CONNECT
search advanced search
UNICEF Innocenti
Office of Research-Innocenti
search menu

Towards a clearer understanding of gender socialization in adolescence

Gender socialization story Yousra (left), 8, with her brothers Haroor rasheed 14 and Umair Rasheed sitting in a classroom in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.

(8 March 2017) Outcomes for  women in employment, education, social protection, politics, science and many  other areas of well-being, lag far behind those for men. This inequality often starts in childhood and holds across the life course. In many places in the world, girls are born into a context of inequality and have limited opportunities to change their situation.

The process of ‘gender socialization’ – the way people learn to behave according to internalized gender norms as they become actors in society – and the many factors that influence it, contribute greatly to unequal outcomes for girls and women across the world. Working with the  International Center for Research on Women, UNICEF Innocenti has just published a discussion paper: Gender socialization during adolescence in low- and middle-income countries which provides an overview of the gender socialization process from its basic theoretical foundations to contemporary programme interventions that aim to influence it.

The new discussion paper has been published by UNICEF Innocenti today in honor of  International Women’s Day 2017, which this year carries the theme of Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030 . The aim is to focus on achieving gender equality in the labour force globally, recognizing it as an “ imperative for sustainable development.”

“As a starting point, we wanted to gain a better understanding of gender socialization by writing a well-researched discussion paper to explore theories from key disciplines (psychology, sociology, biology). Our aim was to capture what these disciplines say about gender socialization and its influences and outcomes by developing a socio-ecological framework which could be used to guide programmes and policy-making,” said UNICEF Innocenti's Nikola Balvin, who supervised the project.

Defining gender socialization

The new paper's extensive literature review allowed the authors to develop a comprehensive definition of gender socialization: "a process by which individuals develop, refine and learn to ‘do’ gender through internalizing gender norms and roles as they interact with key agents of socialization, such as their family, social networks and other social institutions.” But just what does this mean in everyday life?

“Gender socialization begins to take place as soon as children are born and sometimes even in utero. In most contexts, parents and family members treat boys and girls differently. They may dress them in different colours or buy them different toys and as they get older, they may punish and reward differently, give them different household duties, provide different opportunities to go to school, socialize with friends and so on. As children get older, the list of people who communicate what constitutes appropriate gender behaviour to them expands beyond the family and includes, peers, teachers, community leaders, public figures and many more,” says Balvin. Children do not remain passive in this process and themselves internalize gender identities and enforce norms and expectations in their interaction with others.

Gender socialization during adolescence

Being the bridge between childhood and adulthood, adolescence is the critical period where many of the outcomes of gender inequality manifest or intensify. Disadvantages experienced by adolescent girls include harmful practices and negative outcomes such as child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, teenage pregnancy, school drop out, and a high prevalence of HIV. (UNICEF, 2014; WHO, 2016)  Adolescence is also a period when along with rapid physical, sexual and brain development, the  shaping of gender beliefs and attitudes intensifies.

UNICEF and others have come to see adolescence as a “second window of opportunity” to redirect negative trajectories from childhood and start new ones that lead to positive outcomes for girls and boys, and later in life women and men. The discussion paper also includes a rapid review of gender socialization interventions aimed at adolescence. It identifies 31 such evaluated programmes and groups the strategies they employed to make recommendations for more holistic programming.

Structural factors and gender socialization

“Programme interventions usually focus on individuals and communities and we wanted to make sure that the bigger picture within which gender socialization is shaped does not get left out,” said Balvin about the paper’s objective to review societal level factors such as migration, fertility, global media and socio-economic development. The paper recognizes the importance of the labour force in achieving more equal gender power relations. In low- and middle-income countries the global economy has resulted in more women entering the work force, shifting women’s work location outside the household, going from unpaid to paid employment and urban migration where women and men may be exposed to more progressive gender norms, etc. However, the opportunities presented by economic growth are usually mediated by patriarchal social forces that negatively impact on women in the work-force: the type of work they do, the work load they may be burdened with, unequal pay and conditions, all making the world of work a significant contributor to unbalanced gender norms and values. 

“The paper spends a lot of time unpacking the macro, meso and micro factors that influence gender socialization during adolescence to provide a comprehensive understanding of the process and guide a more integrated approach to making decisions about programmes and policies to achieve gender equality and… sustainable development.” 

