In Nepal, social media games battle gender stereotypes

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UNDP's work will primarily target 500 young people between 13-19 years of age, as research shows that adolescents are still forming their attitudes at this age. UNDP Photo.

The problem with social norms is that even the most conscientious of citizens often stop questioning them.

They simply perpetuate.

Across South Asia, and in Nepal in particular, despite major strides in women’s economic empowerment in the past decade, gender stereotypes, domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence still continue to cripple society

One way to shock the social sensitivities to spur the fight against these injustices as something unacceptable and against human dignity is by swapping roles so that people experience what it feels like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

At UNDP Nepal, we’re building on that premise to turn gender relations on its head as we look to tackle the high levels of violence against women in Nepali society.

According to a 2012 study, more than half of Nepali women experience violence in their lifetime.

Behaviour change is easier said than done, but we’ve decided to take on the weakest link in the chain of violence that perpetuates through generations: young people and their willingness to question social norms. 

Our work will primarily target 500 young people between 13-19 years of age, as research shows that adolescents are still forming their attitudes at this age. It is important to engage with adolescents as they begin to explore their sexuality and model their behavior on their peers and elders, in order to encourage progressive reflections on gender relations, increase awareness of gender stereotypes and gender-based violence and its impact on their own attitudes and behaviors.

So here’s our gambit: we’ve designed an online interactive quiz for Facebook that turns how young people view gender roles in society inside-out and back-to-front.

Six short animated videos, each succeeded by multiple-choice questions will show male participants what it feels like to walk in the shoes of their female counterparts. The animations will depict situations where traditional roles have been inverted with shocking, yet culturally sensitive, messages to raise the awareness of the user’s own perceptions, prejudices and stereotypes.

In one of the scenarios, for example, we will project a man being harassed by women passengers in a public bus. A woman passenger winks at one of the men while another man is physically molested by a seated female passenger.  When the second victim asks her not to touch him, the first victim also joins in and complains about how harassment is commonplace on public buses. However, their voices are drowned amidst the women’s voices who jibe “if it is so difficult for you to tolerate chance physical encounters in crowded spaces, you should have a private vehicle or hire a cab.”

The men quiet down. Once the voices subside, some of the men look down shamefaced, some of the men are chewing their lips in anger but are quiet and the women proceed nonchalantly as if what just happened is normal.

We will have six such animated videos, each focused on one particular form of violence such as harassment, domestic violence, political violence and sexual violence. The videos will be packaged in a program where participants will be asked to answer a few questions about how they perceive the situation. As indicated, this package will be launched through UNDP’s Facebook page; it will be complemented via UNDP’s Twitter feed and its other social media channels.

To reach out to a larger audience, we plan to launch a publicity campaign (radio announcements, links on main newspaper websites, etc.) to mobilise participation among youth.

We’re excited that in the first week of its preparation, we have already formed a partnership with the University of Chicago Gaming Lab, who are helping us utilize the gaming framework used. 

Can you think of photos and videos that switch gender roles or create empathy to combat gender violence? Let us know what you think has worked in the past.

About the Authors
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Sachchi Ghimire Karki, Programme Analyst, Peace Building and Recovery Unit, UNDP Nepal

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Kamal Raj Sigdel, Communications Consultant, Communication Unit, UNDP Nepal