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Social norms and the problem of teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Clare Castillejo, Stephanie Buell, Lisa Denney

This briefing note summarises learning about the problem of teenage pregnancy and the social norms that fuel it that emerged from the Adaptive Approaches to Reducing Teenage Pregnancy in Sierra Leone action research project. This was a two-year project that accompanied three international NGOs in Sierra Leone – Concern Worldwide, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Save the Children – as they trialled adaptive programming approaches to address the social norms that drive teenage pregnancy.

The briefing note begins with an introduction to the project, followed by a summary of existing evidence about the problem of teenage pregnancy in Sierra Leone. It then discusses what has been learned from the project about the social norms and behaviours that drive teenage pregnancy and entry points for changing these, including in relation to attitudes towards girls; girls’ decision-making power; the role of other actors; and different types of sexual relationships. The note goes on to examine learning that has emerged from the project about how change in social norms can happen, including by building on norms already in flux and examples of positive deviance, and by supporting the emergence of alternative norms. Finally, it examines challenges related to resistance that these programmes faced.