Related Articles

Age, Gender and Policymaking on Migration: What are the links?
Article Article

Age, Gender and Policymaking on Migration: What are the links?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on all member states to ‘ensure safe, orderly and regular migration with full respect for human rights and for the humane treatment of migrants, regardless of their migration status, and of refugees and internally displaced persons’.[i] Yet each week brings reports of failures to protect the rights of some of the most vulnerable groups of migrants and refugees. We hear of unaccompanied children’s perilous journeys to Europe and the United States. They are fleeing violence and conflict in their countries of origin but instead of being able to access safe migration routes and humane treatment, they are met by closed borders, criminal gangs, exploitation and indifference to their plight.[ii] Bilateral and third country agreements have been put in place in efforts to manage or reduce migration, but these agreements are reported to seriously threaten the human rights of migrants and refugees, particularly vulnerable groups such as girls and women. [iii]Reports of increasing forced displacement and escalating ‘refugee crises’ have been matched by perceptions of migration that incite fear, defensiveness and even violence, depicting refugees and migrants as uncontrolled and unwelcome crowds threatening national borders. These perceptions also disguise the fact that the majority of the world’s refugee population are not en route to rich, developed countries, but residing in neighbouring countries within their own region.[iv] When we group all refugees and migrants together indiscriminately, we miss out on vital information, we fail to address the specific needs of vulnerable groups, and we help to strengthen racism, xenophobia and indifference to the plight of others. So why is it important to talk about age and gender equality? Why does policymaking on migration need to take an age- and gender-sensitive approach? Migration cannot be approached, understood or managed without recognising that, just like the populations of our societies, people on the move are all different. Without thinking about age and gender equality in the context of migration, we would never know, for example, that:  Women and under-18s together make up around 70 per cent of the world’s internally displaced population.[v]75% of South Sudanese refugees in Kenya’s Kakuma camp are women and girls.[vi]In 2015, 98,400 asylum applications by unaccompanied children were processed across 78 countries. This is the highest number of such applications on record.[vii]Of the 23,160 asylum applications made in the EU in 2014 by those considered to be unaccompanied and separated children, 19,915 were boys.[viii]Women and girls are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence at all stages of migration journeys, even when they have reached places of supposed safety.[ix]Without a gender and age sensitive approach to policymaking, we cannot fully understand the needs, experiences and motivations of refugees and migrants. Without it, policymaking cannot address migration and forced displacement at its root causes, and it cannot promote and enable the opportunities that migration offers. Age, gender and migration journeysMigration journeys take place within countries, regions and internationally. Decisions to migrate may be forced, in situations of conflict and disaster, or they may involve different degrees of choice and agency, and combinations of motivation and coercion. Characteristics such as gender and age (along with others such as ethnicity, health, sexual orientation and religion) play a strong role in influencing who migrates and how, and who stays where they are.When thinking about the gender and age dimensions of migration, it is important to think not only about women and men, but also girls and boys. Migrant children might travel with their parents or guardians, with other adults or alone. They might migrate in regular or irregular ways, and move between categories such as unaccompanied, independent, internally displaced, asylum seeking, trafficked and smuggled. In many countries, migration is seen as a rite of passage for young people. Children may migrate in search of work, education, or simply to mark a transition into adolescence or young adulthood. One example is Ghana, where there are established and relatively safe migration paths, travelled regularly by children, along with family, friends or relatives. In Tanzania, 23 per cent of households have male children and 17 per cent female children who have migrated elsewhere.[x] If opportunities are not available for children to migrate safely, for example in order to be unified with family members in other countries, they may make dangerous journeys, including those arranged by smugglers, during which they are vulnerable to abuse and violence.[xi] The types of discrimination and persecution that children face in countries of origin are gendered in nature, and so are opportunities to move or escape. In Afghanistan, a country producing large numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking teenage boys, boys are targeted by the Taliban for conscription.[xii] Afghan girls also face severe discrimination in different forms, but they are far less likely to make unaccompanied journeys. In Ethiopia and Sudan, increasing numbers of unaccompanied Eritrean children – mainly boys, but also some girls – are arriving in refugee camps. Fear of military conscription, lack of education, unemployment and desire to join a family member in another country are behind these children’s journeys.