Gender Attitudes in adolescence: evaluating the Girl Rising gender-sensitization program in India

Gender sensitization programs revealed positive results in guiding adolescents towards equitable views and positively influence their understanding of gender norms.  


Adolescence is a crucial time for forming gender attitudes. This period is full of physical, social, and cognitive development changes while also marking the recognition and development of gender-based norms and discrimination. These views often disproportionately disadvantage girls and women. For example, relative to boys, Indian girls have less access to education, are more likely to experience abuse, and are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes such as malnutrition. However, early adolescence is also a period when these gender norms are still flexible, making it a prime opportunity for intervention. 

To date, few if any interventions and programs in India have focused on mitigating adverse gendered outcomes by influencing individual perceptions about gender norms through gender sensitization during adolescence, and fewer studies have measured program outcomes. Gender sensitization strives to address gender equality and highlight gender discrimination in the hopes adolescents will develop more egalitarian gender attitudes.  

The Girl Rising Gender-sensitization program (GR Program) aims to address this disparity through storytelling and multimedia to change ingrained beliefs about women and girls. The program includes a comprehensive school curriculum that encourages adolescents to share their gender-related experiences. This study aims to evaluate whether the GR program achieved its intended outcomes through a quasi-experimental design with a group of students before and after the program was implemented.   

  • The GR program significantly influenced participant’s gender attitudes. 

    • There was an increase in participants disagreeing with forced arranged marriages, from 70.9% to 79.3%, and in supporting the girl’s right to voice her disagreements, from 64.3% to 72.6%.
    • There was a significant increase in mean scores for gender attitudes, from 64.3% to 72.6%, indicating a positive shift towards more equitable views. 
  • Participants demonstrated a significant shift in their understanding of gender norms, particularly in the context of education.
    • There was a significant increase in disagreement about unequal treatment of genders in education, from 52.9% at baseline to 61.7% at follow-up, in the context of the third vignette, which asked participants their opinions ron a family’s decision to send their son to university instead of their daughter.  
    • However, participants who supported the unequal decision were rooted in traditional gender roles, believing that sons would become providers, and education would allow them to support his family better. 
  • Participants felt more in control of their own lives and outcomes, a crucial aspect of empowerment. 
    • Participants demonstrated a significant increase in their locus of control, from 6.43 at baseline to 6.83 at follow-up.  
  • The program was generally well-received, with nearly 95% of the participants wishing to participate in a similar program. 
  • The program appeared to have a stronger influence on girls than boys, with girls reporting higher rates of thinking about their future goals and motivating them to address girls’ issues.  

Findings indicate the power of gender-sensitization programs and suggest programs can address gender inequality by influencing gender beliefs for both young boys and girls and inspiring community-led action. Since gender norms formalize in adolescents, this study suggests targeting youth is an effective means of building “a new generation of self-aware, gender-conscious youth” (pg. 138).   


The study employed a quasi-experimental design to assess its impact. The primary focus was on adolescents from 6th to 9th grade, with the evaluation conducted before (baseline) and after (follow-up) the program’s implementation across 20 schools in two Indian states, yielding a total sample of 2,894 adolescents (1,372 boys and girls at baseline, and 1,522 boys and girls at follow-up). The schools included in the evaluation were located in rural communities in Punjab and Rajasthan. 

Data was gathered using a 68-item questionnaire at baseline and a 96-item questionnaire at follow-up. The instruments included sociodemographic questions, three vignettes to examine gender attitudes and perceptions of gender norms, and a gender equality scale.  

Several key concepts were evaluated to understand the impact of the GR program, including: 

  • Gender Equitable Attitudes: evaluated via the first two vignettes and an 18-statement scale. The scale involved 18 statements which were divided into three sub-domains: Gender Roles/Privileges/Restrictions, Gender Attributes, and Gender Violence. This scale generated a ‘gender equitable attitude’ score, ranging from 0-18, with higher scores indicating more positive attitudes towards gender equality.
  • Perceptions of Gender Norms: assessed through a third vignette that presented a situation in which a boy and a girl, despite being equally qualified, were faced with the parents’ decision to send only the son to college.
  • The ‘Locus of Control’: evaluated on an 11-item Likert scale to understand the degree to which people believe they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces having control. If a person has an internal locus of control, they are more likely to partake in behaviors and relationships that will provide positive and successful outcomes. 
  • Perceptions of the Program: assessed through a series of questions during the follow-up survey, including whether the program helped them consider their future goals, how to support girls in their community, and if they shared the program information with others.   

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