How can we reframe the need for sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian emergencies?
In June 2018 members of Countdown 2030 Europe, EuroNGOs and the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises (IAWG) met to ask: How could reframing help us persuade our target audiences of the need for sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian emergencies?
We are not blank slates. We have pre-existing assumptions, emotions, metaphors and mental structures for understanding the world around us.
Our frames affect how we think about an issue and whether we support it. One experiment found that describing crime as a ‘beast’ encouraged audiences to support tougher law enforcement, but describing it as a ‘virus’ led to more people supporting social reforms.
The way we talk about an issue will always be interpreted by our audience through their existing frames. We can even unintentionally strengthen frames that are damaging to our cause.
The group was gathering because its advocacy experience and independent research was warning us:
In various places on this page are quotes from group discussions and moments of insight from the workshop. One of the earliest ‘breakthrough’ moments was when the group landed on a principle that should guide the whole effort:
We mapped our audiences, and prioritised three specific personalities who we could make the most gains with if we improved our framing.
We want them to:
We want them to:
We want them to:
We deconstructed and reconstructed the messages that we use with those audiences, not just in text but all the ways we communicate.
Many of these ideas are not ready to use yet (unless you spot some Lego in your next meeting room) but part of this project’s legacy can hopefully be to build up a body of creative approaches that others can build on.
During an emergency, we distribute dignity kits to women that contain simple but necessary everyday items we often take for granted, like underwear and sanitary pads. We've unpacked one for you in this video to show you what's inside! @AusHumanitarian @UNFPAasia pic.twitter.com/BtGd72hlOF— IPPF Global (@ippf) July 8, 2018
We used improv theater to imagine the ‘inner monologue’ of our audiences when we talk to them
We can tailor the message to different audiences, and we should vary the format of our messages (visual, conversational, in person, etc), but our core message should be consistent. Everybody needs to hear a message more than once for it to sink in (especially our audiences ) and changing our messages each time could be confusing or contradictary.
Think of it like the first half of your sentence, which is always the same, even if your second half changes depending on the specific point you want to make at that time. You probably recognise this from election campaigns:
“This country needs fresh leadership, and that’s why…. I will fix the economy/education/health”.
Overall principles for what you should do and not do in your communication & three messages to test
We agreed that our objective was to show that SRHR is essential to the basic primary health care in any emergency response: ‘part of what you do’. But simply making this assertion wasn’t working as well as we wanted with these audiences. So we need messages that tap into frames that our audiences already believe, and reframe our ask to convince them.
In an emergency, you need:
Safety for yourself,
Safety for those you care about,
Safety for your future.
We cannot provide safety for people in emergencies without providing sexual and reproductive health & rights.
Women deserve the freedom to love, to have a family, and to be themselves. In emergencies, their freedom is at risk from assault, indignity, and being deprived of care or bullied into pregnancy.
We must stand together to protect women’s freedom from coercion in emergencies.
Our lives do not stop in an emergency.
Periods do not stop in an emergency.
Sex does not stop in an emergency.
Pregnancy does not stop in an emergency.
Having sexual and reproductive health & rights
makes sure emergencies don’t stop us living our lives.
We will all have preferences for which message to use – and the situation is so urgent that it will feel like there is no time to test. But if we only use the opinion of the people who attend a workshop like this, we will be repeating the same mistakes.
Any testing is better than no testing. Here are some basic steps and there