Young Men Initiative
Besnik Leka– CARE International - Balkans
CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty.
To serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the
CARE in the Balkans exist since 1992, has been active in programming
• Return of refugees and displaced persons , • Local economic
development, • Civil society development, • Gender Equality, violence
prevention and combating human trafficking, • Minority and human
2 Young Men Initiative YMI
2.1 Working with adolescent boys between the ages
of 14 - 18
2.2 To increase the uptake of healthy, nonviolent,
and gender equitable lifestyles among young
men in the Western Balkans
2.3 A program focused addressing social norms
around what it means to be a man in society.
2.4 The program utilizes a gender and youth work
framework to promote attitudes and behaviors that
contribute to healthier lifestyles, gender equality
and resolving of conflict without the use of
Be a man fill your
Be a man fall in
• Be a man
3. Key Problems YMI addresses
3.1 We focus on young men, especially those from lower socio –
economic backgrounds and who face more social exclusion in their
community and wider society.
3.2 In our research with over 2,000 young men in these technical
schools, we have seen the following profile;
3.2.1Over 50% have been involved in some group related violence and
over 70% have been involved in some type of interpersonal violence
(bullying, peer and or dating);
3.2.2 Over 60% of young men report binge drinking (over 5 drinks in
one setting) except in Sarajevo and Pristina where numbers were a bit
3.2.3In Zagreb and Belgrade over 30% of the respondents report being
3.3 Unable to live up to societal expectations and often young men
report high levels of stress and depression.
3.4 Throughout the region, young men report exposure to family
violence, violence in media, job and economic stress, substance abuse,
and notion of masculinity as major factors associated with their use of
4 What are the key issues that need to be tackled
if a durable solution has to be found?
4.1 More targeted interventions that looks at how gender
socialization impacts both young men and women (more programs
should use a gender lens to understand the different dynamics that
impact boys and girls differently).
4.2 The professionalization of youth work and greater resources to
work longer term with young men (and other socially vulnerable
4.3 Educational reform and more youth development programs
(investment in prevention) to support more challenging youth and
those exhibiting anti-social behaviors.
The results are striking. Before the initiative, 69% of participants
thought physical strength was the most important quality for a
man – this dropped to 42%.
The number who said they wouldn't automatically join friends in
a fight rose from 38% to 57%.
And the proportion who thought a man was justified in beating
a woman for cheating on him dropped from 52% to 27%.
5 Who should be involved in
5.1 NGOs and government institutions need to work together in developing policies and in
5.1.1 YMI has worked with the ministry of interior in Croatia on a violence prevention
program implemented in primary schools jointly by the police and youth worker.
5.1.2 YMI has developed an online training course on violence prevention and work with
young men for educators and youth workers.
5.1.3 YMI has worked with local youth offices as part of the Ministry of Sport and youth on
the development of local “be a man clubs” promoting positive masculinities and non-
5.2 Youth need to be engaged in all levels …from researching and understanding the issue,
to design, implementation and evaluation of different interventions.
5.2.1 YMI steering group has comprised peer leaders who have been a creative group
engaged at all levels of the program.
5.3 Many of the staff of YMI has been participants first and through different leadership
opportunities had the chance to develop news skills as peer educators and youth workers.
6 What are the Key Lessons?
6.1 Having well trained local partners skilled in work with
young men and in gender transformative programming.
6.2 Strong youth engagement (YMI has involved over 15,000
youth in 5 countries).
6.3 Linking research/evaluation with policy and practice.
6.4 Recognition and financial support by government
institutions for the positive engagement of youth work.
6.5 Strengthening the role of youth work (both voluntary
formal sectors) in addressing social justice and youth
7 What are the key gaps? Needs
• As gender is relational…including mix gender work as a component
of work with young men on issues of gender equality and dating
violence is important.
• Behavior change takes time (first step is gaining knowledge and
awareness rising, then changing of attitudes and opportunities to
practice skills leads to more longer term behavior change)
• Longer term funding…most funding for organizations like CARE is
about 3 years…for local NGOs in can be 12 months or less…wide
scale community change happens over a longer period.
• Engaging with wider adult community and role models (YMI works
with sports association, school parent associations, and other adults
that have influence on young men (and youth in general).
• Scaling up in schools …including the mandatory introduction in
school curricula topics that cover gender norms, masculinity, sexual
and reproductive health and violence prevention.
• Addressing out of school youth, especially young men… with
programs that address mental health issues.
• Greater work with media on the treatment of issues of gender and
violence. Often the media is reinforcing harmful norms and
• In the case of the Balkans, more support from international donor