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Last edited: October 30, 2010

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Why is it important to work with adolescent boys to prevent violence against women and girls?

  • The patterns of attitudes and behaviours that lead some men to use violence against women begin in childhood and adolescence (Barker 2005).
  • Physical violence by intimate partners often begins within the first years of dating and marriage (Krug et al., 2002).
  • Substantial proportions of girls and young women experience forced first sex, child sexual abuse, and other forms of sexual violence in virtually every geographical setting (Krug et al., 2002).
  • Sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence has been linked to a host of poor health and other consequences, including unintended pregnancy, abortion, depression, and STI/HIV transmission (Krug et al., 2002).
  • Adolescents may be more easily reached through school programmes (where a majority are in school).
  • Adolescence represents a window of opportunity for violence prevention because attitudes and beliefs about gender norms and violence are still forming.
  • Boys who have witnessed or experienced violence are more likely to grow up holding violence-supportive attitudes and perpetrating violence themselves (Flood and Pease 2006).
  • For women, there is some evidence linking experiences of sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence with patterns of victimization during adulthood (Krug et al., 2002).
  • Patterns of behaviour may not yet be fully established thus creating a critical opportunity to promote positive social interactions and healthy relationships.
  • At this age boys and girls may be more easily reached, for example through schools.
  • By and large, experts consider that this age group is especially strategic to work with to advance gender equality and non-violence.

Promising interventions with adolescents: 

Program H ( Bolivia , Brazil , Colombia , India , Jamaica , Mexico , Peru and other countries)

Program H (H is the first letter for the word men in both Portuguese ‘homem’ and Spanish ‘hombre’) adopts an ecological model – addressing young men within their social context – to promote a critical reflection of gender norms within intimate relationships, highlighting the ‘costs’ of gender inequity to both men and women. The initiative is developed by a coalition of four non-governmental organizations including: PROMUNDO, PAPAI, ECOS and Salud y Género (Health and Gender). The first three are located in Brazil , while the last is based in Mexico . The initiative includes four components: a) training professionals to work with young men in the area of health and gender-equity using a set of manuals and videos; b) social marketing of condoms; c) promoting health services; and d) evaluating changes in gender norms.

This initiative stands out also because of the rigor of its evaluation. In partnership with Horizons, Program H developed and validated a scale called Gender-Equitable Men (GEM) Scale, which measures young men's attitudes related to gender roles and masculinities. The following are examples of the traditional norms measured by the scale: “It is okay for a man to hit his wife if she won’t have sex with him.” and “I would be outraged if my wife asked me to use a condom”. While “it is important that a father is present in the lives of his children, even if he is no longer with the mother” is an example of an egalitarian norm. A comparison of baseline and six month post-intervention results gathered at the intervention sites revealed that a significantly smaller proportion of respondents supported inequitable gender norms over time, while a similar change was not found at the control site. These positive changes were maintained at the one-year follow-up in both intervention sites. These findings suggest that group education interventions can successfully influence young men's attitudes toward gender roles and lead to healthier relationships. See the CASE STUDY.

