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Curriculum approaches to preventing violence and promoting gender equality

Última editado: November 15, 2016

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What are curriculum approaches?

The curriculum is a crucial component of any educational process. It addresses questions such as what students of different ages should learn and be able to do, why, how and how well (UNESCO-IBE, 2015).

Curriculum approaches are important, as education that encourages young people to question, negotiate and challenge violence and gender discrimination is critical for preventing SRGBV. Young people need to be able to recognize what constitutes violence and abuse, how to protect themselves from harm, and take action to avoid harm to others. Young people also need to be given the opportunity to develop positive notions of gender, including masculinity and femininity and non-binary expressions, and to develop increased understanding and acceptance of sexual and gender diversity (Atthill and Jha, 2009). 

Practical action – How to apply curriculum approaches in order to prevent SRGBV? An illustrative checklist


Build time to support and plan for the new curriculum, including building consensus through consultation and advocacy with key stakeholders

Design activities that are consistent with available resources (e.g. staff time/skills and materials)

Involve experts in designing the curricula content, which needs to examine and critically address children and young people’s attitudes towards social and gender-based norms and stereotypes, which condone, perpetuate and underpin SRGBV

 o Review the current evidence base and other curricula that have been evaluated


Ensure curriculum and materials are age-appropriate (e.g. conflict resolution skills such as negotiation and communications for older youth; respectful relationships skills such as empathy and respect for dating age youth; or what kind of touching is OK or not OK for younger children, etc.)

Promote positive and broader definitions of masculinities, and work with men and boys

Emphasize consent and communication

Include a broad focus on changing gender norms and behaviours and promoting positive models of forming relationships.] 

Include information on all forms of SRGBV, including violence against LGBTI people and homophobic and transphobic bullying

Address personal values and perceptions of family and peer norms around sexual behaviour, health and rights

Include information on SRGBV laws and linkages to SRGBV reporting, referral and support mechanisms


Use participatory teaching methods that actively involve students and help them internalize and integrate information

Develop community-integrated approaches – to tackle wider social norms within the wider community and raise awareness of SRGBV

Select capable and motivated educators to implement the curriculum and provide quality training to these educators to adopt the more participatory and empowering teaching methodologies advocated for use with sexuality education and life skills curricula


Pilot test the curriculum and obtain ongoing feedback from the students

Provide ongoing management, supervision and oversight

Source: Based on Holden et al (2015); UNESCO (2009); UNFPA (2014)

Curriculum entry points and other approaches

There are several curriculum entry points for children of all school-going ages to prevent violence and promote gender equality, including through comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), life skills education, civics education and targeted approaches on managing aggression, developing bystander skills, forming healthy relationships and protection from bullying – often in combination. The table below presents examples of specific curricula or curriculum entry points of programmes that have been evaluated and have demonstrated impact in addressing SRGBV. Additional curricula and curriculum tools are listed in the further resources section on prevention: curriculum, teaching and learning.

Comprehensive sexuality education is critically important to help young people protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, while promoting values of tolerance, mutual respect and non-violence in relationships. At the same time, conservative movements together with misperceptions about this curricula make it challenging to implement in a number of contexts.  To better understand the evidence and for messages that counter mispercetions, please see: Facing the Facts: The Case for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Available in English.

Curriculum or subject Content and learning objectives Example of this kind of curriculum

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE)

Aims to equip children and young people with the knowledge, skills and values about relationships, gender, sexuality and violence to make informed and healthy choices about their sexual and social relationships

The World Starts with Me, Uganda

Developed in 2002 by two Dutch NGOs – the World Population Foundation and Butterfly Works, the programme is a low-tech, online, interactive sex education programme aimed at students aged 12–19 years. It uses virtual peer educators, David and Rose, to guide students through 14 lessons around self-esteem, healthy relationships, sexual development, safer sex, gender equality and sexual rights. Each lesson has a related assignment, such as creating a storyboard, an art work or conducting a role play on the topic of that lesson.

