Understanding the gender norms and notions of masculinity that contribute to violent behaviors– and engaging young men to critically reflect on and address these social constructs – can help foster more gender-equitable attitudes and reduce violence.
Led by CARE Northwest Balkans, ICRW is part of a coalition of local and international nongovernmental organizations and youth groups working in the Western Balkans on the Young Men’s Initiative (YMI). The project aims to build more gender-equitable, healthy, and non-violent lifestyles among youth across this post-conflict region. YMI uses social media campaigns and a school-based curriculum (adapted from Promundo’s “Program H” model) to help young men between the ages of 13 and 19 deconstruct masculinity and reflect on how unhealthy gender norms lead to the inequitable treatment of women and girls.
ICRW’s engagement with YMI has spanned over 6 years, starting with participatory research to understand prevailing attitudes about the “ideal” man and what it means to be a man in project communities. Findings were applied to inform the design of a pilot intervention (Phase 1), which ICRW evaluated from 2009 to 2010 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. Since 2010, ICRW has been leading an evaluation of Phase 2 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Kosovo. Preliminary results suggest an increased uptake of gender-equitable attitudes related to violence, homophobia, family dynamics, and sexual and reproductive health after participating in the project.