How engaging men and boys is helping create a more equal world.

By Lilith Foster-Collins

May 31, 2024

One key lesson from GIF’s work on Innovating for Gender Equality is that, to effect positive change, we can’t just focus on women and girls. As one of our investments, RWAMREC, scales its operations and launches in a new district in Rwanda, here’s how this - and two other - innovations in our gender portfolio are focusing on men and boys.

RWAMREC this year launched its Bandebereho programme into the Gakenke District, Rwanda, focusing on maternal and child health services, and addressing the issue of gender-based violence.

Bandebereho uses a 15 session curriculum with community role models to discuss positive fatherhood, maternal and new-born health, violence prevention, and unpaid care work.

GIF invested $1.8 million into Bandebereho with the aim to increase uptake to at least three districts, which has now been achieved.

The investment also aimed to improve delivery via community health workers and assess the programme’s cost effectiveness.

Bandebereho is just one of several innovations tackling gender equality by engaging with men and boys, not just women and girls.

While many interventions target women, men are key for shifting views on gender and changing men’s actions.

There is only so much progress interventions directed at women can achieve alone. Women can be encouraged to know their rights and stand up for their agency, but when it comes to issues such as partner violence and sexual assault, it is men’s actions that have to change.

No Means No is an innovation which aims to tackle sexual assault through changing the attitudes of young people to prevent harm.

The innovation provides girls with the tools to stand up for their rights, delivering empowerment self-defence skills

But it also engages boys to respect and support women and girls, through reshaping harmful beliefs around gender and teaching bystander intervention skills.

GIF’s initial $225K investment in 2018 supported the initiative to form initial partnerships, with a follow-on investment of $1.9 million building on the success of the pilot to scale No Means No.

The programme has had a tangible impact in preventing sexual assaults, with an average decrease of 47% in sexual violence amongst participants.

This innovation is now rapidly scaling and, using GIF’s Practical Impact methodology, we expect that, within 10 years of our initial investment, No Means No Worldwide will reach 1-3 million girls, preventing 80,000-120,000 sexual assaults of adolescents. This is tens of thousands of girls who will grow up safer.

Breakthrough is an educational programme for boys and girls, which aims to change gender attitudes and behaviours of students to shift gender norms in India.

The community focused programme uses games, songs, drawing and other activities to discuss topics such as gender stereotypes, gender roles at home, girls’ education, women’s employment outside the home, and harassment.

GIF invested $890,000 originally intended to support Breakthrough with scaling the programme across 4,500 government schools in Punjab, and to pilot a model for delivery in Odisha.

Breakthrough and J-PAL are now working with the Government of Odisha for a state-wide roll-out to 23,000 schools.

A randomised controlled trial conducted by J-PAL in Haryana found that the curriculum leads to significant improvements in gender attitudes for girls and boys, as well as positive changes in boys’ behaviour.

GIF estimates that in the 10 years following our initial investment, Breakthrough will have measurably changed the gender attitudes of 8 million girls and boys, meaning 8 million people in India will be entering adulthood with more equal ideas about gender.

The message is clear: innovation for gender equality is just as much about changing the behaviour of men as it is about empowering women. It is only when men’s attitudes also change that gender equality can be achieved.