Program H is named after homens and hombres, the words for men in Portuguese and Spanish. Launched in 2002 by Promundo and partners and now used in more than 22 countries, it primarily targets men, ages 15 to 24, to encourage critical reflection about rigid norms related to manhood. It is based on extensive research of young men in Brazil with more gender-equitable attitudes, which demonstrated that these attitudes were indicative of men who had a peer group supportive of gender equality, better personal experiences around gender equality, and more meaningful male role models.
The Program H methodology promotes group education sessions combined with youth-led campaigns and activism to transform stereotypical roles associated with gender (such as prevalence of contraceptive use or distribution of household responsibilities). To complement these activities, Promundo offers a conversation-starting, no-words video Once Upon a Boy. Organizers can choose from some 70 validated Program H activities to customize the program for the needs of their communities. They can also utilize the Program HMD Toolkit, an abbreviated manual that includes recommendations for the implementation of different modules. Partners usually implement 10 to 16 activities, once a week, over a period of several months in conjunction with community awareness campaigns created by youth themselves.
As organizations deploy Program H in their communities, they can use its innovative Gender Equitable Men (GEM) Scale for evaluation before and after interventions and campaigns to assess their effectiveness. The GEM Scale is a validated attitude scale that has been adapted and applied in more than 20 settings and has shown to be highly useful as an instrument to assess attitudes about gender.
After participating in Program H activities, young men have reported many positive changes, from higher rates of condom use and improved relationships, to a greater willingness to take on domestic work and lower rates of sexual harassment and violence against women. The results of eight, mostly quasi-experimental studies on Program H around the world have found evidence of positive changes among program participants: from more gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors generally, to improved couple communication, reduced gender-based violence, increased condom use, and improved attitudes around caregiving.
Program H has been named a best practice in promoting gender equality and preventing gender-based violence by the World Bank and the World Health Organization and has been cited by UNICEF and the United Nations for its effectiveness. It has also been commended by the Pan-American Health Organization, UNDP, and UNFPA. It has been officially adopted by ministries of health in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Croatia, among other countries.
Recognizing the need to work with and empower young women alongside men, and based on input from female partners of Program H participants, Promundo and partners launched Program M in 2006. Named for mulheres and mujeres, the words for women in Portuguese and Spanish, Program M engages young women in similar critical reflection about gender norms and empowerment. Promundo and partners recommend using the two approaches together and including specific discussions on sexual diversity and homophobia.
Although adapted across many settings, schools have long been a central implementation setting for Program H as well as Program M, providing supportive structural environments through which the approach can be scaled up institutionally. In Brazil, Promundo has launched the Portal for Gender Equality in Schools to train teachers on the Program H and Program M methodologies through an online course, while in India, Program H approaches have been taken up by the government and rolled out in over 25,000 schools.