[xiii]It is also important to consider who is left behind, either in countries of origin or in transit countries. The fact that the majority of the Eritrean refugee population in Ethiopia and Sudan are male indicates that more women and girls are staying behind. The disproportionate number of male unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Europe suggests that many girls remain in countries of conflict and instability.Age, gender and life as a refugee or migrantOnce refugees and migrants reach a destination country, their gender- and aged-based experiences continue – in healthcare, education, employment and integration. Access to education is a problem for many migrant and refugee children and young people. In protracted situations of conflict, refugees may spend their whole childhood in displacement, without schooling. Displaced girls are even less likely to attend school than boys.[xiv] Migration to a more developed region does not automatically bring improved learning outcomes. In 2012, migrants aged 15-34 years in OECD countries were more likely than their native-born counterparts to be out of employment, education or training. Young immigrant women were particularly highly represented in this category.[xv] Migrant children also experience poorer health outcomes. In 2013, 50 per cent of children treated by Medecins du Monde-International (an organization for whom 50 per cent of patients are undocumented migrants) in 25 European cities had not been vaccinated against hepatitis B, measles or whooping cough.[xvi] Women migrants in many countries experience unequal access to healthcare services – often as a result of institutional and language barriers. This is particularly problematic given women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare needs and the fact that they are often responsible for children’s health care.[xvii]What can we do to address these issues? How can age and gender perspectives be integrated into policymaking on migration?Policymakers have yet to bring the challenges and risks faced by migrating women and girls, as well as other vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied boys, to the forefront of the migration agenda.[xviii] Approaches and strategies for managing migration are often developed in what is seen as a gender and/or age ‘neutral’ way; they do not take into account the different experiences and needs of women, men, girls and boys. The effects of such approaches, however, are far from neutral in terms of gender and age. Women, girls, boys and older people tend to lose out when strategies are based on a male breadwinner model. So what should policymakers be thinking about when developing national and regional approaches to migration that take age and gender equality into account? Below are some suggestions.[xix]Impact assess all new policy on migration (and existing policies that have not been assessed in this way) to ensure that the human rights of people of all genders and ages are respected and that relevant international standards such as the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are adhered to. Ensure that migration policies and practices treat children as individual rights holders, whether they are accompanied by adults or not. Create and maintain safe and legal channels for people fleeing conflict and persecution, and develop special measures to ensure that vulnerable groups such as girls, boys, women, older and disabled people can access formal migration channels and do not resort to life threatening sea and land journeys.Discontinue the immigration detention of children, families with children and other vulnerable groups including survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and pregnant women. Cease the separation of families through detention. Develop family reunification policies that take a rights-based approach and do not discriminate on the grounds of gender or age, or perpetuate existing inequalities. Implement these policies in a timely way, most especially for refugees and asylum seekers including unaccompanied children, so that family members can join their relatives safely and avoid being stranded in transit. Ensure that migrant and refugee children and women have equal access to education, health and social services, and shelter regardless of residence status.Work with local women’s and children’s organisations to develop mechanisms to detect vulnerable groups on arrival and provide tailored services such as women only and family/child spaces, and sexual and gender based violence protection and prevention services.Build the capacity of state, regional and local governments, along with organisations working on the ground with migrants and refugees to collect, analyse and use data disaggregated by migratory status, gender and age (and the other characteristics specified in Global Goal 17.18). Ensure that this takes place in transit as well as destination countries, and in internally displaced populations too. Of course this is not easy. There are many obstacles faced by those who wish to create, implement and evaluate gender- and age-sensitive migration policies that can have real impacts in practice. These include restricted resources, negative public opinion around migration, fast moving humanitarian situations and weak institutional capacity for mainstreaming equality issues. But we cannot afford not to develop and implement these policies. Decision makers need to be aware of, willing to take action on, and not indifferent to, the plight of vulnerable groups of refugees and migrants. As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the new Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) present an important entry point. In addition to Goal 10, which has a specific target on safe migration, there are nine other goals particularly relevant to migration.