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EvidenceStudy Summaries
UN Women

Enabling Social Change: How Value Deliberations Led to Individual and Collective Empowerment in Rural Senegal

This summary paper is based on four years of field research to look at how Tostan’s Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) – which entailed a process of “values deliberations” – led to individual and collective empowerment in communities in rural Senegal. “Values deliberations” involved sustained group reflections on local values, aspirations, beliefs and experiences, blending with discussions of how to understand and to realise human rights.

The study explains the interventions and then what happens during the deliberations and shows how they bring about a larger process that results in improved capabilities in areas such as education, health, child protection, and gender equality. It shows how participants, particularly women, enhance their agency, including their individual and collective capacities to play public roles and kindle community action. It thus provides important insights on how values deliberations help to revise adverse gender norms.


  • Human rights become a motivating force when they are explored, understood, and applied through participants’ own values, experiences, and aspirations. 
  • The right to be free of all forms of discrimination, that is, equality, is the human right most important to the participants and most central to change. 
  • Social norms are constructed from one’s expectations about a rule that other members of a group follow and approve of following. 
  • Many harmful social beliefs and practices are deeply entrenched and hard to change with quick and fragmentary methods. 
  • The process of empowerment involves more than just changes in beliefs and practices. 
  • Men and women become more relaxed about gender norms, and relations between them improve as a result of the process. 
  • The cultural model of child development changes when individual and community aspirations for a better future, and paths to the realisation of those aspirations, are expanded. 
Date published
  • 2015
  • Beniamino Cislaghi
  • Diane Gillespie
  • Gerry Mackie
Published by UNICEF and the Wallace Global Fund
Key quote "Social norms are constructed from one’s expectations about a rule that other members of a group follow and approve of following."