Evaluation of a School-Based Gender Attitude Change Campaign in India
Societal norms about gender roles contribute to the economic disadvantages facing women in many developing countries. This paper evaluates an intervention aimed at eroding support for restrictive gender norms, specifically a multi-year school-based intervention in Haryana, India, that engaged adolescents in classroom discussions about gender equality. The program centers around classroom sessions led by Breakthrough staff, held during the school day every two to three weeks, in which the students discuss different aspects of gender inequality in India. The classroom sessions were supplemented with extracurricular clubs centered on promoting gender equality and school-wide activities such as "street plays." By changing gender attitudes among youth, the program aims to influence a wide range of behaviors related to girls' education, mobility, household work and decision-making.
Researchers randomly selected 150 secondary schools in four districts of Haryana to receive the Breakthrough program. An additional 164 secondary schools were assigned to a comparison group. Breakthrough implemented the program for two and a half school years, from 2014 to 2017. The two cohorts were in grades seven and eight in the first year of the program and grades nine to ten in the final year. To quantify the impact, researchers surveyed approximately 14,000 students from these schools, both before and after the intervention was implemented. The research team measured the impact of the Breakthrough intervention on three measures:
- Attitudes index
- Behavior index
- Aspirations index
Preliminary results suggest that the program positively impacted the gender attitudes of participants in the short term, but that girls may face gender-specific barriers to act on their altered attitudes. More specifically, the program improved gender attitudes, as measured by the gender attitude index, by 0.24 standard deviations. The program also increased the gender-related behavior index by 0.22 standard deviations compared to the comparison group. The change in attitudes was similar for boys and girls, but behavior changes were larger among boys, which might suggest barriers for girls to act in accordance with their own altered attitudes. There were no statistically meaningful impacts on participants' aspirations. Further analysis, including long-term follow-up, will reveal the impact of the program on participants' long-term wellbeing.