Designed for young women, Program M focuses on equitable gender roles, empowerment in interpersonal relationships, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
To develop the Program M curriculum and approach for young women, Equimundo and partners carried out research on the attitudes of young women in Brazil and Mexico about gender norms and roles and their perceived agency in interpersonal relationships. Partners in more than 20 countries have since adapted Program M’s activities based on local research findings.
Evidence-based group education activities promote young women’s awareness about gender inequities, rights, and health and help them to develop skills and attitudes around self-efficacy in relationships. They are generally carried out together with Program H activities targeting young men.
Youth-led campaigns bring together young women and men to encourage supportive peer groups and youth activism, and to reinforce positive social changes in the community.
Program M is named after mulheres and mujeres, the words for women in Portuguese and Spanish. It was launched in 2006 as a companion to Program H (named for homens and hombres, or men), which encourages critical reflection among young men about rigid gender norms. Building on the experiences of Program H, Program M was developed to work specifically with young women, ages 15 to 24, and seeks to promote their health and empowerment through similar critical reflections about gender, rights, and health. Field-tested in Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nicaragua, it has since been adapted for use in other countries including India, Tanzania, Peru, and the Balkans.
The Program M methodology combines educational workshops with youth-led community campaigns that work to promote gender-equitable attitudes among young women and improve their agency in interpersonal relationships. Organizers can choose from some 33 validated Program M activities to customize the program for the needs of their communities. These activities address a variety of topics, ranging from gender identity to sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowerment in interpersonal relationships, and motherhood and caregiving. Organizers can also consult the Program HMD Toolkit, an abbreviated manual that that includes recommendations for the implementation of Program M’s key activities. To complement the group education sessions, Equimundo offers a conversation-starting, no-words video Once Upon a Girl, which tells the story of a girl who questions the gender norms around her, and how they influence the way she thinks and acts.
Evaluation studies on Program M in Brazil and India, using items from the Gender Equitable Men (GEM) scale, a validated attitude scale that has been adapted and applied in more than 20 settings, along with other attitude and self-efficacy indicators, found that women who participate in the program experience increased communication with partners about sexual health, increased self-efficacy in interpersonal relationships, decreased drug use, and increased condom use by partners.
Although adapted across many settings, schools have long been a central implementation setting for both Programs H and M, providing supportive structural environments through which the approach can be scaled up institutionally. In Brazil, Equimundo has launched the Portal for Gender Equality in Schools to train teachers on the Programs H and M methodology through an online course.
Equimundo and partners recommend using the Program H and M approaches together, and including specific discussions on sexual diversity and homophobia.
- Program H: Designed for young men, Program H encourages critical reflection about rigid norms related to manhood and encourages transformation of stereotypical roles associated with gender.
- Program D: Designed for use with Program H and Program M, Program D combats homophobia and promotes diversity.
- Portal for Gender Equality in Schools (PEGE): PEGE offers online training for teachers around changing gender norms in the classroom.