Men’s Action for Stopping Violence Against Women (India), is a network of over 175 individuals and 100 organizations that work to bring about change within themselves and in other men to raise their voice against traditional patriarchal values and challenge stereotypical notions of what it means to be a man. MASVAW has begun to reach out to junior and primary schools, influencing boys and girls in the age group of 8-12 years on issues of domestic violence, physical and verbal abuse and unequal division of work between boys/men and girls/women. See the CASE STUDY.
Sexto Sentido (Nicaragua) Puntos de Encuentro is based in Nicaragua and has as its mission to increase women’s and young people’s ability to take control over their own lives and participate in all levels of society.  To achieve this mission, Puntos implements a multi-media, multi-method strategy called ‘Somos diferentes, somos iguales’ (We’re Different, We’re Equal) which is aimed at Nicaraguan youth.  See the CASE STUDY. In 2011, Puntos de Encuentro launched a new TV series promoting equitable attitudes and non-violent behaviour “Contracorriente”.
Coaching Boys Into Men (US)The Family Violence Prevention Fund’s Coaching Boys Into Men initiative encourages men to talk to boys about relationships and violence.  The multipronged campaign includes materials that provide specific advice about ways to listen to boys, how to broach the topic of gender relations in conversation, and how to use natural teachable moments. More information and relevant materials can be found on the website.
Soul City (South Africa). Soul City, a multi-media health promotion and social change project initiated in South Africa and currently implemented in various countries, addressed various aspects of violence against women in its Series 4.  The evaluation of these series provides one of the most comprehensive evaluation designs in work with men and violence against women.  See volume I and volume II of the Soul City IV Evaluation and the case study.
Men Can Stop Rape (United States). This community-based programme targets both high school and college-aged males in order to: (1) educate young men about their role as allies with women in preventing dating violence; (2) promote positive, nonviolent models of male strength; and (3) empower youth to take action to end dating violence, promote healthy relationships based on equality and respect, and create safer school communities.  In a 2005 evaluation, men who participated in the programme reported that they were more likely to intervene to stop gender-based violence after participating in the programme (Hawkins & Zakiya Consulting, 2005 cited in WHO 2007).

See the videos about the work of the organization.


Mentors in Violence Prevention (United States) The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) is a leadership training programme that motivates student-athletes and student leaders to prevent men’s violence against women.  MVP utilizes a creative ‘bystander’ approach to gender violence and bullying prevention. It focuses on young men not as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers and support abused ones. It focuses on young women not as victims or potential targets of harassment, rape and abuse, but as empowered bystanders who can support abused peers and confront abusive ones. It is built on the premise that most men who abuse are not sociopaths and that many men who disapprove of violence do not speak up or take action because they do not know what to do. See the case study.


Tools for addressing prevention with adolescents:

Program H Manuals (Promundo and partners, Brazil). This is a set of methodologies to motivate young men to critically reflect on rigid norms related to manhood and how they influence their lives in different spheres: health, personal relations, sexual and reproductive health, and fatherhood. This toolkit provides programme planners, health providers, peer educators, and others who work with young people with innovative resources to facilitate discussions and encourage reflections about manhood. The Program H toolkit includes the Program H Manual, featuring group activities for young men, the cartoon DVD “Once upon a boy” and its accompanying discussion guide. Each manual addresses a different topic, including:

  • sexual and reproductive health;
  • fatherhood and care-giving;
  • from violence to peaceful co-existence;
  • reasons and emotions;
  • preventing and living with HIV and AIDS; and
  • paternity, violence, emotions (including drug use) and HIV and AIDS.

Available in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Tài liêụ dành cho đồng đẳng viên (Program H, Viet Nam) produced by TCDN-MOLISA, Save the Children and Instituto Promundo with the support of USAID and Pact Vietnam was adapted for use in the Viet Nam context.  This adaptation is available for download in Vietnamese. The Program H Manuals are also being adapted for Tanzania and the Balkan context and will be available for download soon.

We need to be able to talk (Puntos de Encuentro, Nicaragua). This manual and DVD (in Spanish) make up a methodological pack to be used for talks and in workshops on machismo and its direct link to sexual violence and HIV and AIDS.  The manual includes:

A conceptual framework and views on machismo, HIV and AIDS and sexual abuse.

Summaries of the special Sexto Sentido videos and a list of possible themes for group work.

A methodological guide for workshops.

A questions guide to use with the special Sexto Sentido video.

Guidelines and information on how to avoid HIV and AIDS and sexual abuse, for people who are directly affected.

The educational pack costs USD 20.00 and is available in English and Spanish. For more information send an email to

The manual is available in English.

Swimming against the tide (Puntos de Encuentro, Nicaragua). A 25 minute video with an episode of Sexto Sentido that explores the influence of ‘machismo’ on the everyday lives of young men and women: unplanned pregnancies, violent father, pressure to have sex, homophobia and sexual violence. Available in Spanish.

