Social and Behaviour Change-Community Engagement
Promoting children’s rights through positive social and behavior change
Social and Behaviour Change-Community Engagement is used to facilitate dialogue, participation, and engagement with children, families, communities, and networks to generate positive social and behaviour change. Evidence-based, it utilizes a mix of communication tools, platforms, and approaches to generate demand for quality and inclusive services. It aims to foster the adoption of critical parenting and community practices, the adoption of positive social norms and behaviours, while engaging and empowering communities, adolescents and children - particularly the most marginalized - as agents of change in their own development and humanitarian contexts.
C4D involves understanding people, their beliefs and values, the social and cultural norms that shape their lives. It involves engaging communities and listening to adults and children as they identify problems, propose solutions and act upon them.
In Tajikistan, social norms and parenting practices have been identified in numerous studies (link) as major bottlenecks for (i) Early Childhood Development, (ii) Early Child Education, (iii) Adolescent Participation, and (iv) Ending Violence Against Children.
The human brain is shaped by experiences early on in life. If a child receives affection, attention, and stimulation along with proper nutrition and healthcare in their formative years, then they have a much better chance at thriving and growing to their full potential in adulthood. The reverse is also true. Research shows that investments in ECD lead to better health outcomes and educational attainment, as well as less economic dependency, violence, crime, and substance abuse.
On average, infants in Tajikistan spend half of their waking days in cradles, some for up to 18 hours at a time.
UNICEF educates caregivers and their families so that they are empowered to seek and demand quality nutrition, immunization and other health-related services on behalf of their children.
UNICEF promotes inter-generational dialogues between young mothers and older female family members on cultural norms and practices that support the nutritional well-being of pregnant women, infants and young children - highlighting positive deviance examples.
UNICEF promotes proper child and maternal nutrition, immunization, early stimulation, and WASH through interventions including the Mother and Child Handbook, The Infant and Young Children Feeding Module, and the First 1,000 Days Strategy.
UNICEF encourages fathers’ involvement in children’s upbringing.
UNICEF works with local government structures and civil society to improve the capacities of families and communities.
UNICEF builds the capacity of physicians, nurses, health and social workers and others who work in close contact with the public, in addition to public awareness and behaviour change, to ensure their understanding of the evidence in support of breastfeeding, the legislative environment, their duties and obligations therein, and the need for empathetic approaches to individuals and families.
The right to education is universal and its benefits are incontrovertible. Education is an integral part of many SDGs. It reduces poverty, improves the economic growth prospects of countries, raises health outcomes, and reduces inequality and injustice. Most of all, it is empowering - especially for girls, and for other vulnerable groups.
Education in Tajikistan lacks inclusivity, with children living with disabilities largely excluded. 85 per cent of preschool-aged children are not enrolled in any form of education.
Girls are far more likely to drop out of school than boys once school becomes optional after age grade 10, and allowances are not made in school curricula for children who come from different linguistic backgrounds.
UNICEF works with local government bodies including the lowest administrative tiers, city councils and mayors in urban settings, to tackle social norms that hinder the provision of inclusive learning opportunities for children, especially those from ethnic minority or marginalized communities.
UNICEF involves local leaders (both formal and informal) and champions who are able to highlight the value and benefits of early learning experiences and their important impact on primary school retention rates, learning outcomes and ultimately, on “lifelong learning behavior”.
UNICEF advocates for the establishment of culturally relevant, gender responsive learning materials, curricula and textbooks.
UNICEF promotes safe school environments for both boys and girls, ensuring that community stakeholders are united around efforts to make schools more accessible to children with disabilities and ending violence and impunity with a focus on reducing school-related gender violence.
UNICEF facilitates interpersonal, community and social media dialogues with parents and communities to influence their perceptions, knowledge, attitudes and/or social norms to favor education and increase enrolment, especially for girls, by highlighting its role in family and community cohesion.
UNICEF develops the capacity of educational institutions and school personnel to create and provide space for the participation of vulnerable children (e.g. those with disabilities or who are an ethnic minority such as Roma and migrants)
UNICEF supports government departments and institutions through targeted public advocacy campaigns that comprehensively address OOSC along three dimensions: children who (i) enroll but drop out from school before completing primary education; (ii) start school late; and (iii) have never attended school at all.
Youth engagement is an important instrument for building civic participation and overcoming social exclusion and power inequity. It can help to strengthen young people’s connectedness to their communities and build social cohesion and a sense of belonging for adolescents and youth. This is particularly important for work with vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as those not in education, employment or training (NEET).
The right to a voice in community decision making and a say in the shaping of the future world are both identified as essential rights of children.
