While there is growing recognition of the importance of including men and boys in sexual and reproductive health (SRH)-related work, this practice is still gaining ground. Often, adhering to traditional gender roles can cause disproportionate health risks for women and girls. Women and girls may have to ask their father, husband, or brother for permission to use contraception, to purchase sanitary products, or to receive medical services. Young men and boys may withhold health care, put their own well-being (or that of other male family members) ahead of the well-being of women and girls, and refuse to engage in behaviors to prevent pregnancy or the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Working with young men and boys on SRH issues is often motivated by the desire to improve the health of young women and girls by changing male behavior, but boys and young men need knowledge for their own sake as well. There is also evidence that current gender norms and constructions of masculinity put young men and boys at an increased risk for a range of negative health outcomes related to STIs and unintended pregnancy.

There is a diversity of cultural, social, economic, structural, and institutional drivers behind young men and boys’ SRH behaviors. More evidence is needed to document what works in achieving large-scale, long-term change. Young men and boys are not a homogenous group and should not be treated as such; there is a diversity of men’s sexual identities, practices, relations, and held beliefs about gender. Engaging men and boys in the struggle to improve their sexual and reproductive health and to examine and tackle harmful gender norms is essential to making gains for both adolescent boys and girls, and men and women. Young men and boys can also serve as champions of women and girls’ health, and many do — as doctors, nurses, public health practitioners, husbands, fathers, and friends.

Engendering Men: A Collaborative Review of Evidence on Men and Boys in Social Change and Gender Equality

This evidence summary highlights lessons from a literature review of evidence on men and boys in relation to social change and gender equality. Designed to help answer the question, “What works best when it comes to engaging men and boys for gender equality?,” this report assesses trends and shifts in social norms and structures over the past 20 years; successful policies and program; implications for best practices; and future directions for promoting male support for gender equality (2015).

The Making Of Sexual Violence: How Does a Boy Grow Up to Commit Rape? Evidence from Five IMAGES Countries

This report shares data from the International Men and Gender Equality Study (IMAGES) study and builds on previous evidence regarding the tremendous levels of sexual violence that women and girls face around the world. This violence takes many forms, occurs in all types of households, is endemic to “peacetime” as well as conflict, and has devastating intergenerational effects. At the same time, the report identifies factors that point the way towards policies and programs to prevent violence before it happens and to mitigate its harmful effects. The men interviewed in the IMAGES study reported rates of perpetrating sexual violence that in most cases met or exceeded the level of violence reported by women. Male respondents’ attitudes related to gender spanned a range of views, from the rigidly traditional to the more progressive and equitable. This suggests that men across the world hold diverse, shifting views about how men and women should relate (2014). 

Be a Man, Change the Rules: Findings and Lessons from Seven Years of CARE International Balkans’ Young Men Initiative

This synthesis report provides an overview of the “Young Men Initiative” (YMI) program’s rationale, design, and evaluation results from YMI’s implementation in vocational high schools. For the past seven years, a coalition of local, regional, and international organizations has been promoting positive masculine identities through this program. Coordinated by CARE International Balkans, implemented by collaborating institutions in four countries, and evaluated by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), YMI seeks to promote a lifestyle that prioritizes good health, nonviolence, and gender equality through a combination of educational workshops and community campaigns (2014).

Engaging Coaches and Athletes in Fostering Gender Equity Findings from the Parivartan Program in Mumbai, India

Parivartan, which means transformation, engaged cricket coaches and mentors in schools and the community to teach boys lessons about controlling aggression, preventing violence, and promoting respect. The program engages coaches as positive role models and trains them to deliver messages to their male athletes about the importance of respecting women and understanding violence never equals strength. This report describes the three-year program and summarizes key findings from the evaluation conducted by ICRW (2012).

Engaging Men and Boys: A Brief Summary of UNFPA Experience and Lessons Learned

This report presents background about and rationale for engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights. It illustrates a range of initiatives that have successfully engaged men and boys (2013).

