Lauren Kogen
Publication Date
January 1, 2016

Temple University

"...the HTSM project offers promising potential as a bottom-up media intervention model. If used with local populations in high need areas, these media tools can help change individual attitudes and behaviors that will pave the way for local gender empowerment."

The Half the Sky Movement (HTSM) is a multi-platform initiative that seeks to promote gender equality in India and Kenya through the use of media. Inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the movement brings together a documentary film, educational videos, discussion groups, and mobile games to change attitudes and behaviours regarding gender norms. (See Related Summaries, below, for details.) The Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS) at the University of Pennsylvania monitored and evaluated the HTSM / United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project "Half the Sky Movement Global Engagement Initiative" from January 2014 to January 2016. The evaluation sought to: (i) assess the impact of the HTSM media interventions, (ii) improve and inform future efforts to use media in developing and conflict-affected regions, and (iii) investigate whether HTSM's media tools can be packaged as a "toolkit" that can be scaled up and / or used by other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on issues pertaining to women's empowerment in developing regions. This report summarises the findings from this work.

CGCS implemented a developmental evaluation approach, which allows organisations to not only see that a particular intervention is succeeding as hoped but encourages them to understand why a project is succeeding or failing, based on a pre-defined theory of change. This process involves questioning assumptions, policies, practices, values, and system dynamics. CGCS' approach also moves the evaluator from a totally independent perspective to a role of facilitator - helping with decision making in the implementation design and advising on project modifications as the project rolls out and as hurdles, unexpected outcomes, or unintended consequences arise. This evaluation is a performance evaluation, as opposed to an impact evaluation, in that it does not measure change through comparison of the intervention group with a rigorous counterfactual. However, a key component of the evaluation does look at change over time within individual discussion group participants, which serves as a counterfactual because it suggests what attitudes, knowledge, and other indicators would have been for individuals had they not taken part in the project. In addition to the monitoring of outputs, the evaluation primarily relies upon: 1) a content analysis of media discourse; 2) a capacity building benchmark and milestone index; 3) a panel study of discussion group participants to track changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours over the life of the project (featuring a pre-test, post-test, and 3-month follow-up); and 4) in-depth interviews (IDIs) with key informants regarding the success of the various aspects of the project.

The monitoring and evaluation (M&E) was designed to evaluate whether HTSM's theories about how to empower women (their "theories of change") were valid and effective. Section 2 of the report outlines the theories of change for each of the 4 objectives of the project, which are:

  • Objective 1: Public Dialogue on Key Gender-Related Concerns Improved: Increase public attention, discourse, and awareness related to key gender issues at the national level. (Some of the theories of change include agenda setting theory, social learning theory, theory of planned behaviour/integrative model of behaviour change, and framing.)
  • Objective 2: Capacity of NGO Partners Developed: Build the capacity of NGO partners to sustain the Half the Sky Movement Global Engagement Initiative transmedia intervention, extend learning, and inspire innovative uses of media and technology to help achieve goals of gender equality and women's empowerment. The project assumes that grassroots interventions are the early steps toward national gender policy and attitude change.
  • Objective 3: Attitudinal and Behavioral Changes on Key Gender-Related Concerns Fostered: Create a positive shift in knowledge, attitudes, and practices of "target audiences" and community norms where NGOs have gender-improving interventions. (Some of the theories of change include theory of planned behaviour/integrative model of behaviour change, behaviour change through interpersonal communication, diffusion of innovations, and the elaboration likelihood model, or ELM.)
  • Objective 4: Policy Changes toward Supporting Gender Equality Nurtured: Encourage global policymakers, business leaders, and influencers to advocate for institutional changes to support gender equality.

These 4 objectives are encapsulated in 8 primary activities in India and Kenya: national broadcasts of the Half the Sky documentary; production and distribution of the (project partner) Show of Force educational videos; development and distribution of Facebook and mobile phone games (created by Games for Change); national marketing and events around the media tools (in conjunction with Third Sector and Brank Spark); capacity training of NGO staff; community-level activities by NGOs to promote changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours; a campus ambassadors programme; and promotion of events designed to promote policy advocacy.

