[Photo 1: participants during a girls' workshop; Photo 2: Boys creating messages. Photos by YTH]
Written by Emma Schlamm and Jaclyn Shea
“It is not easy to be a girl in Honduras…” 16-year-old girl, Tegucigalpa
We are confronted daily with the heart-rending reality that thousands of Central Americans are fleeing lives of violence and torture, and further risk their lives in an attempt to come to America. As the femicide rates in Honduras rise, so does the number of women and children who flee (1). For those who do not have the opportunity to flee, gender based violence is often an inevitably grim reality.
Our project, ZonaSegura, aims to harness the power of youth voices to create a technological solution to address teen dating violence (TDV) and support Honduran young girls and boys who may have similar unfortunate prospects.
How can technology play a role in the prevention of teen dating violence?
In mid-October, the ZonaSegura team traveled to Tegucigalpa to learn from young people in Honduras about what it really means to be a young person in Honduras today and what the implications of TDV are in their daily lives and communities. The YTH team facilitated three Youth-Centered Health Design (YCHD) workshops with young women and girls and young men and boys to engage them in the discussion and design, alongside partners, PHI and GoJoven Honduras.
Tech and communicating with young people on sensitive issues
We spoke with a total of 34 young men and women about violence and gender norms in Honduras and how technology can play a role in the prevention of teen dating violence. After intensive discussion, we presented an early prototype of our app and content to girls to garner their insights on functionality, appearance, and tone; the boys brainstormed and created messages surrounding teen dating violence that they would be interested in receiving, which informed direction on how to communicate information in an acceptable and engaging way. For example, during the discussion on technology and social media, youth shared how social media, such as Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Youtube, plays an integral role in youth learning about the world and gender norms. Further, youth in Honduras don’t use traditional SMS texting, but rather rely solely on WhatsApp to send/receive messages; this finding has a major impact on our messaging campaign and highlights the importance of getting youth input early while designing interventions.
Understanding relationships: Young peoples’ perspectives
When asking young girls about unhealthy relationships, they did not hesitate to provide explicit examples of men controlling how women dress, husbands withholding food from their wives and children as an act of control, ex-boyfriends stalking them on social media, and even instances of murder. Young girls articulated complex understandings of machismo and felt its effects in all aspects of their lives with one participant succinctly saying, “It is not easy to be a girl in Honduras... there is discrimination.”
Girls described psychological forms of abuse they have experienced and witnessed their friends experiencing. “Sometimes guys throw tantrums and throw back in your face. They list all of the things they’ve bought for you.” When discussing violence, one young man said "Women will stay quiet about it because they don’t want it to happen again. It’s rare for a woman to threaten to call the police". Although not all participants had personally experienced or witnessed violence, they were still interested in learning how to prevent it. One participant said, “Even though I am in a healthy relationship, it would be helpful to have information that confirms that I am in a healthy relationship or something that can tell me how to improve my relationship.”
Creating positive messages for healthy relationships
The boys enjoyed creating messages about healthy relationships and generated many including the following: “Learn to listen to the problems of others”, “With respect and dedication, we can have better relationships”, and “Communication is the key to success for a relationship without violence”. Their excitement during this activity demonstrated the importance and value of including them in the content creation of the messages.
Our team is now using these insights to design and develop the mobile app for girls and messaging campaigns for boys and girls. We have some exciting things in the works and look forward to sharing what the final app looks like in our next blog post.
Prototypes or mockups of website and mobile application
Emma Schlamm is a Program Coordinator at YTH (Youth+Tech+Health) where she supports research and design projects developing innovative health solutions for youth. She received her BA in Sociology and Spanish Literature from Franklin and Marshall College. Emma is fluent in Spanish and is passionate about involving young men and boys in conversations about gender equality.
Jaclyn Shea is a Program Officer at YTH (Youth+Tech+Health) where she manages research and design projects developing innovative health solutions for youth. She received her MPH from The Gillings Schools of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill in the Department of Health Behavior and is passionate about putting youth voices at the center of design.