African Transformation Helps Young People Re-examine Gender Norms


“I was engaged in intergenerational sex, but thanks to African Transformation, I came to understand that it wasn’t good for me, for my life, so I broke off my relationship with this older married man.” (hair dresser, 20 years old, Abengourou)
“I learned the real meaning of abstinence and I even decided to stop having sex to focus on my work and to get tested.” (seamstress, 18 years old, Abengourou)
“I know from now on that a woman is not a man’s slave and that a man and a woman must make decisions together where their relationship is concerned.” (mechanic, 19 years old, Abengourou)
“We must, we youth of the informal sector, under this sun of effort under which we look for guideposts, we must be informed, oriented… Thanks to you, I’ve taken my HIV test and I feel good, confident… Some of my friends have begun to communicate with their parents, have learned to trust you. Thank you for the importance that you give us…” (launderer, 24 years old, Abidjan)
So testify the young people to the change made in their lives following their participation in the African Transformation workshops.

From May to October 2009, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs conducted 25 African Transformation workshops reaching 439 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in Abidjan and Abengourou. The workshops were organized in partnership with five local NGOs– Centre d’Ecoute et de Conseils d’Abengourou, Fraternité Saint Jean de la Miséricorde, Mouvement d’Action des Jeunes de l’AIBEF, Mouvement Estudiantin pour la Sensibilisation au Sida, and Sidalerte Côte d’Ivoire.

Two studies commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (CCP) in 2006 and 2008 on social and gender norms and the vulnerability of youth to HIV/AIDS clearly showed the influence of these norms on young people’s high risk behaviors. This led CCP Côte d’Ivoire to develop an adaptation for youth of the African Transformation program that had already been implemented successfully in Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia. With African Transformation, girls and boys learn to analyze and modify gender norms and social roles, allowing them to make sound decisions to protect themselves from STIs and HIV/AIDS.

To reach this objective, African Transformation uses the filmed testimonies of young people from Côte d’Ivoire who relate how they resolved a problem by thoughtfully taking charge of their health and their future. The films cover four themes: gender norms, social roles, intergenerational sex and STI/HIV/AIDS.

Through 6 meetings totaling 14 hours of reflection, discussion, film screening, exercises and games presented in the facilitator’s guide, young people changed their perceptions of gender and social norms and HIV/AIDS in barely a month. Following the workshops in May and June of 2009, 99% of the participants stated that African Transformation would help them in their personal lives; 95% said they had learned new ways to manage their lives. The pre- and post test showed that, while 60% of the participants seemed to be accepting of intergenerational sexual relations at the beginning of the workshop, no more than 24% accepted them at the end.

Bolstered by these encouraging results, CCP must now take up the challenge of evaluating change in these young people over the medium and long term, and identify, together with its partners, ways to meet the needs expressed by the young people, particularly in the informal sector, for education in sexual health and general life skills.

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