Our vision for this toolkit

Toolkit / Introduction / Chapter 1

Introduction to this Toolkit

●  Our vision for the ‘Safe from SGBV’ project

YSAFE (Youth Sexual Awareness For Europe) is IPPF EN’s youth network, created by and for young sexuality educators and leading sexual and reproductive health and rights activists from more than 30 countries.

Through our work with YSAFErs who are active as sexuality educators in the region, we saw for ourselves that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a major issue that impacts young people and especially those from populations at risk of marginalization. We also knew the impact that sexuality education could have to combat it. Comprehensive sexuality education is increasingly being recognised as an important tool to tackle SGBV. As evidenced by the policy paper published in 2018 by GenPol, there are significantly higher rates of SGBV and discrimination in countries where there is no sexuality education. Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) encourages young people to critically reflect about social norms. It increases their confidence when communicating about relationships, sexuality and violence. It empowers them to take protective and preventive measures in relation to violence, and to challenge fixed ideas around sexuality and gender.

These skills have the potential to reduce discrimination, increase gender equitable norms, and challenge power dynamics in intimate relationships. Therefore, young people with these skills are more able to take steps to avoid and reduce the harm of SGBV.

We created this project in 2019 to maximize our network’s special knowledge of CSE in addressing the risks of SGBV, and create a new tool based on the experience of our members. Little did we know that we would be launching it in a time when the risk of both experiencing violence and missing out on sexuality education is even greater due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when young people all over the world face barriers to accessing education and domestic and intimate partner violence has increased under national lockdowns.

Our vision from the beginning was to focus on young people most at risk of experiencing violence. Together with three of our IPPF EN Member Associations from Portugal, Romania and Serbia we joined forces with three other organisations, one in each country, working with populations particularly threatened by both social marginalization and SGBV: young LGBTQI people, young people at risk of discrimination on the basis of gender, and young people from the Roma population. We are proud of this innovative way of working, pairing the competences of trained young sexuality educators with the competences and experiences of young people representing and working with these specific populations.

We are especially proud that the collaboration and work on the toolkit was an embodiment of all the principles that were incorporated later in the workshops themselves: we worked to create safer spaces for our participants, collaborated on the creation of the toolkit using a participatory approach, and incorporated diverse youth voices.

The piloting of the toolkit was supposed to take place in the spring of 2020 but due to the closure of schools and restrictions on gatherings as a preventative measure during the coronavirus pandemic, the national teams were not able to deliver the sessions as planned. It became clear that the workshops need to take place online. Thus, online facilitation skills were going to be important for young trainers who had not had extensive training or experience on holding online sessions before. Additional training on how to deliver online workshops and how to adapt sessions from the toolkit safely and effectively was held in October 2020, and the toolkit now contains additional content on online working as a result.

Our piloting means we can say with confidence that the toolkit works. The national teams tested it through a combination of face-to-face and online sessions and reached a total of more than 300 young people. As evidenced in pre- and post-intervention questionnaires, there has been a positive shift in reported attitudes among workshop participants: increased confidence in identifying, responding to and avoiding sexual and gender-based violence.

Throughout the time we spent on this project we had some barriers to work with and some purpose to find. One of the things that our amazing facilitator Stalo helped us with was to trust in the process. At times we found that participants felt as if it wouldn’t be possible to perform their training sessions, or that we all came from such different situations and that this toolkit could never be applied in all of these different contexts. But through the process we all were able to trust each other and trust ourselves.

We believe that this toolkit can be used by itself or to complement existent sexuality education with expertise on protecting sensitive populations from sexual and gender- based violence, which would enable young people to identify SGBV, give them skills to take action to protect themselves and intervene if they see someone else being abused. Young people have the capacity to change discriminatory behaviours and structures, and we need to encourage and collaborate with our peers to ensure sexual health and rights for all.

Maryna Honcharova & Louise Withalisson

Chair and Vice Chair of YSAFE Steering Committee, 2018-2020

●  1.1. What is this toolkit aiming at?

This toolkit was envisioned and designed by young people, for young people. It was developed to reflect young people’s experiences and realities in relation to sexual and gender-based violence, making their voices heard, understood and valuable.