Fourth R Curricula (Ministry of Education, Ontario, Canada). The Fourth R consists of a comprehensive school-based programme designed to include students, teachers, parents, and the community in reducing violence and risk behaviours. It contends that relationship knowledge and skills can and should be taught in the same way as reading, writing, and arithmetic, and therefore the classroom-based curriculum is referred to as the Fourth R (for Relationships) core programme. This curriculum consists of lessons that meet the Ontario Ministry of Education’s learning expectations for Grade eight and nine health education and Grade 9-12 English, and the outcomes for other courses in other provinces. The programme is taught in the classroom, using a thematic approach to reduce risk behaviours including: violence/bullying; unsafe sexual behaviour; and substance use. All of the curricula are available for purchase in English.

Young Men and HIV Prevention: a Tool Kit for Action (Promundo and UNFPA). Although geared towards HIV prevention, this tool kit contains various tools that may be of relevance, including:. Mapping young men’s media and social networks – page 25. Creating campaigns: step by step – page 23. Available in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Guidelines For Adolescent Preventive Services (GAPS) materials by the American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA's Guidelines for Adolescent Preventive Services (GAPS) is a comprehensive set of recommendations that provide a framework for the organization and content of preventive health services. The GAPS recommendations were designed to be delivered ideally as a preventive services package during a series of annual health visits for adolescents between the ages of 11-21. Materials available include: GAPS Recommendations Monograph with information on the 24 recommendations. 

      One of the areas addressed is prevention of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

      Three versions of GAPS questionnaires for use in clinical practice, including:

      Younger Adolescent Questionnaire (English and Spanish available)

      Middle/Older Adolescent Questionnaire (English and Spanish available)

      Parent/Guardian Questionnaire (English and Spanish available)

      Available in English.

Gender or Sex: Who Cares? Skills-building Resource Pack on Gender and Reproductive Health for Adolescents and Youth Workers, Ipas (USA). This manual offers an introduction to the topic of gender and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and is for professionals and volunteers who work with young people on the influence of gender on SRH issues. A workshop curriculum, guidance and tools for facilitators are provided that incorporate suggestions and feedback from organizations in various regions of the world. A series of participatory activities encourage participants to think about the difference between gender and sex as well as social values associated with women and men, femininity and masculinity.  Available in English and Spanish.

Feel Free (MIFUMI, PROMPT UK, Uganda). Feel Free is an interactive facilitator's guide for training young women and men on violence and abuse issues. The key message throughout the pack is that violence is not an answer to conflict and should not be tolerated by society. The pack includes a card quiz game with the facilitator's answers, a background information book on violence and abuse, and exercises to implement during the training. Available from: 

Toolkit for Working with Men and Boys to Prevent Gender-Based Violence (Family Violence Prevention Fund, USA). This is a comprehensive resource for practitioners to work with men and boys to prevent violence.  Available in English.

Reaching Men: Strategies for Preventing Sexism and Violence (Russ Funk, USA). This publication begins with a theoretical overview exploring educational theory and identifying those educational theories that show the most promise in educating men.  A brief overview of each form of violence is provided alongside a discussion of how each form of violence is connected to sexism.  The next chapter examines issues and intersections of racism, sexism and homophobia as they relate to violence and abuse.  The final chapters provide information about how educators and advocates can take care of themselves while educating men about sexism and violence.  The book also includes sample exercises and discussion guides, including a Sample Outline for a Presentation on Rape and Sexual Assault, see pages.37-38.      For ordering or additional information, contact JistLife Publishing ( or call 1-800-648-5478.

Boys-Talk: A Program for Young Men About Masculinity, Non-violence and Relationships, Adelaide: Men Against Sexual Assault (Brook Friedman, Australia). The Boys-Talk program is a practical guide for teachers, youth workers and parent groups to provide young men with support and options as they search for their own understanding of masculinity.  Part one of the manual introduces the area of gender and schooling with an emphasis on the practices of masculinity in our society. It also includes information about programme implementation. Part two of the manual presents the programme. Available for purchase in English.