[xx] Policymakers should take this opportunity to look at migration in an intersectional way; recognising the specific experiences, needs and strengths of particular groups of migrants and refugees, and addressing these through inclusive, sensitive and evidence based policymaking. This is one step in a journey towards protecting the human rights of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people around the globe. _____________________________________________ [i] UNDESA (2015) Integrating migration into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, POPFACTS No. 2015/5, http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/ populationfacts/docs/MigrationPopFacts20155.pdf[ii] Gentlemen, A. (2016) ‘Migrant children are being failed by UK, says Lords committee report’ in The Guardian, 26 July 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/unaccompanied-migrant-children-failed-uk-government-lords-eu-committee ; UNICEF (2016) Danger every step of the way: A harrowing journey to Europe for refugee and migrant children, www.unicef.org/emergencies/childrenonthemove/files/Child_Alert_Final_PDF.pdf ; UNICEF (2016) Neither Safe nor Sound: Unaccompanied children on the coastline of the English channel and the north sea, http://www.unicef.org.uk/Latest/Publications/Neither-Safe-Nor-Sound/ ; UNHCR (2014a) Children on the Run: Unaccompanied Children Leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection, http://www.unhcr.org/56fc266f4.html [iii] Women’s Refugee Commission (2016) EU Turkey Agreement Failing Refugee Women and Girls, https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/rights/resources/1357-eu-turkey-agreement[iv] UNHCR (2016) Facts and figures about refugees, http://www.unhcr.ie/about-unhcr/facts-and-figures-about-refugees[v] IDMC (2014) Girl disrupted, http://www. internal-displacement.org/assets/publications/2014/201403-global-girl-disrupted-pic-brief-en.pdf[vi] UNHCR (2015) South Sudan Situation: Regional overview of population of concern, https://data.unhcr.org/SouthSudan/download.php?id=2436[vii] UNHCR (2016) Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015, http://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2016/6/5763b65a4/global-forced-displacement-hits-record-high.html  [viii] Eurostat (2015) Asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors by citizenship, age and sex annual data, http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=migr_asyunaa&lang=en [ix] Birchall, J. (2016) Gender, Age and Migration: An extended briefing, BRIDGE, http://www.bridge.ids.ac.uk/news/new-publication-gender-age-and-migration-extended-briefing[x] Kelly, A. (2010) Leaving Home: Voices of Children on the Move, Global Movement for Children, http://resourcecentre.savethechildren.se/sites/default/files/documents/4914.pdf [xi] Crepeau, F. (2013) ‘The rights of all children in the context of international migration’ in IOM (2013) Children on the Move, http://publications.iom.int/books/children-move[xii] Foreign Policy Journal (2015) ‘The Refugee Crisis and Afghan Asylum Seekers in Europe: Testimony of Youth’, Foreign Policy Journal, http://www.foreignpolicyjournal. com/2015/11/20/the-refugee-crisis-and-afghan-asylum-seekers-in-europe-testimony-of-youth/[xiii] WRC (2013) Young and Astray: Unaccompanied Children from Eritrea, https://womensrefugeecommission.org/images/zdocs/Young_and_ Astray_web.pdf[xiv] WRC (2010) Education for Refugee Children Factsheet, https://womensrefugeecommission.org/programs/youth/research-and-resources/522- education-for-refugee-children-fact-sheet [xv] OECD (2015d), Indicators of Immigrant Integration 2015: Settling In, http://www. oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/8115051e.pdf[xvi] Keith, L. and LeVoy, M. (2015) Protecting undocumented children: Promising policies and practices from governments, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), http://picum.org/picum.org/uploads/publication/Protecting%20 undocumented%20children-Promising%20policies%20and%20practices%20from%20 governments.pdf[xvii] Aspinall, P. and Watters, C. (2010), Refugees and asylum seekers: A review from an equality and human rights perspective, Equality and Human Rights Commission, https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/research-report-52-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-review-equality-and-human-rights; Ghosh, J (2009) Migration and Gender Empowerment: Recent Trends and Emerging Issues, UN Development Programme, http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/hdrp_2009_04.pdf; Orozco, A.P. et al (2010) Crossing Borders II: Migration and Development from a Gender Perspective, United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW), http://www.globalmigrationgroup.org/sites/default/files/uploads/gmg-topics/gender/UN-Women-Crossing-Borders-II-Conceptual-Framework_2010.pdf[xviii] Bozrikova, T. and Niyazova, A. (2011) Major approaches and principles of mainstreaming gender into migration policy, UN Women, http://www.unwomen-eeca.org/module/project/img/204.pdf ; UNFPA (2015) Policy brief: female migrants, https://www.unitar.org/dcp/sites/unitar.org.dcp/files/uploads/unfpa_-_policy_brief_on_female_migrants.pdf[xix] More detailed and extensive recommendations, as well as some examples of good practice, can be found in Birchall, J. (2016) Gender, Age and Migration: An extended briefing, http://www.bridge.ids.ac.uk/news/new-publication-gender-age-and-migration-extended-briefing[xx] UNDESA (2015) Integrating migration into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, POPFACTS No. 2015/5, http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/populationfacts/docs/MigrationPopFacts20155.pdf
A South African Perspective on Gender Inequality, Violence, Sexual Health and HIV
Article Article