The ultimate goal of this toolkit is to enable young people to experience, enjoy and express their sexualities freely and positively, in an environment of dignity, equality and respect of their sexual rights. It strives at increasing the capacities of young people at risk of discrimination and social exclusion in identifying, understanding and responding to sexual and gender-based violence. Thus, following a comprehensive, sex positive, gender- transformative and human rights-based approach, the toolkit encourages, informs, supports and instigates young people to:

  • Become critical thinkers and to revisit, question and deconstruct gender norms and sexist and heteronormative attitudes that reinforce hostile masculinity and aggression.
  • Understand the root causes of SGBV in the context of patriarchal value systems which support unequal hierarchies of power between and among the genders which often create an environment where SGBV is tolerated and even considered acceptable.
  • Identify the multi-faceted, complex and often nuanced manifestations of SGBV and how these develop in different contexts and are expressed by different perpetrators (such as partners, peers, family or community members and those acting on behalf of cultural, religious or state institutions).
  • Explore in a safe environment how SGBV directly affects them and their peers.
  • Recognize their right to be valued for who they are and be treated with respect, and also their responsibility to value and respect others.
  • Build the skills to express their own sexuality freely and openly and assert their rights as a means to attaining their maximum desired level of happiness, pleasure and general well-being.
  • Build their capacities and confidence to challenge, address and prevent sexual and gender-based violence and become agents of change in their own lives, relationships and communities.

●  1.2 How can educational programs help address SGBV in vulnerable groups?

A multifaced, multidimensional and multisectoral approach is required to be able to effectively respond to SGBV and increase the safety and protection of people at risk of experiencing this type of violence. The relevant sectors include health care, protection (including safety, security and legal support) and psychosocial support, all of which are closely linked and entail specific activities. Health is often the first service provided to people experiencing SGBV, addressing the physical, mental and psychological consequences of SGBV. Health services also entail the provision of education and invaluable preventive information. At the same time, psychosocial care provides the support and tools needed to deal with personal trauma, stigma and possible exclusion from their families and community. All the above entail integrated and coordinated responses between various actors such as the state, NGOs, activists, the media, international bodies and most importantly the community itself.

Educational programs offered by youth workers, community workers and NGOs often act as a bridge between young people at risk of SGBV and their having recourse to services. Educational interventions fill an important gap in this process: that of information. Most young people at risk of social exclusion and SGBV often lack the knowledge, the information and the capacities to protect themselves from unhealthy and abusive experiences. Towards this end, educational programs offered by young people, for young people, can:

  • Provide information, knowledge and sensitization of young people’s human and sexual rights including their right to a positive sexuality. This generates awareness and encourages young people to assert these rights.
  • Empower different communities of young people by providing them with mechanisms to engage in critical refection on their rights, the difficulties they are experiencing, including violence, discrimination and marginalization, and the root causes of these difficulties.
  • Build capacities in young people to recognize harmful social norms and societal perceptions of hegemonic masculinity and to have the confidence to question, revisit and challenge these norms.
  • Enhance young people’s sensitization in recognizing SGBV in its various forms and contexts and in understanding its impact. This not only builds their awareness but also instigates them to take action against it.
  • Promote safety and security by providing information on how young people can protect themselves and where they can turn to for help. In addition, providing information about specific (online and offline) services which could provide support helps link young people to protection and care.
  • Build resilience and hope. By providing information on where to get support and building young people’s confidence in actually seeking it, educational interventions help young people build capacities identifying their existing coping mechanisms, in protecting themselves, in finding new ways to address abusive behaviours, indrafting a plan towards safety (if needed), and in being able to see glimpses of hope towards experiencing free, healthy, respectful, safe, enjoyable and positive sexualities.
  • Build collective solidarity among young people by mobilizing them to advocate to challenge and change behaviours of powerful groups or institutions that deny them their rights and perpetuate violence and other abuses.

Reaching out and involving the community

To ensure a longer- term sustainability of any educational intervention it is important that we reach out and actively engage the community. As a result, we must first focus on developing a good reputation, transparency and trust with the communities where we work. Some ideas about how we can engage the community we are working with and broach the topic of sensitive issues are noted below:

Prepare: Know your community

  • Identify their context, realities, structures and safe spaces; identify supportive attitudes and existing accurate knowledge about young people’s sexuality
  • Explore possibilities for partnerships with community groups that have links with the intended beneficiaries. Also build partnerships with academic institutions, service providers and online communities (if relevant).
  • Develop strategies which will ideally allow you to expand your work beyond young people themselves and to also include parents, families, professionals, educators, government officials and the community at large.

Build Trust

  • Involve different groups of young people in the development of your educational intervention and content, and address young people’s feedback on current/previous programs on SGBV, exploring with them what seems to be missing or what needs to be done differently.
  • Involve community members such as parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, professionals, role models and service providers in the discussion. These often act as gatekeepers to young people accessing information about SGBV and also in developing skills to protect themselves against it. More often than not, these may carry their own perceptions, biases, prejudices, misinformation and misconceptions around SGBV which may prevent young people accessing the necessary information or services in protecting themselves from SGBV. It is important that these perceptions, biases and prejudices are counteracted.