Section 4 discusses the major findings related to project outputs and outcomes. The sub-sections cover the 4 Project Objectives; under each objective, the report first outlines whether the targets for the project outputs were met, then describes the evaluation of the project outcomes. "Overall, there is general agreement that the project had a positive impact on communities. According to the NGOs' self-assessment forms, most of the three components (videos, games, discussion guide) met or exceeded expectations....The surveys and IDIs also suggest that behaviors and attitudes are changing in the communities. The discussion groups fostered significant changes in audiences' knowledge, attitudes, perceptions of norms, self-efficacy, and behaviors, with respect to various areas of women's empowerment, including early education, economic empowerment, gender-based violence, and pregnancy and reproductive health. In India, in general, changes in individuals were larger than in Kenya. Changes were also generally more dramatic for women than men. Some of those most dramatic changes occurred in men's attitudes toward girls' education, and in women's self-efficacy with regard to gender-based violence." Key takeaways:

  • Of the 2 sites evaluated, and of all the attitude changes evaluated, the largest change was seen in India, with respect to male attitudes towards girls' education. After the sessions, men were more likely to believe that girls could contribute financially to families if they were educated and that marriage for girls should be delayed.
  • In Kenya, the discussion groups empowered forward-thinking participants to speak confidently to friends, family, and neighbours about women's empowerment, spreading knowledge and attitudes. This was most strongly seen with the topic of gender-based violence (GBV): Not only did many participants start talking about GBV in their communities, they started taking action as well.
  • After the discussion sessions in India, many of the women in the groups began reporting domestic abuse to the police.
  • Of all the videos, Pooja's Story in India was associated with the most concrete change and seemed to have a direct impact on girls' education. In Tonk, at least 4 parents bought their children bicycles to travel to school after watching the video. Nine girls in the discussion groups who had previously dropped out of school re-enrolled. The story was successful because it was a positive story with an interesting and relatable role model.
  • Media (the HTSM educational videos) had important impact above and beyond the interpersonal communication of the discussion groups and helped promote attitude and behaviour change.
  • The video games received good reviews from those participants who were able to play them, but they were not sufficiently practical. Most people were not able to play the games for technical reasons.
  • More men need to be reached out to for the intervention. It is insufficient to change the attitudes and behaviours of women when it comes to women's empowerment.
  • Changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours not only endured but increased 3 months after the project ended, suggesting that people discussed issues of women's empowerment with others, reinforcing and spreading ideas.

The evaluators note that the videos and discussion guide are the most successful parts of the project and the most adaptable to other NGOs in the form of a "toolkit" that could be distributed. The mobile games require more modifications in order to be as effective and adaptable as other parts of the project. The novelty of videos, mobile phones, tablets, and mobile games is enough to bring many to the groups. This suggests not only that media technology is bringing information to these groups, but also that the technology itself, as a new phenomenon, can act as a catalyst for discussions on gender.

According to the report, 3 key items suggest sustainability and /or the potential to scale up the project in the future. First, the project included a heavy focus on capacity building at the grassroots level and at the local NGOs, meaning the NGOs can now carry out the projects themselves and adapt projects as needed by their community or by other funders. Second, because they are meant to be self-contained, NGOs should be able to receive the discussion guide and DVDs and be able to use them straight away without the need for training (though training is certainly helpful). This means the toolkit can be used by other NGOs without additional cost, as long as they have the means to run the discussion groups and screen the DVDs. Finally, the project format, which includes mainly discussion groups, promotes effects that go beyond the termination of the project because people in the groups talk to others outside of the group, spreading the messages.

"In both locations, the project seems to be occurring at the same time as a zeitgeist of attention to women's empowerment. This suggests it is an opportune time for this kind of intervention. Changes are happening, but slowly, and projects such as this catapult the discussion and accelerate change. Audiences are increasingly open to the ideas presented in the HTSM media and eager to discuss the themes and how they relate to their daily lives. A common theme in the interviewees was that the situation for women is improving, but that there are still severe hurdles."


Email from Lauren Kogen to Soul Beat Africa on December 14 2016.