Gender transformative health promotion: Friuli Venezia Giulia Region confronts gender stereotypes

Laby, Trieste

The Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, Italy, a member of the WHO Regions for Health Network (RHN), confronts gender-related prejudice by adopting an integrated approach to educating people through a life-course perspective, starting in childhood. The implementation of the approach was presented at the 10th European Public Health Conference, which took place in Stockholm, Sweden on 1–4 November, 2017. The presentation was part of the RHN-organized workshop entitled, “Gender stereotypes, women’s and men’s health strategies”, which took place during the Conference.

Challenging stereotypes through intersectoral collaboration

According to the principle of “leaving no one behind” and to the WHO transformative health- promotion approach, which came into play in 2013, the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region has developed a project on the prevention of gender violence and the promotion of equal opportunities for men and women. The project involves nursery schools, the health sector, civil society and the voluntary and third sectors (nongovernmental organizations, non-profit agencies). Its main objective is to challenge gender stereotypes by developing a strong, intersectoral network and empowering young generations to deal with them.

Innovative pilot programme rolled out in nursery schools

The project, which is funded by the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, has been tested in nursery schools in the city of Trieste through an innovative pilot programme, entitled “The Game of Respect”.

The pilot programme was designed by a psychologist, a researcher and a communications consultant working at Laby, a cultural association in Trieste. The aim of the pilot programme was to investigate the feasibility of initiating the promotion of gender equity and critical thinking already in the early phases of life. It involved school teachers, children and parents.
Tools included teacher training, information and, when possible, parent training. A tool kit, including guidelines for teachers and eight games, which can be played both at school and at home, were also developed.

Among the games, the most striking was the “Memory Game”, according to which children have to find male–female pairs relating to different crafts. This exercise encourages them to consider their own aspirations and goes beyond the usual social representations of crafts (such as, a male pilot, a female household), stimulating the imagination without gender-related prejudices.

On completion of the pilot phase, the “Game of Respect” was presented to kindergarten teachers working at MUBA (Milan Children's Museum), the Councillor for Education and Instruction for the Municipality of Milan, and representatives of the University of Milano-Bicocca, as well as at academic and public events at the national level. Several local governments, educational institutions, teachers, psychologists and associations expressed an interest in adopting the game for their communities.

Evaluation exercise

An assessment of the pilot programme revealed the following key strengths:

  • the feasibility of introducing innovation early (target age group 3–6 years);
  • the games kit is easy to use;
  • the approach is valid for intersectoral/interinstitutional gender and disability themes.

The main weakness appeared to be the difficulty of training teachers who are not convinced by the method.

The assessment also revealed an increasing interest in gender stereotypes among parents and teachers, as well as strong links between the project and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) nos 3 (good health), 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality) and 10 (reduced inequalities).

The next steps of the project will focus on gender stereotypes linked to masculinity, which may increase negative behaviour among boys and men. The aim will be to consolidate an effective network and a supportive, inclusive, gender-friendly environment for the whole of society.