Evaluation of The World Starts with Me, using a quasi-experimental design, found significant positive effects on non-coercive sex within students in intervention groups having increased confidence that they could deal with situations where sexual pressure and force would be used. Source: Rijsdijk et al (2011)

‘Spring Fever’ – Sexuality education for four year olds in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, sexuality education starts at age four in ‘Spring Fever’ week in primary schools. The goal of Spring Fever is to have open, honest conversations about love and relationships, rather than talk directly about ‘sex’ (which is not referred to in Spring Fever). The week involves helping girls and boys develop skills to protect themselves against abuse, intimidation and sexual coercion.  Spring Fever also helps children develop a positive identity and self-image, think about gender roles, and learn how to express themselves, their wishes and boundaries. Research has found higher-than-average standards of reproductive health and consensual relationships among Dutch youths when compared to their European and North American peers. For example, most 12–25 year olds in Netherlands report that their first sexual experience was well-timed, wanted and fun, whereas 66 percent of sexually active American teens said they wished they had waited longer to have sex for the first time.

Sources: de Melker, 2015; Schallet, 2011



Violence is Preventable, Scotland

Violence is Preventable (VIP) is an abuse and violence prevention programme for children from nursery age upwards, young people and vulnerable adults. It was developed by the Scottish organisation, Eighteen and Under, to address the issue that most abused children do not report abuse at the time that it is occurring; and when they do, they have to speak to an average of three people before anyone helps them.

The programme uses a range of resource materials, including DVDs, games, quizzes, jigsaws, poetry and songs to raise children’s awareness of abuse, how to protect themselves and report abuse if it is happening to them.

An evaluation of the VIP programme was conducted with children aged 11–13 who had undergone the ‘Tweenees’ programme (four lessons over a four-week period with school pupils). The evaluation included pre- and post-test measures as well as a control group of children who were on the waiting list and had not yet participated in the programme. The evaluation found:

   -    1 in 3 (33 per cent) of children who took the VIP course disclosed some form of bullying, domestic violence or sexual abuse.

   -    Children who had been through the VIP programme said they understood the key messages about safety and harm, and remembered effective ways of dealing with abuse (telling someone).

   -    Most children said that after the lessons they felt more confident in keeping themselves safe and less likely to be harmed.

   -    The programme was more successful in leading to disclosures of abuse when delivered by trained volunteers (compared to when delivered by teachers) – the difference between teachers and trained volunteers’ effectiveness was particularly noticeable at secondary school level.

   -    The cost of the VIP programme was calculated as: £7.73 per pupil, £21.71 per disclosure, and £396.25 per school.

Source: Barron, 2008

Its's my Body, India

 Addressing CSE from a rights framework – and being able to include issues of sexuality, consent, choice and pleasure – is difficult and challenging, as it meets reluctance and resistance at all levels – families, communities, schools, health service providers, community based organisations, government officials and policy-makers. In response, CREA (a feminist human rights organisation based in New Delhi, India) developed the It’s My Body Programmeto frame more inclusive and comprehensive strategies that address fundamental issues around gender, sexuality, and rights.

The programme enhances access to public spaces and provides sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) information for young girls (12–16 years) using sports as an entry point. Use of sports allows CREA to create a space where girls can exert greater control over their bodies. This helps them to think about making their own decisions with relation to their bodies, health, and lives. CREA ensures that disadvantaged girls – including poor, religious minority, tribal, lower caste, married and unmarried, in/out of school and disabled girls – are part of the programme.

The It’s My Body programme also aims to expand access to resources on SRHR for Hindi- speaking activists and organizations by producing and disseminating material in Hindi. CREA has produced a set of five primers – Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Adolescent Girls; Sexuality and Rights; Reproductive Health and Rights; HIV/AIDS and Rights; and Criminalisation – in a language and format that is accessible to community based practitioners and adolescent girls.  

The monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process is an integrated and on-going part of the programme. M&E components based on feminist theory and participatory methods are woven into the design of the programme.

Source: CREA, date unknown

Life skills education

Helps young people to develop life skills to engage in healthy peer relationships and violence prevention, for example, in interpersonal communication,coping mechanisms, friendship, peer-pressure, critical and creative thinking and decision making

Programs H and M, Brazil (and adapted internationally)

Program H (H for hombres or homes – the Spanish and Portuguese words for men) and M (M for mujeres or mulheres – the Spanish and Portuguese words for women), use an evidence-based curriculum, which includes a set of group educational activities designed to be carried out in same-sex group settings, and generally with facilitators of the same sex who can serve as gender-equitable role models.

The manuals include activities on violence prevention, fatherhood/motherhood and caregiving, sexual and reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS, among other related issues. Activities include role-playing, brainstorming and other participatory exercises to help students reflect on how boys and girls are socialized, to consider the positive and negative aspects of this socialization and to weigh up the benefits of changing certain behaviours.