Start discussions with the community

  • Open a discussion to find out what the most urgent issues in the community are regarding sexuality and SGBV
  • Introduce the specific content and the specific issue you want to discuss. Make sure that there is time for answering questions and addressing the concerns of parents and others. Topics such as sex positivity need a lot of explanation: be prepared!
  • Once you’ve provided sensitization and a general orientation on SGBV, involve the community in the design, implementation and monitoring of your educational intervention/program.
  • Intergenerational dialogues can help transform attitudes to be supportive of young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Update community members about your progress in implementation, as well as changes in your plans and any challenges and ideas for improving the delivery of your educational program.

●  1.3 Who is this toolkit for?

This toolkit has been developed for experienced trainers, sex education educators, NGO activists, youth workers and other professionals who work with young people at risk of social exclusion such as LGBTIQ+ youth, Roma and young people at risk of gender discrimination. In light of the sensitivity of the issues surrounding SGBV, it is important that trainers/activists/youth workers who will implement activities from the toolkit already have experience in implementing comprehensive sex education. If it arises, they also have the capacities to handle disclosure of violence and abuse and can provide appropriate referrals to where young people can get support if they need to. While this toolkit can also be used by trainers/youth workers who don’t normally implement comprehensive sexuality education, it is important, if this is the case, that these trainers are trained beforehand on the implementation of the activities of this toolkit and are provided with peer support (such as peer supervision) during the implementation of the trainings with young people.

In terms of the target group, the toolkit has been designed for young people aged 15-20 years. This age group is considered old enough to have had various experiences in and out of the school environment including, in many cases, experiences with or interest in romantic relationships, thus it is likely that they will find the various issues raised in the different modules relevant to their lives and everyday realities. This renders this age group significantly important to be targeted in an educational intervention on SGBV.

While it is possible that 15-year-olds and 20-year-olds may have similar experiences, nevertheless their contexts are widely different. It is therefore important to make an initial assessment regarding the suitability of activities for the specific age range we will be working with. While the majority of the activities target the entire age range of 15-20, in some cases, the activities may need to be adapted to fit younger (15- to 16-year-olds) or older (19- to 20-year olds) target audiences. In other cases, some activities may not at all be considered appropriate for younger age groups, especially taking into account the specific local context of each country and the specific context of the target groups themselves. In addition, even though the toolkit has been designed to primarily address the needs of young people at risk of social exclusion, it is also relevant and applicable to wider audiences of young people.

●  1.4 How is the toolkit structured?

The toolkit provides both theoretical and practical content in preparing and implementing activities on the issues surrounding sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The toolkit starts with the general framework in which it has been designed – following a human rights/sexual rights-based, gender-transformative and sex positive approach. It then provides some general understanding of the different manifestations and dynamics of SGBV and how it particularly affects certain vulnerable groups (with a more prominent focus on people at risk of SGBV on account of their gender or gender identity, Roma women and LGBTIQ+ persons). Before the educational content is presented, the toolkit outlines some guidelines on facilitation, on creating a safe and inclusive space in the workshops and on handling controversial issues in the discussions. Guidelines on how to select activities and on how to run a sample educational program are also provided, together with some recommendations on adapting the activities for online delivery. Finally, the toolkit concludes with a chapter on monitoring and evaluation, proposing a sample pre-and-post questionnaire methodology that can be used for evaluating the impact this training program may potentially have within a particular target group.

Summary of the different Modules

Module 1 – Sex, Gender, Gender Identity and Sexual Diversity: This module provides background information on sex, sex characteristics, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and sexual identities. It ultimately encourages young people to revisit, rethink and challenge existing social norms pertaining to gender and sexual orientation and to develop respect and attitudes of inclusion for all different identities. Young people also have the opportunity to explore the impact of ‘rigid’ social norms on their own lives and to build knowledge and new attitudes which will enable them to form healthy relationships with others based on equality and respect.

Module 2 – Sex Positivity: This module aims to introduce a sex positive approach to sexuality and to break the different taboos that surround it. It allows young people to explore issues such as self-determination, consent, safety, privacy, personal agency and communication of one’s needs, desires, likes and dislikes in the way they want to express their sexuality. The ultimate aim is to help young people differentiate between positive and negative expressions of sexuality and to reclaim their sexuality in the context of sexual rights, equality, non-discrimination, autonomy, safety, bodily integrity and freedom of expression.

