Young Mens Initiative: Engaging Men and Boys in the Fight for Gender Equality

Thanks to CARE Action Network for the shoutout to Cohort 1 team, Young Men’s Initiative!

How Young Men Can Change Gender Norms and Support Women and Girls

Engaging men and boys with the Young Men Initiative and CARE
6/15/18

Women’s economic empowerment sustainably lifts women, families and entire communities out of poverty — but only when men get with the program, too. Men and boys have a crucial role to play in achieving gender equality by reversing deeply entrenched norms, traditions and behaviors that for too long have limited women’s opportunities and trapped families in poverty.

Programs like the Young Men Initiative are working to do just that by changing rigid masculine norms, preventing violence against women and promoting gender equality during critical stages of adolescent development.

But how much do they really alter men’s attitudes and communities’ social norms? According to Besnik Leka, CARE’s project coordinator for the Young Men Initiative in the Balkans, “It’s still early days, but we’ve seen reductions in gender-based and interpersonal violence by 25 to 30 percent and big changes in divisions of household labor.”

“One mother called us to ask, ‘What are you teaching my sons? They came home and helped with cleaning. They’re setting the table.’ We tell parents, this is what they’re supposed to do. This is how we change family dynamics.” This is how we change social norms.

Engaging men and boys in gender-based violence

Gender Inequity in the Balkans

An estimated one in three women globally will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime, which includes rape, sexual harassment, assault, domestic violence and other forms of violence that devastates people’s physical, mental and emotional health and perpetuates broader structural inequalities and cycles of poverty.

Surveys conducted in Serbia and Croatia reveal how big the problem is in the region:

  • 60 percent of young men reported having made sexual comments or having touched girls without their consent
  • 18.8 percent of young men say there are situations in which women deserve to be beaten
  • More than two-thirds of adolescents aged 16-19 reported experiencing violent behavior from their partner; about halfsaid they’d been violent towards their partner
  • 65 percent of men reported having been slapped or spanked as children, while 16 percent of men reported witnessing violence by a man against their mothers

Surveys also revealed however, that some traditional attitudes are becoming more liberal:

Engaging Men and Boys

Besnik Leka of CARE's Young Men Initiative Leka is CARE’s project coordinator for the Young Men Initiative in the Balkans. “This is a very patriarchal society with a lot of violence, especially gender-based violence, but at Young Men Initiative, we also address the interpersonal violence young men experience so they understand that patriarchy harms everyone,” Leka said. “We say that, as much as feminism needs men, men need feminism, because feminism saves men from violence too.”

The Young Men Initiative and CARE sponsor gender equality training workshops as part of the curriculums at traditionally male-dominated vocational and technical schools.  “Young men face tremendous challenges but they’re also capable of tremendous growth,” Leka said. The trainings make men and boys aware of how patriarchy can harm them. Leka added that being the sole breadwinner puts a great deal of pressure on men, and that it’s better when everyone contributes to the family, including with household labor. “As more opportunities open up for women to engage in the economy we have to encourage more men to share care of the family,” he said.

While feminism has existed for decades, Leka explained that there hasn’t been much initiative for men to change. “Statistically, men cause most gender-based violence, yet women are asked to empower themselves while simultaneously being discriminated against by men and societies.”

Part of the problem, Leka says, is that men aren’t taught how to change. “It’s taboo for men to talk about certain things, like their problems and emotions. When we actually start talking with men though, about how blocking their emotions leads to stress and violence that harms them as well as women, they’re very receptive. It’s a real eye-opener to learn that young men have high suicide rates here.”  Leka will ask boys and men to rate their emotions from ones they express more freely to ones the express with more difficulty. Most admit they express anger freely, but they’re afraid to show fear.

“As they work through our program, they learn that beauty comes with sharing emotions, even if they’re afraid of unmasking themselves.”

