Towards a better society

UN SDG 5 gender equality

Equality for girls and women is widely thought to be key to crafting a better society in Latin America.

“Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the most inequality, discrimination and violence on the planet.” (UNICEF)

Latin America’s association with “machismo” , a sense of exaggerated masculinity, often at the expense of women, is more than just a popular notion. Latin America pays a high price for the persistence of machismo.

4 out of 10 girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) aged 15-19 have experienced partner violence in their lifetime (UNICEF).

Dos chicas demuestran cómo es sentirse juntas
The spirit of Chicas Poderosas – togetherness and self-respect

Gender empowerment means eliminating the obstacles that prevent children and young people from achieving their full potential in dignity, and giving them the means to achieve this in their own right.

Gender inequality in Latin America – for girls and boys

Gender empowerment is as beneficial for boys as for girls. Social norms subject boys to harmful expectations – to leave school and make a living while still a child, join criminal gangs or behave violently towards girls.

Early pregnancy in LAC is the second highest in the world. It has a profound impact on girls’ health throughout life and on their economic outlook.

According to Statista’s Gender Gap Index, on average, Guatemalan women have 33 percent fewer opportunities than men in education, health, the economy, and politics. Nicaragua, where NPH also works, has the highest gender gap index in Latin America.

“… gender equality is important for everyone, not just women and girls. Increasing gender equality leads to fairer, less corrupt societies, with improvements in economic growth and environmental sustainability.” (University of Sheffield, UK)

Gender empowerment at NPH

At NPH we are dedicated to empowering the young people in our care, regardless of their gender. We treat boys and girls as equals. This is a core principle at NPH.

Our approach to gender empowerment is two-fold:

  1. All the programmes we run, including healthcare, education and family integration are built on the premise that boys and girls are created equal and merit equal care and opportunity.
  2. We also run two programmes specifically designed to promote gender equality:
    • Chicas Poderosas (Powerful Girls)
    • Hombres de Valor (Men of Good Values)

Chicas Poderosas

Through Chicas Poderosas, literally Powerful Girls, NPH provides a safe place for authentic conversations and for the girls to share their experiences, educate themselves and discuss issues they currently face and will face in life.

Girls at a Chicas Poderosas day held at NPH Mexico

This group focuses on topics such as self-esteem, values, decision-making, sexuality, and healthy relationships, among others. Activities include arts and crafts, which enables girls to identify and manage their emotions effectively.

Hombres de Valor

Ronaldo, hombre de honor

Hombres de Valor, literally Men of Good Values, is an adaptation of the curriculum of Chicas Poderosas to the boys and young men that NPH supports. This programme provides a safe space for boys to share their experiences, educate themselves on issues that impact their communities, and consider the role they play as allies to girls and women, including through healthy relationships with them.

“I have changed completely. I’ve become more disciplined, I’m more respectful. Now I share more and I can work in a team. I owe my happiness to Hombres de Honor.”

– Ronaldo

They learn to develop a healthy masculinity and healthy relationships, to reflect on gender equality and reject violence.

Sex education

Both of the above programmes include an element of sex education (all children receiving care from NPH participate in sex education programmes). A UNICEF study of education programmes on sex education and HIV showed that programmes that addressed gender were five times more likely to succeed than those that did not. 80% of them were associated with a significantly lower rate of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The percentage of adolescent pregnancies among girls in NPH programmes is 1%, i.e. 10 in 1,000, compared to the average of 6.3% for LAC.

NPH’s holistic approach to gender empowerment

Lack of gender equality seriously undermines girls’ prospects of a fulfilled life. So, even though a traditional gender divide prevails in our workshops in, say, dress making, we are very happy to have supported girls through training to be car mechanics and electricians and boys who have learnt hair dressing.

At NPH we provide equal access to healthcare, education, good nutrition and opportunities across the board, regardless of gender.

“It is important to have youth empowerment groups, for both genders. For girls it makes a difference between aiming to continue their studies and stand up for themselves, their dreams and what they want from life. The alternative is an arranged marriage to an older man in the community or getting pregnant before 18, thereby becoming economically and psychologically dependent. Boys learn to accept that they have emotions beside “the acceptable” ones in the male community, such as pride or anger. They learn how to manage their emotions, accept them and express them in healthy ways, relying less on alcohol or drugs to feel happy or engaging in dangerous behaviours. Girls and boys learn about discrimination, inclusion, equality and that they are agents of change and the makers of their future communities.”

– Nelly Fernández, Mental Health & Youth Development Coordinator, NPH International

Empowerment and the Sustainable Development Goals

Gender equality is a fundamental human right and is critical to promoting a healthy society, for girls and boys alike. NPH is fully committed to supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5: gender empowerment.

You can make a difference

Complete the following secure form to help us continue to achieve gender empowerment for the girls and boys in our programmes.


Threads of Success – Empowering Women in Latin America and Around the World, Kristalina Georgieva, IMF

Children in Latin America and the Caribbean 2020, UNICEF

UN introduction to SDG 5: Gender empowerment

Gender Equality in Latin America and the Caribbean, UNICEF

Statista’s Gender Gap Index

UNDP Regional Gender Equality Strategy for Latin America