What is stigma and ‘non-stigmatising messaging’?

Written by Katie Northcott, AmplifyChange

How does AmplifyChange define stigma?

Stigma is the belief that an issue is morally unacceptable or wrong, therefore creating a negative view of the issue within communities, among stakeholders, and on a wider scale.

Stigma is the belief that a particular issue is morally unacceptable or wrong, therefore creating a negative view of the issue within communities, among stakeholders, and on a wider scale.

Stigma is often perpetuated by society (particularly opponents of the topic).

Stigma stems from different sources.

Stigma can come from policies and laws governing a certain issue.

If a law has been made restricting access or rights of a certain issue or group, this sends a message to the people living in that country that these things are inherently bad, as individuals could believe that there must be a good reason as to why they have been restricted. This is particularly true for abortion, LGBTI+ rights, and marginalised populations’ and youth access to SRHR services.

Stigma can come from social norms and cultural beliefs.

Religious beliefs, gender norms, and cultural tradition all contribute to stigma within community and family structures, making it difficult for individuals to advocate for a change that goes against these ingrained norms. Abortion, LGBTI+ rights, FGM/C, and child marriage are key examples of SRHR issues that can be socially stigmatised and affected by cultural and religious beliefs.

Stigma can come from a lack of knowledge or understanding about an issue.

If an issue is widely misunderstood, or individuals, communities, or societies do not have access to fact-based sources about the issue, incorrect information about an issue can be perpetuated and contribute to the stigmatisation of the issue. For example, people may refuse to share meals with HIV+ individuals due to the incorrect belief that HIV can be transmitted through touch or saliva, even though medical experts have proven that the only means of transmission for HIV are through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breastmilk.

What does ‘non-stigmatising messaging’ involve?

Non-stigmatising messaging means that the messages and images you communicate about a certain topic do not contribute to the marginalisation or negative portrayal of the cause you are promoting.

Katie Northcott, AmplifyChange

Katie is a Technical Performance Manager at AmplifyChange. At her previous work at Population Institute, she conducted analysis for a wide-scale report on demographic vulnerability, as well as managed the organisation’s social media channels.

As a Community Health Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, she implemented youth sexual health programs and supported maternal health and family planning outreach services. She worked with non-profit organisations in the U.S. advocating for women’s rights in the fields of abortion access, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS.

Katie’s experience at these organisations included social media management, street campaigning, and crafting messaging for publications, as well as the development of advocacy and media toolkits. Katie has a MSc in Population and Development from London School of Economics and a BA in Economics, African Studies, and French from Northwestern University.