debate; 
  • Ensure active and meaningful participation of children and women; 
  • Reflect principles of inclusion, self-determination, participation and respect by prioritizing, giving visibility and voice to marginalized and vulnerable groups; 
  • Link community perspectives and voices with sub-national and national policy-dialogue; 
  • Start early and address the whole child;
  • Children as agents of change and as a primary audience;
  • Build self-esteem and confidence of children and care providers



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