Study demonstrates potential for soccer to turn boys into gender advocates

A new study out of Nigeria from two adolescent health organizations, Grassroot Soccer (GRS) and Youth Education Development Initiative (YEDI), shows that soccer is a promising tool in positively changing the attitudes and behaviors of adolescent boys and young men around both health and gender equality. Engaging males around issues of gender is critical to preventing gender-based violence and harmful gender norms that drive poor health among both men and women.

The study, conducted in 2018 and including external evaluation from the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, evaluated 250 participants in SKILLZ Guyz, a sport-based program that uses soccer as a unique entry point to address harmful gender norms, violence, substance abuse and increase uptake of health services.

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SKILLZ Guyz uses soccer-based activities as metaphors to teach health knowledge, and is facilitated by young male mentors or “coaches”. The program aims to build the assets of adolescent boys – HIV & sexual & reproductive knowledge and anger management and conflict resolution skills; improve their access to health services; and promote adherence to healthy behaviors

The results of pre and post program surveys, along with qualitative interviews, have now been analyzed, and key
findings include:

● The gender equitable attitudes of participants improved by 16.6% during the intervention, emphasizing
the importance of engaging boys and young men in critical conversations about gender norms
● Statistically significant changes were observed in participant HIV knowledge scores, which improved by
17.5%, and pregnancy and contraceptive knowledge, which improved by 18.2% over the course of
the intervention
● Participant self-efficacy increased by 22.6% and self-esteem increased by about 10% over the course
of the intervention

Findings from this evaluation of SKILLZ Guyz demonstrate that using soccer as the hook to create a safe
environment for conversations around anger management and masculinity appears to be an effective entry into
changing adolescent boys’ and young men’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, particularly related to gender
equality and violence against female partners.

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Mridha Shihab Mahmud

Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.
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