Decolonising social norms change: An analysis of knowledge production in relation to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage

October 2022 to September 2025
global health
human development
Research fields
Cultural Sciences
Medicine and Health Sciences

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage are framed within development discourses as major causes of gendered health inequalities, which has resulted in significant investment to reduce them over the last two decades. For 15 years, the main theoretical framework for tackling these issues has been social
norms change. Yet, anthropologists and postcolonial scholars have critiqued dominant social norms change models and interventions for their lack of sensitivity to cultural dynamics, and for imposing Eurocentric priorities and concepts on local communities - processes which stem from neocolonial hierarchies in knowledge production. To address this situation, my project has two objectives. First, I will investigate the politics of knowledge production in relation to social norms change as applied to FGM/C and child marriage, particularly how major organisations resist critiques of their policies. This evidence will support the second objective, namely to develop collective strategies with like-minded scholars, practitioners and activists to promote 'decolonial' social norms change strategies which deliver positive health outcomes but also align with beneficiaries’ concerns, values and worldviews. Methods will include auto-ethnography of my experience as a scholar-practitioner in this field; and surveys, interviews, and participatory workshops with academics and development actors.