March 30, 2009

Nike Foundation Joins Cross-Sector Leaders in Gender Equality Symposium

BEAVERTON, Ore. (March 30, 2009 )— Beginning March 30, Brazil will play host to the first-ever, high visibility conference aimed at highlighting the importance of engaging men and boys to empower girls. The Nike Foundation will join more than 450 cross-sector leaders in this unique symposium to explore research and best practices by programs that challenge rigid gender norms and engage men and boys in reducing violence against women and girls, promoting sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and fatherhood and caregiving.

The Nike Foundation will present lessons learned from its work to engage men and boys in the girl effect at the four-day “Global Symposium on Engaging Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality.”

Men and boys are central to defining and shaping the life experiences of girls. In impoverished communities, girls’ education and future economic opportunities are often blocked by early marriage, childbirth, and high risk of HIV infection and other health threats. The results are irreversible and ensure the persistence of poverty in those communities. Gender expectations and norms are predictors of girls’ opportunities to become supported, educated and empowered in a way that benefits everyone.

“The girl effect is about breaking the cycle of poverty and building a sustainable global economy. Girls and boys are equally critical to the solution,” said Lisa MacCallum, Managing Director of the Nike Foundation. “The programs we’re funding create opportunities for men and boys to see how whole communities benefit when girls are seen as powerful economic actors and family resource managers, rather than a resource drain and financial burden.”

The Nike Foundation, together with the NoVo Foundation, has thus far made four investments directed at men and boys. These include:

  • The Family Violence Prevention Fund uses sport and other means to transform harmful gender norms. In partnership with ICRW, they are adapting the “coaching boys into men” program to India by engaging well-known cricket coaches and players to educate boys about treating girls with respect and understanding that violence is wrong.

  • Tostan has modified its existing Community Empowerment Program in Senegal to specifically focus on shifting gender roles and norms for girls. The program provides gender training curriculum, role playing, problem-solving classes and inter-village meetings for teachers and community facilitators. The program aims to bring villagers together to change long-standing norms and increase gender-equitable attitudes and behavior toward girls.

  • PATH is working in Kenya to test the effectiveness of merit badges for Scouts – both boys and girls – to reward them for gender equitable behavior. It is testing a similar incentive-based program in China.

  • Instituto Promundo is scaling up its youth-led public school programs to promote gender equitable practices in India and Brazil and is piloting a program to better understand the role of fathers in their daughters’ empowerment.

As with all Foundation-funded programming, men and boys investments seek to cultivate innovative programming, identify promising interventions and support scale up. These grants, in particular, aim to shift the harmful gender norms at the community level that impede everyone’s progress in educational achievement, sexual and reproductive health, and economic prospects.

“We go out into the street and raise questions about things that have been realities for our entire lives – violence against girls and women, HIV, or expectations that girls will stay in the home,” said Samuel Marques Cavalcante, a youth Peer Educator for Instituto Promundo. “It’s so cool to see people start to think about it. They realize it doesn’t have to be this way.”

The Global Symposium on Engaging Men and Boys in Gender Equality will take place in Rio de Janeiro, today through April 3, 2009.

The Symposium is co-hosted by: Promundo (Brazil), Instituto Papai (Brazil), White Ribbon Campaign Canada, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the MenEngage Alliance, and Save the Children Sweden.

About the Nike Foundation and Nike

The Nike Foundation (www.nikefoundation.org) is a non-profit organization supported by NIKE, Inc., that is dedicated to investing in adolescent girls as the most powerful force for change in the developing world. NIKE, Inc. (www.nikebiz.com) based near Beaverton, Oregon, is the world's leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. About girleffect.org girleffect.org tells the story of girls creating a ripple impact on their families, communities and nations. Created by the Nike Foundation, it provides the tools for girl champions to spread the word.