Gender is a critical dimension to consider when addressing youth health concerns, especially for reproductive health and HIV/AIDS programs and policies.

Gender norms, often rooted in culture and beliefs, can contribute to unintended pregnancy, STIs, HIV/AIDS, sexual violence and coercion, early marriage, and other harmful practices.

For females, gender norms in many cultures may include expectations of submissiveness, deference to male authority, dependence, virginity until marriage, and faithfulness during marriage. Norms for men, in contrast, are built around power and control, independence, not showing emotions, risk-taking, using violence to resolve conflict, early sexual activity, and having multiple sexual partners. Such inequality limits young people's control over their reproductive lives and reinforces centuries-old development challenges.

Adolescence provides an opportunity to address gender issues and related reproductive health concerns. Many projects that address gender inequality have focused primarily on the needs of girls, but there is growing recognition of the importance of working with boys and young men to help achieve positive long-term change. Working to change gender norms while people are young is a proven and cost-effective way of addressing gender inequalities and improving reproductive health and HIV/AIDS outcomes.


Journal of Adolescent Health, Special Supplement: The Global Early Adolescent Study: An Exploration of the Factors that Shape Adolescence.

The work in this supplement fills important gaps in the literature around what works for changing gender norms for young people. “The Global Early Adolescent Study focuses on developmental issues of younger adolescents, age 10 to 14 years, in 15 different high-, middle-, and low-income countries across the world. Equally importantly, this study focuses on adolescents within low-income settings in each of these countries, to capture relatively unexplored contexts for gender identity development.” The collection of papers “contribute important insights into the nearly universal presence of some gender norms, even in countries that generally consider themselves to have high levels of gender equity, as well as observations unique to specific cities. As a result, they underscore the importance of context in shaping the way gender is learned, enforced, and reinforced among adolescents, and the health inequities that can emerge as a result of these social forces.” (2017)

Gender Roles, Equality & Transformations: GREAT Project How-To Guide.

“The Gender Roles, Equality, and Transformations (GREAT) project is an evidence-based international development intervention that succeeded in improving gender norms related to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence in Northern Uganda. This How-to-Guide will provide you and your staff with the tools and instructions you need to implement the GREAT project in your community.” (2016)

Youth Clubs, Girls’ Empowerment and Gender Equality: Implementation lessons from the WGCD Grand Challenge

“This brief presents findings from four organizations that are implementing and researching youth clubs as a tool for girls’ empowerment and gender equality. All are doing so with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation under the Women and Girls at the Center of Development (WGCD) Grand Challenge.” “These preliminary findings can help to frame future research questions to increase the evidence base on effective club models.” (2018)

USAID Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy

Gender equality and female empowerment are fundamental to the realization of human rights and key to effective and sustainable development outcomes. Although many gender gaps have narrowed over the past two decades, substantial inequalities remain across every development priority worldwide – from political participation to economic inclusion – and remain a significant challenge across all sectors in which USAID works, particularly in low-income and conflict-affected countries and among disadvantaged groups. Building on the Agency’s decades of experience, the new policy provides guidance on pursuing more effective, evidence-based investments in gender equality and female empowerment and incorporating these efforts into our core development programming. (2012)


Transforming Gender Norms among Very Young Adolescents: An Innovative Intervention and Evaluation in Nepal

Created specifically for boys and girls aged 10 - 14 years old, the CHOICES curriculum engaged adolescents in fun, developmentally appropriate dialogues about their notions of respect, communication, fairness and their dreams for the future. The goal of the curriculum is to empower youth and adolescents, through systematic thought reasoning and behavior change, to challenge the accepted social gender norms in their community (2013).


The Gender Guide for Health Communication Programs

This guide provides a five-step approach to ensuring that communication programs incorporate gender sensitivity. It includes examples of successful programs and information about terminology.


The Facts: Gender Inequality and Violence against Women and Girls around the World

This publication highlights the ways in which violence and discrimination against women and girls violates their human rights and compromises young people's reproductive health and makes the case for increased advocacy and programming for gender equality and reproductive justice (2010).


IGWG Gender and Health Toolkit

This eToolkit is a product of the Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG), K4Health, and USAID. It brings together an enormous wealth of gender resources in one location to provide practical, "how-to" methodologies and tools on gender that are designed to move health practitioners and managers from awareness and commitment to direct application and practice in policy and program design, implementation, research, capacity building, and monitoring and evaluation (2012).


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, reproductive health, violence, and relationship. 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).


On Norms and Agency: Conversations About Gender Equality With Women and Men in 20 Countries

Social norms, gender roles, beliefs about one's own capacity, and assets, as well as communities and countries, determine the opportunities available to women and men, and their ability to take advantage of them (2012).


Questioning Gender Norms with Men to Improve Health Outcomes: Evidence of Impact

This article describes a review of 58 evaluation studies of programs with men and boys in reproductive health (including HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support); father involvement; gender-based violence; maternal, newborn and child health; and gender socialization more broadly (2010).


PEPFAR Updated Gender Strategy

The purpose of this strategy is to help PEPFAR country teams and implementing partners (a) develop country and regional operational plans (COPs and ROPs), (b) design programs that integrate gender issues and (c) work to advance gender equality throughout the HIV continuum of prevention, care, treatment, and support. All HIV programs should identify gender-related issues and take concrete steps to address them throughout the program cycle (2013).


Transforming Gender Norms, Roles and Power Dynamics for Better Health

The Gender, Policy and Measurement program, funded by the Asia bureau of the United States Agency for International Development, undertook a comprehensive, systematic review of the impact of gender-integrated programs on health outcomes. The findings are primarily intended to inform the work of government officials, donors, nongovernmental organizations, and other key stakeholders involved in health programming in India, as well as other low- and middle-income countries around the world. The Transforming Gender Norms, Roles, and Power Dynamics review is guided by the perspective that all health programs must employ evidence-based strategies that promote gender equity and empower women and men to achieve better health (2014).


Compendium of Gender Equality and HIV Indicators

The compendium of indicators is the result of an international collaboration of multi and bilateral donors (including UNWomen, UNAIDS, WHO, USAID, PEPFAR, GFATM), civil society, NGOs, researchers and other experts who came to agreement on a set of standardized indicators to measure programmatic areas vital to the intersection of gender and HIV that may be used at national, regional or programmatic levels (2014).


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

What does it mean to “be a man” to adolescent boys in the Balkans region? Can it mean keeping the peace instead of perpetrating violence? Having fun without drugs and alcohol? Practicing safe sex? For seven years, a coalition of local, regional, and international organizations promoted these positive masculine identities under the banner of the “Young Men Initiative” (YMI). 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. This synthesis report provides an overview of the program’s rationale, design, and evaluation results from YMI’s implementation in vocational high schools (2013).


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. Based on the US-based program, Coaching Boys into Men developed by Futures Without Violence, 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).


GEMS Campaign Guide: Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS)

The Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS) program aims to promote gender equality among adolescents in school settings by encouraging equal relationships between girls and boys, examining the social norms that define men’s and women’s roles, and questioning the use of violence. The main components of GEMS are group education activities (GEA) and a campaign. The campaign is a week-long series of events, including games, competitions, debates and short plays, aimed at reaching out to students. This campaign guide walks facilitators through steps and ideas to organize similar campaigns on gender and violence in schools (2011).

​Educational impact of peer-intervention on the knowledge and attitudes about HIV/AIDS in adolescents in Panama

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the knowledge, attitudes, and practices about HIV/AIDS of high school students in Panama City, Panama and the impact of a peer-to-peer intervention project.