These 5 questions will explain everything on social norms

These 5 questions will explain everything on social norms


 These 5 questions will explain everything on social norms. Know the answers.

 Know the answers to these 5 questions and take the first step to tackle social norms.

Julie Thekkudan, who is leading Gender Justice programme at Oxfam India explains the gender based social norms in India.


1. What is a social norm?

The fact that women are expected to have babies and take care of home and the family, while men are expected to be the breadwinners is a good example of a gender based social norm. These are unspoken rules prevalent in our society and often reflect in how people, especially women and girls are expected to behave. Social norms are constantly defining appropriate or inappropriate way of acting or thinking for an individual or a group.


2. Can you explain how these norms came into being?

Patriarchy, is a good place to start. Ideally, most decisions are made by the men in the family. If you step outside the family and look at communities or for that matter the polity, the decision making power mostly lies with males. This automatically leads to the assumption that women and girls have lesser value in society, communities and families. Preference for a son through sex selective abortion, dowry or lack of education and nutrition for girls are just some of the ways this norm is practiced.


3. Why is it important to address social norms as a problem?

Our textbooks show images of women in the kitchen and men as farmers, but in reality more than 40% of the agricultural labour in India are women. Our advertisements have shown that women need to be fair skinned to attain success in life. Our films send signals to impressionable young boys that by stalking a girl, they can get a girl to fall in love with them. Such social norms are constantly influencing our thoughts and shaping our behavior which is why it is important to call them out as a problem. Moreover, if we hope to achieve gender equality women need to be valued as much as men.


4. How can we change social norms?

The first step towards this change is to be aware of these existing social norms. Second would be to acknowledge them as a problem. Third and final step is to tackle them in a constructive manner. All of this is possible if we on an everyday basis question existing attitudes, norms and behaviours. The end result of social norm change is really a behavioural change of individuals and groups. We at Oxfam India are trying through grassroot programmes and campaigns to not only challenge these norms but at the same time, enable an environment to form a new positive norm.


5. How soon can we hope to achieve this change?

A change in social norm is a long term process, as it is a change in behaviours of individuals and collectives. This involves a great deal of self-reflection and honesty, something that is not easy to do in a short span of time. When a critical mass of individuals display changed behaviour that is when social norms will change. That’s our goal.


It’s time to acknowledge that social attitudes, behaviours and practices (social norms) are fuelling extreme gender inequality. 


The journey to tackle this inequality (#Farq) starts by signing this pledge.



Find out how Oxfam India is enabling communities by working to provide a life of dignity and equal opportunity for all.Get to know more about Oxfam India`s latest projects.

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