Men are Changing: Case Study Evidence on Work with Men and Boys to Promote Gender Equality and Positive Masculinities

This report describes and analyzes 12 programs from around the world that sought to alter the attitudes and behaviors of men in relation to sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, violence, and relationships. The report discusses challenges in this field; provides an overview of emerging good practice; and makes recommendations for improving existing policy work, programs, and services (2010).

Engaging Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality

This summary report highlights, the cross-cutting themes, lessons learned, research results, and challenges during the 2009 global symposium "Engaging Men & Boys in Achieving Gender Equality (2000).

Because I am a Girl: The State of the World's Girls 2011: So, what about boys?

This report, part of the annual Because I am a Girl series, focuses on the role of men and boys in creating gender equality and real improvements in the lives of girls. The report includes primary research with more than 4,000 children, revealing that many stereotypical beliefs about gender roles in society are still entrenched among the world's young people (2011).

Men-Streaming in Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV: A Toolkit for Policy Development and Advocacy

Programs about sexual and reproductive health and HIV are likely to have a greater impact on communities if they constructively address the actual and potential role of men and boys in society. At present, however, many such programs often fail to target men, to address their specific needs, or to understand the wider influence of male and female gender norms. This toolkit helps organizations create and advocate for affirmative policies that promote the positive roles that men can play in improving their own sexual and reproductive health—and the health of women and children (2010).

The Girl Effect: What Do Boys Have to Do with it?

Many researchers and programmers are exploring opportunities to work with girls and boys to overcome discrimination and build a more gender-equitable world. This paper argues for a gender and developmental perspective to explore "what boys have to do with the 'girls effect.'" This approach seeks to better understand gendered behavior in adolescents over their life cycle. Such a perspective can be used to develop programs and undertake policy efforts to promote equitable and healthy gender identities and norms with benefits for both girls and boys (2010).

YouthLens No. 16: Boys and Changing Gender Roles

A growing number of projects recognize the importance of working with boys and young men to change norms and at the same time affect behaviors related to reproductive health and HIV/AIDS (2005).

Promoting More Gender-equitable Norms and Behaviors Among Young Men as an HIV/AIDS Prevention Strategy

There is growing evidence that risk of acquiring HIV/STIs for both young men and young women is linked to early socialization that promotes certain gender roles as the norm. This document examines the effectiveness of interventions designed to improve young men's attitudes toward gender norms and to reduce HIV/STI risk (2006).

Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality and Health

This toolkit provides program guidance for engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality and health. Specific topics include sexual and reproductive health, maternal, newborn, and child health, fatherhood, HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence prevention. In addition to program examples, this toolkit contains guidance on advocacy, needs assessment, and monitoring and evaluation related to efforts to engage men and boys (2010).

Young Men and HIV: Culture, Poverty, and Sexual Risk

This report explains the critical role that young men play in the global AIDS pandemic. It highlights how they been largely ignored in HIV interventions to date and explains how this exclusion could have devastating results in the long-term. It investigates the challenges young men face and looks at the most effective ways of addressing their needs (2001).

Working with Young Men To Promote Sexual and Reproductive Health

This report discusses innovative and successful work to promote sexual and reproductive health among men in developing countries (2002).

Young Men and the Construction of Masculinity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for HIV/AIDS, Conflict, and Violence

This report provides a review of literature on men and masculinities, conflict, and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan and examples of programs that apply a gender perspective to work with young men (2005).

New Visions: Life Skills Education for Boys

This fact sheet describes the results of a non-formal education program designed to encourage the important life skills and to increase gender sensitivity and reproductive health knowledge among boys and men aged 12-20 (2002).

Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Boys in South Asia: A Review of Research Findings, Legislation, Policy, and Program Responses

This paper provides an overview of research findings, legislation, policy, and program responses to prevent and respond to the sexual abuse and exploitations of boys in South Asia. The background to the paper is based on the findings from previously conducted UNICEF IRC research on child trafficking in the region, which reported that boys enjoy less legal protection than girls from sexual abuse and exploitation and less access to service for victims. This paper suggests that the rights and needs of boys require greater focus in legislation and policies (2010).