Financial and social inclusion in the Balkans

Social and Economic Inclusion

The Young Men Initiative and Leka also address women’s social and economic inclusion by working to change inheritance attitudes and laws. “Not many women inherit what their parents build. Usually it is given to the son. Even when a woman does inherit something, culturally, she’s expected to give it to her brother. She’s told that a ‘good sister’ doesn’t take stuff from her brother,” Leka explained. The problem, however, is it’s not just about the tangible inheritance. It’s about women’s economic potential.

“In Kosovo,” he explains, “all business and growth is based on banks and loans, but to get a loan, you need collateral. Men can own or inherit cars, houses and land so it’s easy for them to get loans. Without collateral though, women can’t get loans so they’re eliminated from opportunities to start or grow businesses.” Young Men Initiative is helping young men and their families understand the impact of economic progress that takes place when daughters can share inheritances. Simultaneously, CARE is working to change inheritance laws to include children of both genders.

CARE has worked in the Balkan region (Kosovo, Serbia, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina) since 1992, helping war-affected people develop sustainable livelihoods. Currently, CARE’s programing in the region focuses on two key areas – gender equality and social and economic inclusion.   

Beyond “gadgets and gizmos”: UNDP Innovation Facility emphasizes scale

It’s great to see UNDP’s Innovation Facility focus on scale!  We were particularly excited to read UNDP’s Administrator Achim Steiner emphasize scale in his list of critical points to ensure that innovation goes beyond “gadgets” and gizmos”

” Design for growth and scaleScaling entails growth strategies to reach millions; but we also need scale-down strategies to ensure no one is left behind and adaptation strategies to transfer solutions from one context to another. Most contexts require a financial sustainability vision and an initial vision for a pathway to scale. These elements need to be incorporated from the beginning of every intervention, project and policy design. This means also investing in understanding the political settlements and power dynamics and identifying the actors that can help change the status quo.

Prove the comparative advantage of innovation: The hype cycle of innovation has peaked in most industries. Initiatives that are designed for outputs, rather than outcomes are still dominating innovation news updates from a number of organizations. But overall the sector is maturing and with it,the ambition and metrics to measure the impact of innovation. In the context of human development and social change, innovation must not happen for innovation’s sake but rather to find more effective ways of working. Innovation means foremost testing hypothesis with solid monitoring frameworks and a focus on inclusivity.”

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

Innovation, Partnership, and Self-Reliance: Health Policy Lessons from India’s Bihar State

We’re excited that our team from Bihar (Cohort 1) will be at the CSIS Global Health Policy Center for a half-day conference examining the lessons learned from the Bihar Technical Support Program and its implications for U.S. foreign policy and assistance programs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 9:00 am – 1:30 pm
CSIS Headquarters

Click here to register for the online webcast 

Bihar State is the third largest in India with a population of 110 million, which would make it the 12th largest in the world if it was its own country.  Bihar has some of the highest rates of maternal, neonatal, and infant mortality in India, as well as malnutrition, stunting, and high fertility.  These issues are exacerbated by extreme poverty, early marriage, gender and social inequality, and low literacy rates.  The Bihar Technical Support Program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by CARE, was founded to address these challenges with the goal of boosting capacity and self-reliance.  The program covers all 534 blocks in 38 districts of Bihar and involves at least 400 public sector hospitals and 200,000 frontline workers.

The Bihar Technical Support Program offers many lessons learned about innovative program design to meet a variety of critical health challenges in a large population, as well as for purposefully building capacity with the intent to transition support at a designated end date.  With self-reliance and country ownership on the Washington foreign policy community’s minds with USAID Administrator Mark Green’s strategic transitions agenda and proposals for significant reductions in U.S. foreign assistance spending, the Bihar program offers important lessons for broader health and development programs.