A South African Perspective on Gender Inequality, Violence, Sexual Health and HIV

Research emerging over the last two decades has demonstrated the critical impact of women's subordination to men and exposure to violence on their risk of HIV [1]. This heightened risk pertains in both adult women and girls. Critical evidence stems from research with adolescents in South Africa. This shows that those who have experienced intimate partner violence or who are in relationships with low equality are at greater risk of incident HIV infections, compared to those who do not. Nearly one in seven new HIV infections could be prevented if young women were not subjected to physical or sexual abuse and a similar proportion if they did not experience the greatest relationship power inequalities [2]. Research also shows that young women who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood and are not infected from the sexual acts are at greater risk of subsequent HIV infections as adolescents [3]. These findings are of huge importance in programming around HIV prevention and sexual health promotion for women of all ages. It is important to recognise that there is no direct biological connection, and this also means that the relative importance of exposure to violence may differ somewhat between populations. South African research suggests that severe violence exposure (more than one episode of physical or sexual intimate partner violence) is critical here, rather than any violence exposure. The two most important intersections between violence, gender inequity and heightened HIV risk find expression in ideas about appropriate behaviour of men and women. In particular, these relate to the notion that men should be dominant over and in control of women, they should be heterosexual and should demonstrate their fearlessness, emotional resilience and heterosexuality through having many partners, buying sex if necessary, heavy drinking and care-freeness with respect to HIV risks [4]. Parallel expectations from women are that they will submit and treat their man ‘like a father' and not challenge his behaviour and control [5]. The use of violence is of course just one way in which control of female partners is achieved; women who submit to their male partner may not experience violence, but may none the less be at risk. Not all women do submit yet the context of resistance may also lead to violence, as in South Africa violence, especially rape, is often used to impose norms that women may have otherwise resisted. So women who position themselves as independent, whether by resisting men's advances or by adopting lifestyles that are more akin to those accepted for men, for example through seeking transactional sex, engaging in sex work, or having multiple partners, are more likely to experience violence from men, as well as having greater HIV risks associated with these practices. Such gender positions of submission and resistance on the part of women are fluid and women may submit in some relationships but not others, or at different times in their lives. Most of the critical South African-based understandings of gender and HIV come from research with young women and men, mainly teenagers, and for them this is a critical formative stage in development. Research shows that teenagers tend to be more socially conservative with respect to gender roles than older men and women. This undoubtedly influences the high HIV incidence among teenage girls. Addressing their vulnerability requires working through the issues surrounding gender, and will not be achieved through attempts to change behaviour in isolation from the broader social and relational context. Men mostly control sexual encounters, and it is tempting to think that programmes targeting them and their self-interest will be enough but, apart from the obvious exclusion of women, this is short sighted. Understandings from gender theory indicate that the impact on men will be limited by ideals of masculinity emphasising the demonstration of their manliness, with related sexually risky practices, unless interventions set out to change these. Evidence from the Stepping Stones programme evaluation shows that men can change in response to interventions that address gender issues, even among impoverished, relatively disempowered rural men, and that the incremental changes that made men a little less violent and more caring translated into a lower risk of genital herpes infections [6]. Discussion of gender and HIV is incomplete without reflecting on the risks for women in sex work and their clients. Whilst there has been a dominant focus on protecting individual sex acts, the broader understanding of how young women come to be in sex work and the multiple risks therein are often ignored. There is a particularly well established trajectory between early sexual abuse and engagement in sex work, which makes the practice inherently deeply interwoven with gender equity issues. Furthermore women in sex work are perceived as subordinated by both their gender and by stigmatised sexual practices, rendering them particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual violence from their male clients, partners and others, such as the police. The gender inequity, violence and sex work nexus is further explicated by research that shows that men who engaged sexually with female sex workers, such as those who have transactional sex and relationships, are particularly prone to violence, criminal engagement and sexual risk taking [7]. In 2012 there is no lack of scientific evidence supporting the need for programming on gender equity and prevention of violence, and its critical role in reducing HIV risk. Developing means to effectively translate the evidence into programming is essential. Core elements involve a recognition that efforts need to be directed at both men and women, and that for adolescents, HIV prevention and reproductive health promotion need to be co-programmed with gender equity as they have common roots. Recent reviews of what works in the prevention of sexual and intimate partner violence, published by the WHO, show that some of the interventions that have been evaluated have proven to be effective in violence prevention and can form key parts of HIV prevention programming. Of course further research into interventions is needed, but the central challenge is to develop mechanisms for programming what is now known to work whilst further developing the evidence base. _________________________________________________ References 1. Jewkes R (2010) Gender inequities must be addressed in HIV prevention. Science 329: 145-147. 2. Jewkes R, Dunkle K, Nduna M, Shai N (2010) Intimate partner violence, relationship gender power inequity, and incidence of HIV infection in young women in South Africa: a cohort study. The Lancet 367: 41-48. 3. Jewkes R, Dunkle K, Nduna M, Jama N, Puren A (2010) Associations between childhood adversity and depression, substance abuse & HIV & HSV2 in rural South African youth. Child Abuse and Neglect 34: 833-841. 4. Jewkes R, Morrell R (2010) Gender and sexuality: emerging perspectives from the heterosexual epidemic in South Africa and implications for HIV risk and prevention. . Journal of the International AIDS Society 13: (9 February 2010). 5. Jewkes R, Morrell R (2012) Sexuality and the limits of agency among South African teenage women: theorising femininities and their connections to HIV risk practices. Social Science & Medicine 74: 1729-1737. 6. Jewkes R, Nduna M, Levin J, Jama N, Dunkle K, et al. (2008) Impact of stepping stones on incidence of HIV and HSV-2 and sexual behaviour in rural South Africa: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ 337: a506. 7. Jewkes R, Sikweyiya Y, Morrell R, Dunkle K, Penn-Kekana L (2012) Men, prostitution and the provider role: understanding the intersections of economic exchange, sex, crime and violence in South Africa. PLoS One.
The importance of working with boys in closing the adolescent gender gap
Article Article

