On Sunday, November 25, more than 3700 organizations from across the world will join together for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a campaign initiated in 1991 by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. The international movement is meant to inspire action in opposition to gender-based violence (GBV) through insightful education and awareness. Although GBV disproportionately impacts women, Grassroot Soccer (GRS) recognizes that the problem, its roots, and its solution are inclusive across genders, making it imperative to include men and boys in pursuit of a world free from harmful gender norms and behaviors.

The World Health Organization estimates that thirty-five percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence – either by a romantic partner or non-partner.  Research has shown that by age 16, seventy percent of girls in South Africa view violence in relationships as acceptable behavior. They are four times as likely to contract HIV than their male counterparts, one-in-three of whom have already committed an act of intimate partner violence.

Grassroot Soccer (GRS) programming aims to flip the script on traditional norms by promoting gender-equitable relationships, prevention of partner violence, and access to services for sexual violence and sexual reproductive health; all are essential components of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and HIV risk reduction for both girls and boys. Our adolescent-centered curricula is uniquely tailored for both single-sex and co-ed programs that provide safe spaces and promote positive behaviors. Over 900,000 adolescent boys and young men have graduated from our programs, including SKILLZ Guy and SKILLZ Boy, and show improved knowledge of key protective behaviors for HIV, knowledge of, demand for, and uptake of local sexual and reproductive health services, and have more equitable gender beliefs. A recent evaluation of GRS programming for adolescent boys demonstrated a 26% increase in attitudes, communication, and knowledge with largest gains for gender equitable norms, self-efficacy, knowledge of reproductive health, and lowered risk of multiple concurrent partners.

Our girl-focused programming encourages girls to challenge their perceptions of conventional gender norms within their communities. SKILLZ Girl is an all-girls intervention designed to build adolescent girls’ confidence and self-efficacy, promote positively protective behaviors, and increase resilience. SKILLZ Girl provides gender-sensitive activities and knowledge around SRHR, including pregnancy prevention, empowerment, HIV prevention, and gender norms. Through a 3-year research grant funded by UN Trust Fund (UNTF), over 8,000 adolescent girls ages 10-16 graduated from the single-sex SKILLZ program in three South African townships. The study showed consistent improvement in participants’ self-esteem and self-confidence, decreased acceptance of violence, improved disclosure and reporting of violence, improved gender equitable norms, and increased utilization of HIV testing and SRHR services.

If you would like to join us in promoting gender equity, positive masculinity, and challenging harmful gender norms that perpetuate violence, consider a gift to Grassroot Soccer today. Visit this link to learn more about GRS programming, our approach, and our impact as they pertain to gender equity.

We will be highlighting our work throughout the 16 Days campaign. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates.