Young Men’s Clubs Against Violence
YMCAV is a gender-transformative group education project aiming to reduce street violence by preventing 10- to 19-year-old boys from joining – and helping them leave – local street gangs.
Promundo carried out formative research in 2016 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to inform the development of the Young Men’s Clubs Against Violence (YMCAV) project. The research examined how to reduce violence-supportive norms and promote gender-equitable attitudes among young men; as well as how to effectively create environments, programs, and policies that prevent young men’s involvement in violent groups.
The project carries out gender-transformative group education for young men, challenging them to redefine what it means to be a man; creates supportive environments in schools and youth centers; and works to expand program and policy support from other Congolese stakeholders.
The program activities are complemented by advocacy initiatives that target key institutions to replicate and mainstream this evidence-based methodology as a best practice in urban violence prevention. Key institutions involved in the program include the police; the Ministry of Women, Families, and Children; the Ministry of Primary, Secondary Education, and New Citizenship; and the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Led by the Living Peace Institute (LPI), Promundo’s strategic partner in DRC, and Promundo, the YMCAV project aims to reduce street violence by both preventing 10- to 19-year-old boys from joining – and by helping them leave – Kulunas, or local street gangs, which are increasingly affecting the Kinshasa municipalities of Kintambo, Bumbu, and Makala. The Young Men’s Clubs Against Violence project is being implemented in partnership with the following organizations: Réseau des Educateurs des Enfants et Jeunes de la Rue en République Démocratique du Congo (REEJER), a Congolese network of NGOs working with street children; Aide à L’Enfance Defavorisée (AED), a prominent youth center working with street children in Kinshasa; and Coalition Nationale de l’Education pour tous (CONEPT), a network of educators in the DRC school system.
In 2016, Promundo conducted formative research to inform the development of the Young Men’s Clubs Against Violence (YMCAV) project, a four-year project funded by the Swedish Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), that works to prevent and respond to urban violence carried out by local street gangs, known as “Kulunas,” in Kinshasa.
The formative research aimed to better understand how norms around manhood are related to the phenomenon of young men joining these street gangs in order to inform the development of the intervention. Specifically, the research explored:
- How to reduce violence-supportive norms, increase self-efficacy, and promote gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors among young men, ages 10 to 19, in the three targeted municipalities in Kinshasa;
- How to effectively create environments in schools and community youth centers that prevent young men’s involvement in violent groups; and
- How to expand sustainable program and policy support for the prevention of – and response to – young men’s recruitment and membership in violent groups, from targeted nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), schools, institutions, and relevant ministries in DRC.
Along with the project team, the research process brought together representatives from Kinshasa’s gubernatorial office; the province’s Ministry of Women, Families, and Children; the province’s Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and New Citizenship; and the three targeted municipalities’ local governments. The team collected data through focus group discussions and in-depth interviews from a total of 168 individuals, including youth, parents, school leaders, local authorities, and religious leaders.
The formative research highlighted the intergenerational transmission of violence – consistent with findings from Promundo’s International Men and Gender Equality Survey – in which men who witnessed or were victims of domestic violence as children are more likely to accept violence as a conflict-resolving method in relationships and in the public sphere as adults. The research also clarified that risk factors for young men to join the Kulunas are primarily related to social constructions of masculinity, in addition to (1) proximity to Kulunas, (2) witnessing violence within one’s family while growing up, and (3) the lack of social policies supporting young people.
The research findings were used to develop contextualized gender-transformative group education for young men, challenging them to redefine what it means to be a man; to create supportive environments in schools and youth centers; and to expand program and policy support from other Congolese stakeholders. These activities are complemented by advocacy initiatives that target key institutions, including the police, to replicate and mainstream this evidence-based methodology as a best practice in urban violence prevention. The program aims to create change on three levels of intervention:
- Individual: Reducing violence-supportive attitudes and increasing gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors among boys aged 10-19 participating in the group education;
- Relationship/Community: Effectively creating supportive environments in schools and community youth centers to prevent involvement in violent groups;
- Institutional: Targeting Congolese NGOs, schools, institutions, and relevant ministries to develop sustainable program and policy support for the prevention of and response to young and adolescent boys’ recruitment and membership in violent groups.
The Young Men’s Clubs Against Violence (YMCAV) project was officially launched in June 2017 under the patronage of the Governor of Kinshasa and with support from the Swedish Embassy in Kinshasa.
- Program H: Designed for young men, Program H encourages critical reflection about rigid norms related to manhood and encourages transformation of stereotypical roles associated with gender.
- Living Peace: Living Peace provides psychosocial support and group education to men and their partners in post-conflict settings to address the effects of trauma and develop positive, nonviolent coping strategies.
- Youth Living Peace: Youth Living Peace is designed to help adolescent boys and girls heal from violence, while providing critical school-based training for violence prevention.