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Building support for gender equality among young adolescents in school: findings from Mumbai, India

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There is increasing recognition that to reduce gender inequality — a goal fundamental to improving a country’s overall health and development — programs must start with youth. Yet there has been limited engagement of both girls and boys during early adolescence to challenge and shift gender norms that contribute to girls and women having less worth, opportunities and decision-making ability than boys and men. Such inequitable gender norms can have a host of harmful consequences for girls and boys during childhood and beyond, including poor sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes, violence and school drop out. In the last few years a growing body of evidence has emerged in numerous settings, including India, linking individual attitudes around gender to SRH behaviors and the use and experience of violence. Because gender socialization of both boys and girls begins early in India, it is important to initiate change processes at a young age to shape attitudes and transform behaviors. In response, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), in partnership with the Committee of Resource Organizations for Literacy (CORO) and the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS), developed a school-based program entitled “Gender Equity Movement in Schools,” or GEMS, for students in Grades VI and VII. GEMS promotes gender equality 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. This report summarizes the key findings from the first phase of the program, which was implemented in Mumbai public schools across two academic years (2008-09 and 2009-10), reaching more than 8000 girls and boys ages 12-14. In the second phase currently underway, GEMS is being scaled up to over 250 schools in Mumbai. (Excerpt) –

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