The programme has been evaluated in several locations around the world through mostly quasi-experimental studies, with evidence of positive changes in participants’ gender-equitable attitudes and behaviours and reduced gender-based violence.

Source: Care International, 2012; Ricardo et al, 2010

Healthy relationships

Aims to increase understanding and knowledge about the warning signs of abuse in romantic relationships, and help young people learn skills for healthy relationships. The classes often help young people to raise their expectations for respectful relationships. The focus is usually older secondary school students (aged 14–18 years) and college/university students (18+)

Fourth R, Canada

The Fourth R programme is based on the premise that relationship knowledge and skills can and should be taught in the same way as reading, writing and arithmetic – hence the Fourth R (for Relationships). The programme is taught in the classroom with children in Grades 8–12.

A five-year randomized control trial of the classes with Grade 9 students aged 14–15 found that students (especially boys) who received the Fourth R used significantly fewer acts of violence towards a dating partner by the end of Grade 11, compared to those who received standard health classes.

Source: Wolfe et al, 2009

Bullying and other forms of violence

Helps students learn how to distinguish bullying from daily arguments or conflict and how to respond to bullying, as well as teaching young people the life skills to manage aggression

Second Step, United States

The Second Step programme has been used with more than 8 million students in over 32,000 US schools. The programme teaches life skills such as essential communication, coping and decision-making skills that help young people navigate around common pitfalls such as peer pressure, substance abuse and bullying (both in-person and online).

A two-year cluster-randomized clinical trial of Second Step was conducted with over 3,600 students at 36 middle schools in Grades 6 and 7 (aged 11–13 years) in Illinois and Kansas. The study found that, at the end of the programme, students in Illinois intervention schools were 56 per cent less likely to self-report homophobic name-calling victimization and 39 per cent less likely to report sexual violence perpetration than students in control schools, although there was no significant difference among their peers in the Kansas schools.

Source: Espelage et al, 2012


Gender equality


Curriculum to engage young girls and boys ages 12–14, to promote gender equality by encouraging equal relationships, critical examination of social norms defining gender roles and responsibilities, and questioning the perpetuation of gender-based violence

The Gender Equity Movement in Schools (GEMS), India

The GEMS project was implemented in public schools in Goa, Kota and Mumbai. In Goa and Kota, it was layered with ongoing school curriculum. In Mumbai, it was implemented as an independent pilot project in 45 schools. Using extracurricular activities, role-playing and games, GEMS began in the sixth grade and worked for two years with boys and girls ages 12–14 in public schools.

An evaluation study of the pilot used a quasi-experimental design to assess the outcomes of the programme on the students. Results showed that, over the course of the programme, participating students grew more supportive of girls pursuing higher education and marrying later in life, and of boys and men contributing to household work. However, students’ behaviours and attitudes around reducing violence – a key component of GEMS – showed mixed results. The GEMS approach is now being scaled up to 250 schools in Mumbai, following the success of the first pilot programme. It is also being rolled out in 20 schools in Viet Nam. 

Source: ICRW, 2011


How can comprehensive sexuality education prevent SRGBV? Qualitative research findings from Uganda and Cambodia

A recent study for Plan UK, We want to learn about good love, identified four key pathways linking comprehensive sexuality education, gender equality, social norm change and prevention of violence against women and girls. These pathways have been adapted below to show how comprehensive sexuality education can prevent SRGBV:

1. Transform young people’s gender equitable attitudes, including attitudes towards SRGBV, harmful notions of masculinity/femininity, respecting girls’ and boys’ right to control their own bodies and live free of violence, and increased understanding and acceptance of sexual diversities.

2. Improve young people’s life skills to engage in healthy peer relationships and violence prevention e.g. skills in interpersonal communication, coping mechanisms, conflict management, friendship, trust building, anger-management, peer-pressure, safety plans, financial literacy, critical and creative thinking and decision-making that can help girls prevent and respond to violence, and boys to have the life skills necessary for healthy relationships.

3. Transform attitudes of the wider community, including duty bearers, for example, through community-integrated approaches that involve dialogue with duty bearers, community members and sensitisation of religious leaders and institutions.

4. Improve reporting and response to SRGBV through provision of information and linkages with related organisations and services.