The conference runs from 9am – 1:30pm.  Conference Agenda:

Welcome Remarks
Sara M. Allinder
Executive Director and Senior Fellow
CSIS Global Health Policy Center

Introductory Remarks
Sushil Kumar Modi
Deputy Chief Minister, Government of Bihar

Panel I: Overview of the Bihar Technical Support Program and Achievements from the Partnership

Panelists:
Usha Kiran
India Country Lead, State Health and Community Systems
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Mangal Pandey
Health Minister, Government of Bihar

Hemant Shah
Chief of Party
Bihar Technical Support Program

Moderator:
Heather Higginbottom
Chief Operating Officer
CARE

Panel II: The Role of Data and Innovation

Panelists:
Sanjay Kumar
Principal Health Secretary, Government of Bihar

Kenney Ng
Manager, Health Analytics Research Group
IBM

Macon Phillips
Chief Digital Officer
CARE

Moderator:
Sara M. Allinder
Executive Director and Senior Fellow
CSIS Global Health Policy Center

Panel III: Policy Implications of BTSP

Panelists:
Gary Darmstadt
Associate Dean for Maternal and Child Health
Stanford University School of Medicine

Kerry Pelzman
Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Global Health
USAID

Moderator:
J. Stephen Morrison
Senior Vice President and Director
CSIS Global Health Policy Center

This event is made possible through generous support from CARE.

Scaling checklists – do you have the right one?

Scaling checklists are a trendy tool…luckily, they’re also pretty useful! A number of organizations and programs have them, how do you find or develop right one for you? (Want to check out SxD’s? Click here)

In their blog series on scaling social impact, Apolitical calls out a few key elements you should always include:

  1. “Strive to understand the essential core of a program: not whether something works, but why it works, what conditions it requires, what can be trimmed and what cannot be compromised
  2. Imagine what it would look like at scale: to reach many more people, how big and complex would the organisation need to become; who would staff it, and who would pay for it
  3. Consider the minimum threshold of quality a program needs, and what level of control is necessary to ensure it”

Check out the full post below and join the Apolitical platform here: https://apolitical.co/ 

Scaling social impact – a checklist, and a warning

Why keep it simple in a complex world?

In order scale, your solution must be simple. But the world we live in is not simple, it’s complex. Development sector practitioners strive to design holistic interventions and models that address the real-world needs of program participants. How do we address this tension?

In their series on scaling social impact, Apolitical captured this fantastic analogy from Karen Levy, Director of Global Innovation at Evidence Action:

” There is a tendency in the development industry to try and approach problems from a holistic perspective. But when you talk that way, it becomes very hard to find an entry point. Yes, everything is connected; yes, everything is complicated — but if you let that be the framework through which you start, you won’t get anywhere.

That’s why the world is scattered with pilot projects. Lovely pilot projects that are trying to deal with holistic issues, but are never going to get beyond 50 schools or 50 villages. If you look at the things that have achieved massive scale, they are well-defined interventions — or at least started that way.

I always tell people: don’t try and paint the masterpiece — do one layer, and do it well, then do another on top of that. Just creating or strengthening a platform to deliver something simply but well gives you the opportunity to build other stuff on top of it.

Check out the rest of the interview here:

“The world is scattered with pilot projects trying to work holistically”

Key to scaling – Is your core obvious?

We’re big fans of Apolitical’s blog series on scaling social impact!  One of the hidden but crucial concepts the series surfaces is understanding what is core, or “fixed” and a non-negotiable element of your innovation:

“For one, it’s not always clear whether or how something is working. Impact evaluation is growing, but billions of dollars of policy expenditure remain inadequately unevaluated. And, even when impact is proven, it’s not always clear what exactly is responsible. Scaling up often requires paring down a program to its essentials — and for this you need to know what can and cannot be compromised.”

In Scale X Design, we emphasize learning and documenting “fixed” vs. “flexible” elements of your model. That’s the easy part. The tough part is testing, learning and iterating and managing this knowledge across loosely connected practitioners.

Read more here:

How to scale up social impact — the challenge of the 21st century