Four ways brands can trigger social change for girls

In the second of our two-part series, Girl Effect’s Jess Majekodunmi discusses the brand-led insights that help Yegna change the world for girls.

Coming up to its third anniversary and with its seventh season about to launch, Yegna is a multi-platform media brand in Ethiopia designed to promote positive social change for girls in a country where deeply entrenched beliefs and attitudes hold them back.

But social and behaviour change for girls is complex – shaped by economic, institutional and cultural contexts – and the causal chain is rarely linear. To navigate this complexity, Yegna is built on insights.

Here are four of them:

Understanding a girl’s world

Since brand thinking always starts with consumer understanding, let’s look at what holds girls back.

Our research in Ethiopia led us to learn that one of the key barriers was social isolation. We found that one in five girls self-identifies as not having any friends.

Building on this insight, Yegna champions the collective identity of girlhood and celebrates girls coming together, with the purpose to promote the idea of friendship as something beneficial for girls and society.

This comes alive in our storylines. It also comes alive through our mobile and digital channels.And, as the strength of Yegna grows, its reach extends beyond media channels and provides a bridge into clubs and safe spaces.

Influencing those around them

We want to appeal not only to girls but also to those who have the greatest power in their lives. So Yegna is designed to bring people in – that’s brothers, mothers and fathers, as well as girls themselves.

Together the music, drama, talk show and advertising spark conversations in society, and they begin to normalise girlhood as a time to be seen and to be heard. Yegna reframes girls so that they are more visible, valued and connected – to each other and those around them.

Once this big brand idea is shared and owned by people, it becomes transformative, changing how communities, families and girls think, feel and act. Yegna might be about girls, but it is for everyone.

Working within culture

We work with the grain of culture rather than against it, to build trust and create change from within.

This is evident in the name itself. Yegna is an Amharic word meaning ‘ours’. The insight here was that at the heart of Ethiopia’s unique national identity lies the notion that the country’s strength derives from its diverse population and its differences.

‘Ours’ has a double meaning: not only does it communicate that Yegna is for girls, something they themselves can own, but also it is for all of Ethiopia, for society to see girls as a unique and positive part of Ethiopian culture.

Using the media

Reaching large audiences is especially important when tackling social issues. With Yegna we make new ideas visible to a large audience so that it is more likely that new behaviours are adopted. We use a range of media products, channels and distribution networks to deepen the engagement with girls and those who influence their lives.

Music and advertising raise awareness and engage a mass audience. The drama and talk show introduce inspiring role models as well as specific ideas and information on topics such as menstrual hygiene. What’s more, Yegna has the potential to stretch across into other products and services.

In this way, we’re creating apowerful approach in the development space: brands that reframe how girls are seen in society; brands that create the foundations for new norms. It is a real-world model, not a hypothetical one.

The world needs brands like Yegna that put girls first. Brands like this create a multiplier effect to change social norms. They set out to change the world for girls so girls can change the world.

Jess Majekodunmi is a brand strategist for Girl Effect. This feature is based on a talk she gave at the 2016 Social and Behavioural Communication Summit in Addis Ababa

Through storylines that confront real-life issues and challenges that girls face every day, Girl Effect and Yegna are challenging the way Ethiopia views girls – and the way girls view themselves.

Find out more about Yegna here.