 Source: Holden et al, 2015

Bystander approaches involve learning and practising appropriate and safe bystander skills, such as how to identify, speak out about or seek to engage others in responding to violence. While some forms of bystander action are intended to intervene in actual violent incidents or actions, most school-based bystander interventions have focused on changing individual and peer attitudes and behaviours, mainly with groups of men and more rarely with women or with both sexes together (Fulu et al, 2014).

Country example – Learning and practising safe bystander skills: PATHS to Adulthood, Hong Kong

Project PATHS (PATHS = Positive Adolescent Training through Holistic Social Programmes) is a youth development programme for junior secondary school students in Hong Kong. The PATHS curriculum focuses on helping students to develop the life skills necessary to become proactive helpful bystanders when they see bullying. It includes general awareness-raising on bullying, space for self-reflection and opportunities to rehearse new behaviour. Students begin by learning how bullying harms themselves and others, and learn skills to help protect themselves when being bullied. The course then focuses on the role that bystanders play and equips children with the life skills necessary to be responsible bystanders in both school bullying and cyber-bullying.

An early study of PATHS noted the need for the curriculum to include a stronger gender-sensitive perspective, as the researchers concluded that boys may have higher drop-out rates from programmes that try to develop them into helpful bystanders when conventional masculine role models and macho values prevail in broader society.

Source: Tsang et al, 2011

Protection of children from violence, exploitation and abuse while using information and communication technology (ICT) 
can equip young people with the skills necessary to deal with online harassment, bullying, violence and abuse. Perpetrators often swap the location of the violence/abuse from the school grounds to cyberspace and vice versa, compounded by SRGBV incidents being recorded on video or in photographs and shared online. Schools have addressed online bullying through several strategies, including student-led anti-bullying strategies, parent workshops and specific curricula. 

Country example – Cyber-safety curricula, South Australia 

The Government of South Australia has provided guidelines and a curriculum for schools to help young people develop key skills to become ‘responsible digital citizens’ – Cyber-Safety: Keeping Children Safe in a Connected World. The curriculum focuses on supporting young people to use the internet to learn and explore the world, while gaining the tools that will enable them to use the internet ethically and responsibly and gain an understanding of the potential risks and threats. In particular, the cyber-safety curriculum lays out clear guidance for educators and students about how to cope with bullying and other violence online. It forms part of a broader life-skills based school curriculum Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum[V1]  (KS:CPC), which teaches pre-school to Year 12 children the skills to keep themselves safe including how to recognize abuse, tell a trusted adult and understand what is appropriate and inappropriate touching.

Source: Government of South Australia, 2011

Peace and civics education or learning about the principles of peace, equality, tolerance and social cohesion can help prevent SRGBV. By acknowledging and embracing difference, including through a gender lens, and by teaching strategies for avoiding violence and managing aggression, education has a key role to play in reducing violence. 

Country example – Using the ancient Chinese board game ‘Go’ to promote peace in school in Venezuela  

Stakeholders at a school in Miranda, Venezuela used the ancient Chinese board game ‘Go’ to promote peace and reduce violence by the use of positive discipline and development of critical thinking and reflective skills. The project was implemented through small workshops with 15 to 20 Grade 4 students. Instructors facilitated them to play Go using positive discipline to recognize good behaviour and sanction disrespectful or aggressive behaviour towards others.

Go was selected due to its potential as a useful educational tool: it teaches the player to reflect and consider numerous different points of view before making decisions, and promotes recognition and understanding of others. Boys and girls who have been playing Go for a number of years have increased their self-esteem and tolerance, their ability to think and reflect, to establish and respect group norms and in addition demonstrate good school performance.

Various organizations have provided support to the project including the Venezuelan Association of Go, the International Go Exchange Society (Japan) and the Go Association of Thailand.

Source: Red de Innovaciones Educativas, 2013

Example: Comparative study of Peace Education in English and Jordanian schools

One study examined the different ways in which peace education is taught in English and Jordanian secondary schools. Using a qualitative approach (interviews with teachers), the study found that teachers in both countries used many of the same tools and approaches, including storytelling, role plays and discussions, and focused on the differences between people (cultural and religious) and on human rights.

The study found that, with greater linkages to other countries and resources for connections, the English schools could give children a more practical appreciation of different cultures through exposure to other peoples and schools. They also gave more attention to issues of gender and sexuality. In contrast, Jordanian teachers, working in a country with less diversity, were able to draw on Islamic teachings and local examples to similar effect.

Source: Al-Zyoud et al, 2013