Council researchers are testing the effects of engaging boys and men alongside girl-centered programming to improve the lives of adolescent girls.
In Kenya, adolescent girls living in the urban slums face considerable risks and challenges that affect their safety, healthy, and general well-being. A 2013 survey, for example, highlighted high levels of exposure to sexual violence and exploitation for girls ages 15 to 19, including sexual harassment, physical, sexual and emotional violence, and unwanted and transactional sex. More than 60% of respondents indicated that wife-beating was acceptable in at least one circumstance and more than a third had experienced some form of gender based violence.
Despite growing attention on the importance of engaging men and boys in violence prevention efforts, these programs frequently exclude boys and little is known about their effectiveness. Male engagement programs tend to neither consider girls’ and women’s needs in the design, nor measure their ability to create positive change for women and girls. Rigorous program design and evaluation is needed to ensure that programs are accountable to women and girls.
Since 2008, the Council and partners in Kenya have developed and evaluated an intervention that combines safe spaces, financial and health education, and savings accounts for marginalized girls to build their social, health, and economic assets using a multi-sectoral approach. With support from the NoVo Foundation, this program was brought to more than 8,000 girls in four different urban settings in Kenya.
Until recently, these interventions have focused exclusively on girls, engaging community members and parents to gain support for the interventions themselves, but not as program participants. This project seeks – for the first time – to engage boys and men in girl-centered interventions, to determine what works best for girls as well as for boys and men.
The project will:
- Inform the design of an intervention targeting boys and men in a way that addresses and centers the needs of girls in relation to sexual exploitation and violence.
- Test those designs to generate evidence on how engaging boys and men through this approach improves outcomes for girls.
The Population Council is working to build the capacity of key partners on the ground so that relevant findings can be transformed into sustained improvements. The program will also share actionable insights in Kenya and around the world to inform the public, private, as well as NGO sectors on the needs of women and girls, as well as men and boys, to deter sexual exploitation and violence.