I Am Purple: Youth-Focused Gender Empowerment

By Yolandi Janse van Rensburg, Director of Digital Engagement, Every1Mobile

Every1Mobile shares lessons from ‘I Am Purple’, a youth focused Gender empowerment programme using digital platforms to change harmful social norms around gender equality among young men and women in Nigeria.

I Am Purple was a youth-focused gender empowerment programme, funded by DFID, now FCDO, that used digital platforms to change harmful social norms around gender equality among young men and women in Nigeria. This 5-year programme applied social norm theory to address 3 key areas:

  1. Women’s voice and leadership
  2. Women’s role in decision-making
  3. Violence against women and girls

I am Purple was part of Voices for Change which aimed to change social perceptions, norms and expectations of girls by implementing a nationwide communication campaign to deliver key messages and mobilise real-world action. Evidence showed that while it is possible for social norms to change, people are reluctant to change until they believe that others in their reference group are changing too.


‘I am Purple’ aimed to start a conversation around a 50/50 gender equal world. We used social behaviour change communication techniques and deep user engagement to build confidence and self-esteem as well as achieve attitude and perception changes. It included an e-learning component, the Purple Academy, designed to educate and empower young men and women around gender equality.

The design strategy, user experience and content strategy, was developed through the process of Human Centred Design, by consulting and co-creating with our target users. Through this process, we aimed to understand their technographic context, existing knowledge and perspectives, drivers of and barriers to enacting target behaviours, as well as preferred learning style and the target groups motivations. We then developed a tailored and contextualised behaviour change strategy, designed for our specific target groups.

Over a 5-year period, the needs and motivations of a target group can change. We designed a fun “personality-style” quiz based on our target groups ‘user personas’ called “How Purple Are You?”. This allowed us to continuously monitor how our growing target groups fit into our outlined personas throughout the programme and helped us know who we are talking to and how to adapt our messaging accordingly.

When it comes to building safeguarding community engagement into the design of the programme, we had a team of in-country Community Managers who actively managed and monitored our online communities.

A Community Manager is essentially a member of your intended target audience, living in similar demographic and geographic contexts and speaking the same language so that they can effectively provide an additional layer of localised nuance to the conversation. So in the case of I Am Purple our community managers were Nigerian youth and the I Am Purple community accepted our Community Managers as peers and mentors within the community. The Community Management function served to monitor user engagement and identify opportunities for proactive and reactive communication while generating insights along the way that can inform the design of the programme.

  • These Community Managers took full ownership of the target groups wants and needs by actively listening and conversing with them.
  • Community Managers monitored site performance metrics and gathered key insights to inform content and engagement strategies.
  • Community Managers also provided an insider’s view in terms of use of language, local context and ideation on ongoing content and messages.

Initially, the lack of young women’s voices in I am Purple were noticeable. We learnt that our female users felt intimidated and hesitant to participate in a mixed-gender setting. In order to maximise participation from women and girls, we adapted our content and engagement strategy that emphasised more female-focused content. The new Girlz Talk chat room was a gender-restricted digital space where female-only users discussed sensitive issues such as sex, boyfriends and periods in digital safe space where men were not allowed. We immediately saw an increase in participation with over 20,000 page views in the first month.

By adapting our programme design, we ensured that our most vulnerable users were brought to the forefront and given a safe and trusted environment to participate in the programme.

Providing our online community, who may lack a voice within their society, and opportunity to share their feelings, opinions and experiences in a safe and non-judgemental environment was a fundamental tenet of Purple’s strategy.

A key aspect of the programme design was to enable users to generate their own content, start their own conversations and make Purple what they wanted it to be. The platform provided an anonymous Q&A section where users could ask questions without the fear of being exposed. Each week, our Community Manager would select one question to be published back to the community so members could share their advice.

This peer support forum’s topics and responses were dictated by the online community members themselves. The Community Managers role was to ensure accurate information was shared in a respectful and helpful manner. Members of our online community who were afraid to openly ask questions were able to benefit from the anonymised questions and answers provided by the rest of the community.

‘User-generated’ content, content created by the online community, such as comments in chat rooms, photos being shared or responses to other users, must be monitored and abusive comments or inappropriate images should be reported. We implemented this using our Community Managers. When designing opportunities for users to generate their own content, it is important to share community guidelines with clear instructions on what is expected in terms of community participation.

Over the course of this 5-year programme, we reached over 107 million young people in Nigeria.

The impact of the programme was clear:

  • 119,000 learners engaged with the digitised, interactive curriculum through the Purple Academy.
  • 297,000 young people joined the I Am Purple social network to share, learn and connect with each other.
  • 70,000 youth reported taking real world or digital actions after spending time on the Purple platform, 48% of whom were women.

In terms of behaviour change, since spending time on Purple…

  • 93% of young people surveyed, believed women and men should enjoy equal opportunities and respect.
  • 90% of young people said they felt more willing to speak up against violence against women and girls.
  • 89% of young people said they felt more willing to challenge the limitations put on women.

Overall, by incorporating active safeguarding and quality assurance into the day-to-day management of an online community, you build trust with your intended target audience who can feel safe knowing that you put their interests, and online safety, first.

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