Scouts in Kenya earned merit badges in gender equity.
Teaching youth in China and Kenya about gender inequities that can lead to poor health
Men should be tough. Women should be subservient.
Gender norms like these can result in destructive behaviors, including sexual harassment and gender-based violence, and place women—especially young girls—at an increased risk of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and other negative health outcomes.
We worked to combat gender inequity among young people in China and Kenya with innovative educational programs to promote equality among girls and boys. These programs aimed to change the attitudes and behaviors of young people by providing them with information and opportunities to discuss and reflect on how being a boy or a girl influences how they act. Through these lessons, they learned to avoid harmful behaviors that damage relationships and communities.
A merit badge for scouts in Kenya
What should a girl do if she is beaten or harassed? What rights do men and women have? These are the types of the questions we asked of girl and boy scouts in Kenya. Scouts between 15 and 18 years old in four districts of Kenya’s Coast Province learned and taught each other about gender stereotypes, sexuality, and gender-based violence. Scouts were also given the chance to try roles that boys or girls usually have; for example, girls worked on the “jobman” merit badge and boys worked on the babysitting merit badge. Scouts who completed these activities and a series of trainings were eligible for a gender-equity merit badge. The trainings encouraged youth to have healthy attitudes and behaviors.
Trained adult community leaders also led discussion groups with other community leaders, teachers, and parents on gender, making them catalysts of social change in their communities. These adult groups, in turn, shared information throughout their communities, coordinated periodic gender discussion groups in schools, and delivered presentations; some have formed lobby groups to advocate for gender equity in their communities.
Trainings in vocational schools and factories in China
Students in China learned about about the linkages between gender, sexuality, and health.
To address gender norms that can lead to poor health, we implemented and evaluated an intervention focused on promoting gender equity among young male vocational school students and factory workers in Chongqing, China. Together with our partners, we engaged the young men in discussions about the linkages between gender, sexuality, and health. They learned, for example, how a woman’s inability to negotiate with her partner about using a condom places her at greater risk of acquiring HIV. Facilitators and students enjoyed the participatory nature of the training sessions, which included interactive lesson plans and group work. Young men who completed all eight sessions received an award, a statue representing the “Real Man, Confident Man.”
Communication campaigns that include posters and billboards, informational tabletop displays leaflets, and announcements reinforced these educational sessions by targeting community leaders, schools, factories, and the general public in and around the region’s schools and factories. The project helped to inform the national and regional family planning association, and it led the association to advocate to their government about how gender and power dynamics affect relationships, men’s health, HIV, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections. As a result of the advocacy, the program has been added to Chongqing city’s reproductive health plan.