The importance of working with boys in closing the adolescent gender gap

Girls, and in particular adolescent girls, have become a major focus in the development sector in the past few years.Many of the major United Nations and multilateral development organizations, as well as international non-governmental organizations and the private sector, now have girls’ programming.This is a positive step. For many decades, ‘girls’ in the development sector were often categorised either as ‘women’ or as ‘children’. There was little disaggregation either of data or of programming by sex and age, and the particular needs of girls, in particular adolescent girls, were neglected by many.[1]There is now increasing recognition that adolescent girls, on the cusp of becoming women, are particularly vulnerable – for example to early and forced marriage, or to sexual exploitation. But there is also understanding that this means intervening at this point in time can bring many benefits, not only for the girl herself but for her future family. For example, we know that if a girl goes to school (often even despite the poor quality of that schooling) she is more likely to be able to find work that will give her a modicum of independence, is more likely to know how to keep her own children safe and healthy, and in turn more likely to send them to school.More recently, projects and programmes have begun to examine not only the ways in which individual girls can be supported, but the structural barriers that prevent girls having the same choices in life as their brothers. [2]As part of this, there is a renewed interest in how men can be involved in working for gender equality, recognising that men still hold the power in many families, communities and societies. Religious leaders and politicians are often men, and they shape the lives of women and men, girls and boys. Fathers are often the ones who still make the decisions about whether their daughter goes to school, or when and who she marries.However, there is still one group that has received relatively little attention, and that is adolescent boys. When I visit groups of girls for my work in different countries, the boys are often there on the sidelines, asking why they have been left out. They are jumping up to look in the windows of the health clinic or peering into the door of a meeting house.Of course it is important to give girls space to talk away from boys, and projects where they can discuss and learn as girls, on their own.But even looking at this from a girls’ perspective, the strategy of leaving out the boys seems short-sighted for it is inevitable that they will have a huge influence on girls’ lives. For one thing, they are their future (sometimes not very far in the future) husbands and fathers to their children.  They may become supportive husbands and caring fathers, but they may also be authoritarian or even violent.We know that while attitudes and social norms are shaped at an early age, adolescence is a key transition period for boys as well as girls; adolescence is the time when boys learn what it means to be a man. It may also be the time when negative attitudes towards girls and women are reinforced, and when they may feel pressure to behave in stereotypical ‘male’ ways; ways that continue into adulthood and may then be passed on to their own male children.The negative consequences of such attitudes and behaviour for girls and young women are clear. Not just for the one in 10 girls and women globally who have experienced forced intercourse or forced sexual acts[3] or the 180 who are killed every day around the world, mostly by an intimate male partner,[4]but for all those who are denied the choices and opportunities in life given to their brothers. This alone should be enough of an argument for working with boys as well.But negative social norms also have an adverse effect on boys and young men.For example, although in many countries more boys than girls still go to primary school, boys are now dropping out of school at a faster rate than girls. They are also doing less well academically.[5]Young men are less likely to visit a doctor or a clinic or to seek information about their health – as a result, 60 per cent of men and boys aged 15 to 24 do not have accurate and comprehensive knowledge about HIV and how to avoid transmission.[6]Young men have high rates of alcohol and substance use. Studies in both the US and South Africa have found that young men who adhere to traditional views of manhood were more likely to engage in substance use, violence and delinquency, and unsafe sexual practices.