A UN Women toolkit for peer education opens young eyes in China and Viet Nam


Authors: Younghwa Choi and Ornwipa Rugkhla

Bangkok, Thailand — When young people talk to other young people about women’s rights, the experience can be eye-opening for both sides.

“I have learned what it means to truly respect each other,” said Zhang Hang, a student at Beijing Royal School who attended a training given by students at Beijing Normal University.

The high school student learns how to be a Change-Maker. Photo: UN Women/Alejandro Hita

“This is the first time I talk openly about gender, sex and life,” said Li Hexin, a student at the university who used UN Women’s Change-Makers toolkit for the training.

If efforts to promote right are to succeed, and succeed for the long term, it’s clear that youths must be involved, both in spreading and getting the message. So in 2014 the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, as part of the Secretary General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, launched the Change-Makers: A Young Activist’s Toolkit for Ending Violence against Women and Girls with the UNiTE Youth Network.

Lin Hexin, a first–year master of social work candidate at Beijing Normal University, talks about what she herself learned while teaching others. Photo: UN Women/Aleijandro Hita

The toolkit features activities, fact sheets and case studies that teach young people how to talk with their peers about women’s rights, violence against women, healthy relationships between the sexes, and how to take action on your beliefs.

In 2015, UN Women rolled out the Change-Makers toolkit in China and Viet Nam, with support from the Government of Denmark.

For the training in China that started in December 2015, UN Women partnered with two of the country’s most prestigious schools. UN Women trained students at Beijing Normal University on how to use the toolkit, and they in turn use it to train 48 students at Beijing Royal School. The training on “healthy relationships” involves students 13-18 years old.

The university students do the training using a social media toolkit that they developed to promote gender equality online, and the Change-Makers toolkit, which they adapted to address sexist traditional Chinese attitudes and behaviors.

“To prevent gender-based violence, each of us has to be a Change-Maker,” said Liu Haodin, a student taking the training.

Participants at the Viet Nam Volunteer Center reject gender inequality and abuse of women. Photo: Viet Nam Volunteer Center

After this pilot programme finishes in February 2018, UN Women and the university will expand the training to students aged 5-12 at Beijing Royal School, and include teachers and parents. In future, UN Women will use the Beijing Royal School model to expand the Change-Makers project to other schools in China.

In Viet Nam, UN Women partnered with the Viet Nam Volunteer Center. The center is under the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, which has a wide network of youth across the country.

From August to December 2015, UN Women Viet Nam integrated the Change-Makers toolkit into a youth-led project to use social media to promote “positive masculinity.” The 35 members of the Viet Nam Volunteer Center who took part in this project divided into six groups and created Facebook pages that targeted different audiences, such as people who witnessed sexual harassment, student couples in Hanoi, and deaf people in Da Nang city in central Viet Nam.

Participants in the social media training in Viet Nam say no to violence against women. Photo: Viet Nam Volunteer Center

“I have gained knowledge and experience about dealing with violence that I did not notice before. In addition, my community fortunately has awareness of gender equality through my personal channels on Facebook or Instagram,” said Tran Nguyen Vu, a women’s rights activist.

UN Women then worked with the United Nations Development Programme to expand the Change-Makers training to 110 students from 20 universities across Viet Nam. These students set up clubs with other students at their universities to spread what they learned.

Trainers, trainees and UN Women staff in the two countries said these were among the keys to the success of the Change-Makers projects:

  • Using social media in the training allows the youths to express their voices and creativity as they reach out to other youths around the country.
  • Careful selection of trainees and of partner institutions is critical. Working with two leading schools in China makes it easier to replicate the training in other schools in the country. Working with the volunteer center and the youth union in Viet Nam allowed the project to reach many youths nationwide.
  • The Change-makers project also reached a wider community by partnering with other United Nations initiatives: Voices against Violence, HeforShe, UNiTE, and HowAbnormal.

UN Women will put these lessons into practice as it moves into the next phase of the project and introduces it in other countries in the region.