Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar: An Innovative Approach to Shifting Norms in Egypt

August 9th, 2022 | News


Talking about reproductive health and family planning with youth can be uncomfortable. This is no different in Egypt, where these subjects are traditionally hushed. However, an initiative called Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar is changing these norms.

Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar was created by media officers from the Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) who were trained on social and behavior change communication approaches with support from JSI’s USAID-funded Strengthening Egypt’s Family Planning Program (SEFPP). The initiative targets population segments with messages delivered in a creative way to increase demand for and use of family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services. Media officers in Aswan governorate piloted the initiative through a series of short plays featuring local youth.

Youth in Aswan putting on a play about family planning
Youth in Aswan putting on a play about family planning. Photo: Mostafa Mamdouh and Gihan Ismail for JSI.

Since the pilot, the media officers and youth have continued to put on the plays, now in nine governorates. Three main factors led to the success of this initiative.

1. It is led by and for youth.

Youth (people between the ages of 17 and 24 years) make up the largest segment of the Egyptian population. Because of this, media officers in Aswan prioritized them in the design of Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar. Youth like Fatma and Ramadan from Gharb Suhail village helped refine FP/RH messages and develop storylines for the plays, ensuring that they resonated across the community and among youth. Fatma has even become an FP influencer and a trusted resource and messenger among her peers.
Participation in Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar built youth’s capacity as leaders and champions for FP/RH, enabling them to develop solutions for various social challenges. These young people will be able to advocate for broader social change.

2. The initiative does more than create awareness; it shifts social norms.

Because RH is such a sensitive topic in Egypt, media officers and the SEFPP team were happily surprised that Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar received an overwhelmingly positive response. Its creative approach appealed not only to the youth, but also to the larger community.

“I was proud to see that our youth conveyed health messages in a way that is fun and simple for everyone. The plays help us know how to discuss sensitive issue including FP.”– Audience member

Hearing messages from young community members in a social setting helps people of all ages overcome the discomfort of discussing FP/RH, which are typically conducted with health and medical professionals in a clinical setting. After the plays, media officers answer questions about FP/RH and refer people to services. The continuation of the plays has sustained interaction and discussion, helping make these topics less sensitive and encouraging openness to new norms about FP/RH, such that parents even encourage their children to participate in the plays.

3. Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar is sustainable and adaptable.

Sustainability and adaptability were built into the initiative. JSI’s training not only gave MOHP media officers new skills, but also a mindset to explore ways to engage the community beyond the traditional. SEFPP also trained the media officers to advocate for local financing and logistical support from local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and community groups to implement the activities.

Today, Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar is being implemented in nine governorates, demonstrating its sustainability and adaptability to different contexts in Egypt. Local organizations and communities are not limited to performing plays; the initiative has been implemented through various events including sports. Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar has also expanded to topics beyond FP/RH, based on community needs and priorities. This has included discussions on gender, positive parenting, and male involvement in child development.

JSI, through SEFPP, is excited to continue work with the MOHP on this initiative. To experience Ma’ana Fe Al-Dawar for yourself, watch a clip from one of the plays performed in Aswan here.

Fatma, left, and Ramadan, right, two youth from Aswan
Fatma, left, and Ramadan, right, two youth from Aswan. Photo: Salma Eltanany and Passant Asker for JSI

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