[7]In addition, boys and young men may be the main perpetrators of violence but they are also the main victims. In 2014 eight out of ten of the 437,000 people who died from homicide in the world in 2014 were men. More than half were under 30. [8]Young men also have among the highest rates of death by traffic accidents, suicide and violence. In Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica and some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, more young men die in these ways than in countries at war. [9]This is not to say that boys and young men are worse off than girls and young women – men still hold power in most countries - but gender inequality has negative effects on both sexes.To date, most of the projects around male engagement in gender equality have focused on adult men, but there is increasing recognition of the need to involve boys and young men in challenging gender stereotypes and violence.For example, in India, Parivartan’s ‘Coaching boys into men’ programme[10] works with boys through sport; in a number of countries Instituto Promundo [11] engages young men in its ‘Program H’ training to encourage critical reflection about the rigid norms related to manhood; in South Africa Sonke Gender Justice[12]runs the ‘One Man Can’ campaign to encourage men and boys to support gender equality, and prevent gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS.If the many projects and programmes with girls are to have the desired outcomes, then there also needs to be investment in boys – not instead of, but as well as, the work with girls. Boys and young men too need to learn new ways of being. They need to learn to respect girls and women – and to respect themselves. They need to understand that there is more than one way of being a man.  This will have an impact not only on women and girls but also on boys’ own lives as they grow into men. It means that they may be more likely to become more equal and non-violent husbands and fathers. And this can only be a win-win for both sexes.Some useful references:International Center for Research on Women (2010). The girl effect: What do boys have to do with it? A briefing note for an expert meeting and workshop October 5-6. Washington, D.C., ICRW.Van der Gaag, N. (2011). Because I am a girl: So, what about boys? Canada, USA, United Kingdom: Plan International.UNFPA (2013). Engaging men and boys: A brief summary of experience and lessons learned. New York, UNFPA.UNICEF (2012). Progress for children: A report card on adolescents, no. 10. New York, UNICEF.[1] Grosser, K. and van der Gaag, N. ‘Can girls save the world?’ in T. Wallace and F. Porter (eds)(2013).  Aid, NGOs and the Realities of Women’s Lives: A Perfect Storm, Practical Action.[2] Watson, C. (2015). Understanding changing social norms and practices around girls' education and marriage: Lessons learned and issues raised from year 2 of a multi-country field study, London, Overseas Development Institute.[3] World Health Organization (2013). Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. Geneva, WHO.[4] Global burden of armed violence 2011, Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development.http://www.genevadeclaration.org/the-geneva-declaration/what-is-the-declaration.html[5]Barker, G., et al (2012). ‘Boys and education in the global south: Emerging vulnerabilities and new opportunities for promoting changes in gender norms’. Thymos Journal of Boyhood Studies, 6, 137-150.[6]UNAIDS (2008). Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic. Geneva, UNAIDS.[7]Dunkle, K. L., et al. (2007). ‘Transactional sex with casual and main partners among young South African men in the rural Eastern Cape: Prevalence, predictors, and associations with gender-based violence.’ Social Science & Medicine, 65, 6, September 2007. And Mahalik, J.R., Burns, S, and Syzdek, M. (2007). ‘Masculinity and perceived normative health behaviors as predictors of men’s health behaviors.’ Social Science & Medicine, 64, 11, March 26 2007.[8] http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/press/releases/2014/April/some-437000-people-murdered-worldwide-in-2012-according-to-new-unodc-study.html[9]Barker, G. (2005). Dying to be men: Youth masculinities and social exclusion. London, Routledge.[10] www.icrw.org/where-we-work/parivartan-coaching-boys-men[11] http://promundoglobal.org[12]  www.genderjustice.org.za