Using Human-Centered Design to Create a Gender-Equitable Environment for Very Young Adolescents

Early adolescence is a time of rapid change. Cognitive development accelerates and puberty brings both physical and socio-emotional changes. Social expectations also shift, exposing very young adolescents (VYAs) to more gendered experiences and expectations.[i] Results from the Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS), a multi-country longitudinal study exploring gender socialization and its implications for adolescent health and wellbeing, demonstrate that these changes influence the treatment of boys and girls from a young age and lead to distinct gendered behaviors that can be detrimental to adolescent’s health.[ii] As such, early adolescence—the time between 10 and 14 years of age—is a critical opportunity for intervention.[iii],[iv] Building VYAs’ sexual and reproductive health (SRH) knowledge and skills and fostering more gender-equitable attitudes, behaviors, and norms lays the foundation for their future health and wellbeing.

As part of its efforts to advance innovative social and behavior change (SBC) approaches for youth, Breakthrough ACTION applied human-centered design (HCD) to develop gender-equitable interventions with VYAs in three of the GEAS multi-year cohort sites: Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Denpasar and Semarang, Indonesia. HCD was selected as a methodology that would allow for meaningful youth engagement in designing programs that shape their lives.

Breakthrough ACTION has produced several materials to document the design process, along with companion advocacy materials that can be used to increase support for programs that seek to create a gender-equitable environment for VYAs.

The resulting pilot package, Gender Equity Today for Youth (GET 4 Youth), is now available.

Design & Test Reports

These reports detail the HCD activities conducted in the DRC and Indonesia.

Process Brief

This brief documents learnings from the HCD processes in both countries.

  • Leveraging human-centered design to improve gender-equitable adolescent programming in the DRC and Indonesia: Process brief and learnings [ Bahasa Indonesia | English | French ]

Advocacy Briefs

These briefs offer policy and program recommendations based on learnings from activities in both countries.

  • Engaging parents in sexual and reproductive health: Programs for very young adolescents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [ English | French ]
  • Addressing gender inequity during early adolescence in Indonesia: Implications for programs and policies from a human-centered design process [ Bahasa Indonesia | English ]

Message Framework

This message framework can be used by advocates working to increase funding for and improve the implementation of programs that seek to create a gender-equitable environment for VYAs.

  •  Creating a gender-equitable environment for very young adolescents: Messages and evidence to persuade decision makers [ Bahasa Indonesia | English ]

[i] Blum, R. W., Mmari, K., & Moreau, C. (2017). It Begins at 10: How Gender Expectations Shape Early Adolescence Around the World. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(4), S3–S4.

[ii] Moreau, C. et al. (2021). Gender and Health in Very Young Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 69(1), S3-S4.

[iii] Igras, S. M., Macieira, M., Murphy, E., & Lundgren, R. (2014). Investing in very young adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health. Global Public Health, 9(5), 555–569.

[iv] World Health Organization. (2011). The sexual and reproductive health of young adolescents in developing countries: Reviewing the evidence, identifying research gaps, and moving the agenda. Report of a WHO technical consultation. Geneva. pdf.;jsessionid=EBC86DB1A58AB4A2B9BADDCBEE3773F1?sequence=1