Module 3 – Gender-based violence in different contexts: In this module, young people develop an understanding of all the different types of SGBV, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse and how these are manifested in different contexts such as within the family, at school/university/work, from institutions, and in terms of harmful cultural practices (such as early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation). The module also addresses the full extent of the manifestations of SGBV, ranging from less overt and nuanced expressions (such as microaggressions, teasing, isolation etc.) to the most extreme and serious ones (femicide, hate crimes). Being able to recognize and name SGBV as such, to acknowledge its impact and understand why it happens, empowers young people to stand up for themselves and their peers, as well as to consider where their own behaviour or actions might be hurtful to others.

Module 4 – Intimate Partner Violence: This module explores gender-based violence in romantic relationships. Understanding what constitutes a toxic and abusive relationship is an eye-opener for young people, many of whom have a ‘romanticized’ perception of violence and fail to recognize different forms of abuse, especially coercive control and psychological abuse, either offline or online. As a result, young participants are motivated to develop strategies for addressing intimate partner violence, understand how they can protect themselves and others and explore how they can build healthy, positive, safe, equal and respectful intimate relationships.

Module 5 – Sexual Violence: This module works similarly to Module 3 (GBV in different contexts) but focuses exclusively on the different manifestations of sexual violence. It is actually a good follow up to Module 3 as it allows for a more in-depth understanding of the manifestations and dynamics of sexual abuse. Moreover, in this module, young people have the opportunity to explore the aspect of consent as the foundation to safe and positive sexual encounters and explore how sometimes their understanding of consent may get fuzzy and ultimately increase their risk of sexual abuse. The module also addresses the different manifestations of sexual violence, ranging from sexual harassment to more serious forms of sexual abuse such as rape and gang rape. The impact of sexual violence is also addressed through videos and forum theatre. Lastly, the module also helps young people identify what actions they can take in order to protect themselves and others from sexual violence.

Module 6 – Sex in the digital world: A primary aim of this module is to provide the space for young people to explore how they can achieve positive sexual encounters online through consent and personal agency. Moreover, the module sheds light to the different types of sexual violence encountered in the online world, such as sexualized bullying, non- consensual pornography, revenge porn and sextortion. Lastly, the module helps young people develop different strategies about engaging in sexting in a safe manner, protecting their online space and taking effective action in the event that they have sexual images of them posted online.

Module 7: This last module aims to help young people explore what they can do to stand up to SGBV by developing different strategies for support or exploring different avenues to reacting to abusive/discriminatory incidences. This could involve being empowered to reach out for support if they themselves have experienced SGBV, to support a friend who is a survivor of abuse to create a plan forsafety or to react to an abusive/discriminatory/hurtful situation as bystanders.

How each module is structured

Each module contains three different sets of activities: (i) activities that aim to create awareness about the specific type of SGBV, (ii) activities that challenge common (stereotypical) attitudes about SGBV and help participants develop empathy and understanding of the impact of SGBV and (iii) activities that encourage participants to take action or explore how they can protect themselves or others from SGBV. In some cases, there are activities that combine all three approaches in one. Nonetheless, all activities can easily be combined with others to provide a more holistic approach.

In order to maximize impact, it is important to try to implement more than one activity with the target group. For instance, having the chance to follow up awareness-building activities with activities that challenge attitudes or activities which aim to instigate action against SGBV helps young people go beyond knowledge and cultivate important capacities in keeping themselves (and others) safe from SGBV.

The activities included in each Module are structured as follows:

  • Estimated duration of the activity: The time of each activity is indicative for a minimum duration and it is estimated for a group of 20 young people. However, this duration is always subject to adaptations based on various factors, such as the facilitator’s experience, how active the group is, the level of knowledge and experiences within the group, as well as the group’s size.
  • Learning objectives: this is an important section as it provides information regarding to where ‘we are headed’ with a specific activity. Having the objectives of the activity clear in our minds, helps us guide the discussion and the debriefing in the right direction and helps us focus participants to the issues at hand. When in doubt, always go back to the objectives (and ultimately the section on take home messages), as these help pave the way.
  • Materials needed and preparation: this part provides information about any preparation needed beforehand and the materials required during the implementation of the activity, including worksheets and/or handouts. All worksheets are included in the end of the activity.
  • Step-by-step process: this includes a short introduction to the activity, the different steps of the activity and facilitation questions for reflection and debriefing.
  • Take home messages and activity wrap up: this section is particularly important because it helps us make sure that the objectives of the activity have been met. Thus, it provides important guidance as to where we need to be headed with the specific activity. In addition, it provides important information with regards to the type of understanding, attitudes and skills the participants need to ‘walk away with’. Lastly, it provides some suggestions on how the activity can be wrapped up, allowing for the whole experience of the activity to go through a full circle.
  • Tips for facilitators (where applicable): on how to handle sensitive issues that may arise during the activity or how to adapt activities according to the diversity of the specific target group.