Ideas about gender – about how society expects boys, girls, and all children as well as adults to be – are among the first things children learn about the world. A growing body of international research has confirmed that boys, regardless of country, ethnicity, or economic situation, are socialized to cut themselves off from important relationships, repress their emotions, overemphasize competition and achievement, sacrifice their health, both use and experience violence and take unwise risks that endanger their lives.
These unhealthy ideas about boyhood and manhood are reproduced in families, schools, communities, and in the media. Equimundo’s Man Box research has affirmed how these harmful ideas about manhood lead to negative outcomes that hurt boys and men themselves as well as girls, women, and our communities.
Equimundo colleagues have worked with community partners to reach young men, ages 15-24, through our flagship gender-transformative approach Program H (called Manhood 2.0 in some settings). Implemented in over 30 countries and scaled up in selected settings through schools, after-school programming or youth-serving organizations, Program H has been named a best practice in promoting gender equality and preventing gender-based violence by the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
In 2020, recognizing the need to begin this work at even younger ages, Equimundo and the Kering Foundation co-created the Global Boyhood Initiative (GBI), including Plan International and Gillette as core partners. A first-of-its-kind initiative to promote healthy and equitable masculinities starting from an early age, GBI uses approaches specifically developed to engage boys (ages 4 to 13) and the adults in their lives and leverages media to inform and mobilize the communities and systems that influence and shape what its means to be a boy.
GBI has three core components:
- Foundational Research: Led by Equimundo’s research team, GBI research has aimed to identify the ways in which boys define and perform masculinities, how institutions engage with boys, and what messages and platforms resonate in promoting healthy boyhood. This has included studies with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media on the versions of manhood boys see on television and a study on how manhood is expressed in online gaming, and why this matters for children.
- Evidence-based Group Educational Tools: Co-developed by Equimundo with partners in the communities where boys live, GBI tools include the Boyhood 2.0 program geared for young children in community-based settings, content for adults (e.g. caregivers, teachers, coaches) to put to practical use with the children in their lives, and training modules for civil society organizations and schools.
- Digital community engagement: Currently being developed, the GBI digital hub aims to be a widely-used international digital hub for boys, parents, teachers, community leaders and advocates to access the latest research, video assets, and educational materials for reaching boys on healthy masculinity. An example of existing materials is on the GBI Instagram account.