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Empowering Young Men: The Crucial Role of Life Skills Education in Combating Gender-Based Violence

Published 12/05/2023 by Global Communities

16 Days of Activism -Educating Boys to be Champions of Gender Equity

By Betty Adera and the Botswana Country Team

In a world striving for equality and justice, it is imperative to recognize education’s pivotal role in shaping future generations’ attitudes and behaviors. One of the key battlegrounds against gender-based violence lies within the corridors of our schools, where young minds are molded and empowered to become agents of positive change.

Gender-based violence remains a pervasive issue globally, affecting millions of lives each year. To dismantle the root of this problem, it is essential to address societal norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence. Boys, from a young age, often witness and internalize harmful cultural practices and behaviors that contribute to gender inequality. By instilling the values of respect, dignity and inclusion, and fostering a sense of empathy in boys, schools can play a vital role in breaking this cycle. Schools play an indispensable role transitioning young boys into gentlemen who stand against gender-based violence through life skills education.

Young boys from Botswana’s Mahalapye District prepare for a Life Skills Plus session on gender equality. Since 2021, the school-based program has reached a total of 9,060 boys aged 9 to 19 years old.

Globally, one in three women experience physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. Intimate partner violence is widespread throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, with 36% of women experiencing intimate partner violence, a figure which exceeds the global average by 6%. Women in Africa are 46.5% more likely to be subjected to lifetime partner violence and 11.9% more likely to experience sexual assault than women anywhere else in the world. In Botswana alone, over 67% of women have experienced abuse, which is double the global average. Violence against women and girls is a prevalent and pervasive human rights violation that disrupts peace and stability within families and communities.

It is for this reason that Global Communities, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)/Botswana are implementing the school-based Life Skills Plus program. This program aims to shape young minds foundationally with conflict resolution, communication, decision-making, problem solving and violence prevention skills that will make them well-grounded citizens and agents of change.

Teaching boys to respect the autonomy and dignity of every individual is a powerful step toward creating a generation that rejects violence as a means of expression.

Since 2021, Global Communities has taught critical life skills to 9,060 boys aged 9 to 19 years old from Botswana’s Mahalapye District during school hours. This has complemented efforts made by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development in partnership with Guidance and Counseling.

Life Skills Plus education goes beyond traditional academic subjects, equipping students with the necessary tools to navigate the complexities of life, including communication, empathy and respect, critical thinking, decision-making and conflict resolution. The program goes further by integrating gender sensitivity into these life skills and collaborating with school administrations to nurture an environment where boys learn to respect and appreciate gender differences from an early age. Teaching boys to respect the autonomy and dignity of every individual is a powerful step toward creating a generation that rejects violence as a means of expression.

We believe that boys who are adept at expressing their thoughts and emotions are better equipped to challenge harmful stereotypes and engage in constructive conversations about gender equality. By imparting conflict resolution skills, schools empower young gentlemen to address issues without resorting to aggression. This not only helps in preventing gender-based violence but also contributes to creating a more harmonious society. By incorporating life skills education that specifically addresses gender sensitivity, schools can shape young boys into men of change. These empowered individuals, armed with empathy and respect, are poised to become the catalysts for a more equitable and just society.

As the world celebrates this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, Global Communities joins the call for an end to violence against women and girls. We deeply reflect on this year’s theme – “Invest to prevent violence against women and girls” – through prioritizing school-based programming that creates meaningful strides towards eliminating gender-based violence. In the pursuit of a more just and equitable society, we recognize the potential for positive change by supporting boys to become responsible and empathetic men.