Despite this, social norms in Tajikistan are not conducive to adolescent participation. Rather than being encouraged to voice opinions, adolescents are bound by custom to stay at home, while their potential to positively influence their peers is missed.
UNICEF supports the development of peer networks by young people to discuss safe sexual behaviour, relationship, decision-making, gender roles, and other life skills.
UNICEF promotes community discussions and inter-generational dialogues between young people, their parents and significant others on issues of child marriage, teen pregnancy and domestic violence.
UNICEF promotes adolescent media participation and dialogues with the public service administration, influential leaders at various level to inform them about the challenges in their daily life and recommendations from their perspective on way forward.
UNICEF creates adolescent friendly social services: training health, education and social work practitioners to recognize the challenges and realities faced by adolescent boys and girls so that they can reach out to them, responding to their needs and aspirations while supporting their self-development, health and well-being.
UNICEF makes use of social media and other platforms including RapidPro and WhatsApp to enable adolescents and young people to express their opinions and create their own content around early marriage, domestic and school-based violence, and other issues affecting their lives.
UNICEF addresses the specific information and counselling needs of adolescents who are also parents, raising awareness and engaging them in expressing their needs and expectations in their role as parents.
UNICEF facilitates information-exchange and knowledge-sharing of good practices and lessons learned in promoting positive behaviours and social norms among adolescents and young people from different cultural contexts, and from outside the region, to counteract influences circulating in popular media.
UNICEF emphasises gender equality by providing visibility to role models who demonstrate a variety of gender.
Violence - be it physical, sexual, emotional, or in the form of neglect or deprivation - can occur in all settings, including the home, school, community, and over the Internet. It is perpetrated by a wide range of people including family members, intimate partners, teachers, neighbours, strangers, and other children. Violence inflicts harm, pain and humiliation, lowers a child’s sense of self worth, limits their ability to thrive, and kills. All children have the right to be protected from violence, regardless of its nature or severity.
In Tajikistan children are often exposed to risk and vulnerability and left unprotected because of social norms and harmful practices and beliefs. The physical punishment of children is socially acceptable to many, and violence against women and girls is largely regarded as tolerable by men and women alike.
A recent UNICEF KABP study related to children and women living with disabilities found that 35 per cent of respondents believed that disciplining children through corporal and other forms of punishment was a standard part of child upbringing.
2017 DHS data revealed that 69 per cent of children experienced some type of violent discipline, while 65 per cent experience psychological aggression. 48 per cent had experienced physical punishment, and 12 per cent had experienced severe physical discipline.
UNICEF works with parents and caregivers to enhance their understanding of their roles and responsibilities in protecting children from violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and harmful practices and equip them with positive protective practices.
UNICEF works with community influencers and opinion leaders to increase their knowledge on the laws protecting children and detrimental effects of using violent discipline for raising children or exposing children to harm and helping them to promote reporting of all child protection offences.
Tajikistan, as a landlocked country, experiences small to medium scale humanitarian emergencies on a yearly basis. These include natural disasters, displacements, and the health crisis or pandemic. The demand for effective communication, community engagement, and accountability to affected population (CCEAAP) as a crosscutting intervention has become more critical through the years. The need to contextualize and recalibrate how CCEAP is being institutionalize or mainstream within the UNICEF’s humanitarian programming has evolved as well.
Engaging with the at-risk communities, affected populations, and people-in-need in preparedness and humanitarian response ensures that accurate and timely information is shared with them, and that their feedback and participation are integral parts of the response and recovery.
Two-way communication and community engagement are not only a form of humanitarian aid but a crucial lifesaving intervention as well. In any emergencies or crises, it is imperative that it must be accessible inclusively to the at-risk communities and vulnerable population.
The right information sent at the right time through the right channels with the right people can save lives and facilitate efficient recovery. Considering it is crucial for people to know critical and lifesaving information, it is incumbent for UNICEF, the government and other partners to make sense, listen, accept, and close the communication loop on any feedback or response from the community as possible.
Crucial to UNICEF’s role in mainstreaming CCEAP is supporting collective preparedness and response approach in advocacy, coordination, partnership, and other technical support. This is to ensure that community feedback and insights are considered and amplified across various humanitarian response activities. The end goal of this is to inform decision-making and improve humanitarian program interventions.
It is indispensable for UNICEF to ensure that both the quality and the consistency of CCEAAP approaches will be improved on building community trust and enhancing the effectiveness of the overall preparedness, response, and recovery.
The success of the CCEAAP collective approach will depend on UNICEF and other partners’ consistent, evidence-based, systematic, and predictable interventions in supporting partners involved in various emergencies and development undertakings.