Community beliefs about acceptable roles for women and men affect the well-being of girls and boys as they grow into adults. These beliefs may cause adolescents to stop going to school, marry and have children early, miss chances to earn a good living and make decisions that harm their health and the well-being of themselves and their families.
Adolescence is a critical time in the life of a young person, representing a window of opportunity to promote positive and lasting, gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors as gender norms and identities begin to coalesce.
The Gender Roles, Equality and Transformations (GREAT) Project recognizes adolescence as an opportunity for laying a foundation for positive adult relationships and sexual and reproductive health. Using a life course approach, GREAT engages adolescents and adults in discussion and reflection about how to help girls and boys (ages 10-19) grow into healthy adults who live in communities free of violence and gender inequality.
GREAT’s intervention package is designed to promote dialogue and reflection on gender norms. Though they can be used separately, intervention components are intended to build upon each other to create sustainable normative change. Some resources target specific stages of adolescence, while others are intended for the wider community.
GREAT is designed for four specific groups of adolescents, offering tailored, life stage-specific approaches for each.
GREAT’s strategy is based on a life course approach and is tailored to address four specific life course stages in adolescence. Through community mobilization, radio serial dramas, participatory activities and discussions, GREAT strengthened participants’ agency and created enabling environment that would support and sustain positive social change.
Lamogi , Pabbo, Ogur , and Amach sub counties of Amuru and Lira Districts in Northern Uganda
A set of principles guides GREAT activities, outlining shared values and goals.
Many people worked together to make GREAT a success. The GREAT project was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health, Save the Children International, Pathfinder International, Straight Talk Foundation, and Concerned Parents Association.
GREAT partnered with a multitude of governmental and non-governmental organizations working to ensure positive health outcomes for young people in Uganda.
To understand what difference GREAT made, we asked:
Do adolescents exposed to GREAT have improved attitudes and behaviors related to: (1) equality between men and women, (2) couple relationships and family planning, and (3) gender-based violence?
Do adults exposed to GREAT provide positive advice to adolescents about equality, couple relationships, family planning and gender-based violence?
Beginning in September 2015, the GREAT team supported 35 organizations and local government structures to integrate the intervention into ongoing projects and activities in the districts of Pader, Oyam, Agago, and Dokolo.
Thanks to the integration of GREAT into community-based user organizations and institutions, the project’s successes continue.
Fostering sustainability and handing over the intervention properly to local stakeholders meant providing accessible, easy-to-use guidance materials. It also meant investing in local technical assistance to support coordination and reflection meetings, assess and strengthen organizational capacity and develop strategies to address external factors such as health system capacity, political events and donor funding cycles that can cripple any expansion effort.
In addition to investing strategically in a local resource team, national and district level representatives of the line Ministries, along with the USAID mission in Kampala, drove sustainability. They continue to be engaged in the technical advisory group and other GREAT activities. Regular sharing of updates and findings at global, national, district, and sub-county levels engage stakeholders at all levels, building ownership and maintaining enthusiasm.
A hallmark of the GREAT project was taking the time to learn along the way, iterating processes and approaches, and adapting for success.
A research-to-practice lens and commitment to applying implementation science principles informed GREAT design and drove the project from the start. During the pilot, monthly data collection and comprehensive monitoring, learning and evaluation (MLE) guidelines allowed the team to monitor the pulse of implementation, and iterate adaptations at critical points. This process of testing assumptions and collecting data for program adjustments also informed scale-up. GREAT and the community-based user organizations followed a "How-to Guide" and a "MLE of Scale-Up Handbook" to vigilantly track fidelity to the intervention, and document experiences in order to properly pass the baton later on. This evidence-based iteration proved useful to implementers and policymakers alike.
Through a participatory, iterative process, GREAT has been guided by and has also increased understanding of adolescent development from an ecological perspective, informed by an understanding of the social construction of gender and viewed through the lens of life course trajectories.
GREAT’s conceptual model helps to explain how individuals navigate competing gender norms across the life course.