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Nairobi leading the way in teaching consent in schools

Successfully sending volunteers abroad for 10 years

Classes hosted by No Means No Worldwide on consent in Nairobi, Kenya, have been setting an example for the world in how to teach consent and respect for women in schools. According to statistics, 1 in 4 girls in Nairobi has been the victim of rape, and this program is working to eliminate sexual violence against both women, girls and boys by empowering girls to defend themselves while teaching boys to respect women and stand up for them.

At first, the organisation focussed on providing self-defence classes for women and girls in the poorest neighbourhoods of Nairobi. Then, they developed an initiative called Your Moment of Truth. These classes also teach positive masculinity and standing up for women. Before the program began, many of the boys involved said it was justifiable to rape girls who are taken on expensive dates, wear miniskirts or are out alone at night. But within just 6 classes, their opinions changed.

In the video, boys are seen saying "I want to be ready to do the right thing" and "I have to make a choice".

The results from the No Means No Worldwide program have been quite remarkable:

  • 50% decrease in the incidence of rape among female participants
  • 74% of boys who witnessed physical or sexually assaultive behaviour in the year following the program successfully intervened to stop it
  • 46% decrease in school dropouts due to teen pregnancy in participating schools

Soon, these classes will be taught in every high school classroom in Nairobi. Catherine Maternowska, Child Protection Specialist at the Unicef Office of Research-Innocenti says of the program:

“What No Means No Worldwide is proving through its sexual assault intervention is that you don’t need to build 142 police stations, like they did in Tanzania, for millions of dollars. What you need to do is build training capacity in human beings and then train kids to use what’s already within themselves.”

Many traditional approaches to assault prevention around the world tend to focus solely on what women and girls can do to avoid putting themselves in "high-risk" situations. This approach is neither effective nor positive - it places the blame on the victim instead of the individual perpetrating the crime. However, as Upworthy reports, Nairobi is now being used as a model of a more successful and sustainable method of assault prevention:

"Researchers used Kenya's scenario to test the two methods. One group of women received the No Means No training while the other took a life-skills class. Girls who received the No Means No training saw a nearly 40% decrease in rapes in the year following the program. Girls who took the life-skills offering were raped at the same rate."

The program has proven to be so impactful that it is now being implemented in other countries. Schools in Malawi created their own take on the No Means No Worldwide program, after one study found that out of 522 girls aged 14 to 21 in Nairobi who took the classes, more than half reported using the self-defence skills to avert sexual assault in the year after training.

One 12-year-old participant said the skills she learned have given her the confidence to act against sexual assault in her daily life. She said:

"When I'm walking home from school, sometimes men will try and stop me and touch me," she said. "And now ever since [the course], I have pushed them off me, or I run away. I don't freeze up anymore."

CNN reports that Malawi's Ujamaa-Pamodzi courses have taught around 25,000 girls and 12,000 boys thus far. Through the No Means No Worldwide initiative, it is estimated that at least 300,000 rapes have been prevented.

This amazing program is both reducing sexual assault - a global problem - and setting an example of how girls and boys can be taught gender equality in a manner that encourages solidarity and mutual respect.

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