Harmful and outdated gender norms can have serious consequences. They help create environments where it is acceptable for husbands to hit their wives, for women to be prohibited from using modern contraception without their husband’s permission, for girls to be married off at a very young age, for boys go to school while girls are kept at home, for men to spread HIV because the stigma of a positive diagnosis keeps them from being tested.

At CCP, we know that these deeply rooted gender-based power dynamics can have serious consequences for health. That’s why we make it a goal in every one of our projects to consider gender-based social norms and how they may be holding back behavior change. We work with both men and women, separately and together, to achieve our goals.

To make change, we are especially committed to promoting couple communication – something that hasn’t been commonplace in many cultures – through popular game shows and award-winning television and radio spots. Research shows that better communication between spouses can increase the use of family planning to space births and reduce the risk of HIV by encouraging one another to be tested.

CCP’s programs approach gender issues holistically because we know that equipping girls and women, boys and men with necessary life skills and knowledge is a critical aspect of improving health. Our Go Girls! initiative in Malawi, for example, uses small support groups to encourage girls and young women to avoid risky behavior and to go back to school. Brothers for Life has targeted men in several countries with programs that educate them on healthy relationships, healthy living and HIV prevention – and connect them with HIV treatment if they test positive.

Gender norms can stand in the way of our progress. Our gender work seeks to help blaze a new path forward.