Gender

  • Is Education Overlooking the Needs of Boys?

    In the early 1970s, many people began to question why girls did not seem interested in science and math and were not engaged in sports. Research demonstrated that it wasn’t because girls were incapable. Instead, socialization practices, teacher and parental expectations, and media messages told girls that these areas were “not for them.”

    So, people went into action. Policymakers put legislation like Title IX in place, and companies changed how girls and women were portrayed in textbooks. It took more than ten years, but eventually the situation improved for girls.

    All along, everybody assumed boys were doing just fine. But, current research shows that boys — particularly African-American and Latino boys — are being stigmatized in school. They are falling behind in reading and disengaging from school at a very early age, a trend that has disastrous long-term consequences.

    In a chapter titled “Improving Boys’ Achievement in Early Childhood and Primary Education,” published in Lessons in Educational Equality by Oxford University Press, 2012, we synthesize international research about the difficulties boys experience in school and strategies to remedy the situation. The chapter grows out of research and curricula around raising and educating healthy boys that we’ve been doing since 2000. In brief, we argue that the lack of success young boys are experiencing is a gender equity issue, and it calls for some of the strategies that have worked to address gender equity in girls’ education. As a first step, we recommend restoring early education to its roots: making time for play, social-emotional development and exploration.

    We found that in countries around the world, but especially the United States, even kindergarteners are spending an increasing amount of time being taught or tested in literacy and math. This mandated curriculum leaves little time for child-initiated learning or unstructured play and contributes to a rise in aggression and anxiety in young children. And, importantly, they don’t have the opportunity to develop critical social-emotional skills.

    Diminishing opportunities for play and prosocial learning are especially disastrous for boys. It sets boys up for increased likelihood of violence, lower academic achievement and eventually disproportionately high drop-out rates.

    International research is also finding that societal stereotypes about gender — ideas of what boys and girls are supposed to be like — contribute to boys’ lack of success in school.

    For instance, a focus group of teachers and parents said boys were expected to be strong and to hide their emotions; those who didn’t would suffer a host of consequences such as being bullied and ostracized. They also said that energetic boys were thought to be troublemakers.

    These expectations prevent boys from developing into psychologically healthy young men, and they often leave boys with the sense of being scrutinized, disliked or simply “bad.”

    We recommend that teacher education include discussions about gender attitudes and how they affect the way teachers relate to both boys and girls. Change will require intentional focus and concerted effort. But that kind of effort is possible. After all, advocates changed national policies and scaled up programs for girls a generation ago.

    To be sure, work on behalf of girls is not done. But we can apply some of that movement’s lessons to improving boys’ well-being and success in school. Ultimately, we believe that it is important to understand and meet all children’s needs in the classroom and that effective gender equity benefits both girls and boys.

  • For girls and women, change is here

    Just in time for International Women’s Day, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released a new gender policy on March 1st. More comprehensive than the former 30-year-old policy, the new policy is a big step forward in the ability of the agency and its partners to tackle the root causes of gender inequality through development work.

    USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg emphasized that the agency is integrating gender “into the DNA” of everything they do to more adequately respond to the vast gender-related barriers that persist all over the globe. The new policy will serve as a guide for efforts to change the social norms that, in so many places, continue to lead to gender inequalities and worse. Deep-rooted changes in social mores are needed, as well as a comprehensive approach to the many factors that influence how girls and women fare all over the world.

    One such place is Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here, when a girl is beaten by a boy in her school, it is not an isolated incident but rather the tip of the iceberg in a country struggling to end conflict-related sexual violence and mend its torn social safety net.

    Currently, FHI 360 is leading a project under its C-Change program to influence attitudes and practices in 31 schools in Katanga and surrounding communities. The project engages parents, teachers and students to diminish the instance of school-related gender-based violence. In this preventive program, participants are using innovative avenues of communication for social and behavior change to tackle, at the school and community levels, the underlying factors that make such violence a part of everyday life. For example, teacher mentors use a Congolese-appropriate Safe Schools Guide to work with designated youth clubs to discuss and strategize how to make schools safer.

    Attaining gender equality takes long-term vision and time. Programs such as C-Change are tackling the foundation of gender inequality: unequal gender norms. Gains for women are being achieved, while making men champions of gender equality.

    If the arc of opportunity is long, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it bends toward equality. And we have to be there to meet it.

