In virtually every country, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is controversial because it involves teaching students about their bodies, human rights, and their reproductive choices—areas that are fraught with social stigma, gender norms, and an imbalance of power. Many governments resist committing to CSE in their countries due to opposition and myths related to the content of such programs, despite evidence to the contrary.
As a result, progressive civil society organizations have had to pick up the slack to provide young people with the information they need to make informed choices. IWHC supports organizations that implement innovative CSE program
s at the community level, linking local experiences to national policy.
One such organization we support is The Indigenous Trust for Culture and Health (TICAH), based in Nairobi, Kenya. TICAH provides a “safe space” sexuality education program to young people in schools called “Our Bodies, Our Choices.” On a recent trip to Nairobi, we worked with TICAH to map the connections between short-term and long-term outcomes by creating a Theory of Change in order to measure the effects of their CSE program on students’ lives.
A Theory of Change is both a process and a product that allows organizations to critically reflect about their progress towards desired social change. It can be used as a visual roadmap for the complex factors that must occur in harmony to lead to the desired long-term outcome. It also helps us measure the effects of the program.
We chose The Community Builder’s Approach to Theory of Change developed by the Aspen Institute as a guide. We chose this guide because it was clear, accessible, and it was specifically geared towards community-based empowerment programs like “Our Bodies, Our Choices.” The guide offers practical examples, step-by-step facilitation tips, and important strategies to use when common challenges arise.
The guide divides Theory of Change development into five tasks. The first identifies the ultimate long-term outcome: the centerpiece. TICAH identified its long-term outcome as “Sustained confidence and ability to make informed decisions about sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Then we developed the “pathways of change” by working backwards from the long-term outcome and determining the preconditions necessary to achieve success at every stage of the change process. The Theory of Change relies on pathways of change to describe the storyline of outcomes at the short-term, intermediate term, penultimate, and long-term level.
It looks easy, but because it’s an art and not a science, we grappled with mapping parallel pathways of change when we felt that many outcomes were interrelated and connected to one another.
For example, an important intermediate term outcome for TICAH is “Participants are knowledgeable of the sexual and reproductive health and rights choices available,” which could be a useful precondition to all three penultimate outcomes, which are:
- Girls can critically analyse, cope and problem-solve
- Girls are leaders in their communities and act as reference points for others
- Girls are independent and autonomous.
We then developed indicators for each outcome by answering the question: “What evidence will we use to show that our desired outcomes have been achieved?” The final tasks involved inserting TICAH’s activities, such as offering counselling, leadership opportunities, and referral support in sequence with our outcomes and clarifying and documenting our assumptions along the way.
TICAH was very pleased with the comprehensive yet concise model we developed together. We all learned many lessons throughout this process and TICAH will continue to refine the model and add a narrative to accompany the roadmap (template pictured above & final product below). “The process helped crystalize the change we want for girls!” said Jedidah Maina, Deputy Director of TICAH.