  • SMARTgirls: Voices from Cambodia

    This month, Degrees is sharing stories from participants in SMARTgirl, an FHI 360-led program aimed at preventing and mitigating the impact of HIV among entertainment workers living in Cambodia. The program provides peer education and social support, and improves access to HIV and reproductive health services. SMARTgirl treats entertainment workers respectfully and celebrates their positive qualities. SMARTgirl is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).


    • Somany’s struggles

      Twenty-three-year-old Somany is a transgender entertainment worker who has HIV. Social stigma from the community and ostracism from her family leave Somany with a deep sense of loneliness and isolation. Speaking candidly to a SMARTgirl support group, she related how every day feels like a...

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    • Lang’s secret

      My name is Lang. My parents and friends back in my hometown don't know what I'm really doing here in Phnom Penh. They think I'm studying English and training in a wedding reception center...

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    • Sopheap’s strength

      Sopheap was born male but, at age 10, realized she identified as a girl. Because Sopheap’s parents feared other people’s responses, she wore boys’ clothing until age 17 “because I had to go to school and my parents didn’t like me wearing girls’ clothes.” Since then, Sopheap’s parents have...

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    • Sineng’s diagnosis

      Sineng, 21, works in a beer hall in Phnom Penh, where her job is to serve and entertain men. Sometimes she sells sex to make extra money. In the last month, she was diagnosed with HIV. Sineng fears how the virus will affect her health, her relationships and her job. Afraid and timid, she stood...

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    • Nguyen’s Day

      Twenty-six-year-old Nguyen's1 husband is a shoemaker, but his income of approximately 40 U.S. dollars a month is not enough to support them and their two children. To help make ends meet — including paying the monthly rent of 30 dollars on their one-room home — Nguyen supplements the household...

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    • Kimthy’s Story

      My name is Kimthy1 and I’m living far from home, where my son and mother are. I’m selling sex in Phnom Penh, and it’s a lifestyle I want to keep quiet about. My hometown community already dislikes me, so I’m not going to tell them what I do or that I’m HIV positive...

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    • Celebrating International Women’s Day all month

      Today is International Women’s Day. Rather than celebrate it for just one day, FHI 360 will pay tribute to women throughout the month of March by sharing stories from participants in the SMARTgirl program...

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  • World Bank releases World Development Report 2012

    World Development Report 2012 Want to know where women stand worldwide? This week the World Bank released its World Development Report 2012, which focuses on gender equality and development. The report finds that development has closed some gender gaps in educational enrollment, life expectancy, and labor force participation. However, gaps persist in girls’ schooling, access to economic opportunities and household decision-making. Further, “females are also more likely to die, relative to males, in many low-and middle-income countries than their counterparts in rich countries.”

    What should be the priorities of policy makers interested in bringing about gender equality? What policy actions will result in the greatest benefit? Explore the report in the link above, or examine the issues by viewing a summary of the report here.

  • Challenges and opportunities for preventing HIV in women by using ARVs were highlighted at this FHI 360 forum.

    Supporting Documents

    PowerPoint: by Lori Heise
    A Day of Promise, A Day of Reckoning: Making ARV-based prevention work for women

    PowerPoint: by Elizabeth Tolley
    Planning for PrEP with Women in Mind: Why targeting the “Most-at-Risk” is likely to miss Most Women at Risk

    PowerPoint: by Nduku Kilonzo
    Women and ARVs for HIV prevention: What do we need to think about?

    PowerPoint: by Dazon Dixon Diallo
    Social, Structural, and Historical Dimensions of Integrating ARV-Based HIV Prevention into the Lives of African-American and Other Minority Women in the United States

    Watch the Webcast

    This webcast was recorded on September 29, 2011 from 9:30am until 12:00pm.
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    Program

    Keynote
    Lori Heise
    Executive Director, Structural Driver of HIV Research Consortium
    Senior Lecturer, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Chair

    Chair
    Kathleen M. MacQueen
    Senior Scientist, Behavioral & Social Sciences
    FHI 360

    Moderator
    Suzanne Leclerc-Mandala
    Senior Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS, Global Health Bureau
    USAID

    Introductory remarks
    Timothy D. Mastro
    Vice President, Health and Development Sciences
    FHI 360

    Opening and closing remarks
    Kathleen M. MacQueen
    PhD, Forum Chair
    Senior Scientist, Behavioral & Social Sciences
    FHI 360

    Speakers
    Elizabeth Tolley
    Senior Scientist, Behavioral & Social Sciences
    FHI 360

    Nduku Kilonzo
    Executive Director
    Liverpool VCT, Care and Treatment, Kenya

    Dazon Dixon Diallo
    Founder, President
    Sisterlove, Inc., Atlanta, GA