WITH YOU*TH

Creating Relationships Safely and Sensitively

Welcome to the website of the e-handbook WITH YOU*TH Creating Relationships Safely and Sensitively on which you will find innovative, gender-sensitive educational resources designated for the target group of young people aged 15–30. The e-handbook WITH YOU*TH Creating Relationships Safely and Sensitively was created throughout the years 2019–2021 in an international cooperation of two non-governmental organizations: NESEHNUTÍ (The Czech Republic) and poika (Austria). This project was financed from EU sources under the Erasmus+ programme.

This e-handbook contains educational resources with numerous innovative techniques that provide tools on how to sensitively open up the topics concerning gender with young people and how to work with them when discussing these topics. While developing their (not merely gender) identity, young people can encounter various social barriers, which can complicate the process of gaining self-knowledge. How young people understand themselves and with what they really identify can be in sharp contrast to what is expected from them; for example, how they should behave according to social norms, how they should look, what interests they should pursue. Consequently, this opposing pressure can affect how young people think of themselves or what life decisions they make. However, these decisions might not be in harmony with what they genuinely want in their lives. The fear of non-acceptance and incomprehension can cause them to deny themselves, their identity and its inner experience. This incongruence between their inner needs and outside expectations can significantly affect adolescents’ mental health, who may experience feelings of shame, embarrassment as well as depression or anxiety. This is why we consider a gender-sensitive approach in the period of adolescence to be key. Boosting self-confidence and individual self-determination in the field of gender and its dynamics enables young people to better understand and reflect on themselves, critically approach demands that gender stereotypes and expectations place on them, and — last but not least — articulate their opinions and needs.

The social pressure on us that we should conform to certain gender roles — and the pressure on conforming to certain gender stereotypes — comes from various external sources that influence us and our gender identity. One of these sources is interpersonal relationships, which young people make and build — relationships with peers, parents, or romantic ones. For this reason, we decided to discuss with young people four topics focusing on different aspects of gender (in)equality, which young people may face when building or beginning interpersonal relationships:

  • how economic (in)dependence of young people affects their relationships,

  • what influence do social stereotypes have on young people’s relationships,

  • how the new media translate into young people’s lives and relationships,

  • how developing one’s gender identity influences young people’s relationships.

We do not look at relationships merely from a standpoint of romantic relationships, but we see them in their wider context that also includes peer relationships or the relationship to self. The presented techniques enable us not just better grasp gender dynamics of these relationships but also explore and better understand, together with young people, their broader social context.

We believe that young people’s needs concerning gender topics as well as their values are an important resource when creating and developing innovative educational methods, materials, and activities for a young audience. We aimed to create not just materials that would empower young people to realize a broader social context affecting their lives, but also bring into the discussion diversity that young people experience. That is why we have decided to involve young people in the development process and to take into consideration their perspective, voice, and needs.

However, encouraging adolescents in understanding gender topics strongly depends on the abilities and skills of people who educate them, inspire them and facilitate their discussions. Therefore, we consider it important to develop the competence of the actors active in formal or non-formal learning so that they can, with their approach, provide a safe space and also lead a discussion about these topics and their context sensitively and sensibly. From our experience, unfortunately, teachers and those working with young people, both in Austria and the Czech Republic, face a lack of support in how to safely open a discussion about gender topics, how to further self-educate themselves or how to underpin these topics method-wise. Therefore, we strongly believe the e-handbook WITH YOU*TH Creating Relationships Safely and Sensitively will serve as a good informational, practical, and inspiring resource for everyone who considers a gender-sensitive approach to be an integral part of quality education.

We decided to involve actors active in both formal and non-formal education in the development of the activities. This cooperation aimed to allow for their perspective as well as the practical problems and challenges they face when raising this topic. Based on their expert input, we had an opportunity to develop effective tools that will enable them to better react to current needs, questions, or problems regarding young people’s gender identities.

“E-handbook WITH YOU*TH is intended for everyone working in formal or non-formal education who wants to extensively explore the gender context of young people’s relationships and what their needs are. E-handbook WITH YOU*TH is designed for all of those who are interested in learning about current topics that affect young people’s identity development. E-handbook WITH YOU*TH is intended for everyone interested in creating a safe environment in YOU*TH collectives to explore gender dynamics without feelings of embarrassment or shame. E-handbook WITH YOU*TH is oriented towards those who want to help young people with creating their relationships with respect towards self and the other — i.e. relationships build on the principle of equality.”

poika and NESEHNUTÍ Facilitator Team

How to Use this E-handbook

This e-handbook is split into 4 main themes that are offered in different languages:

  • Economic (In)dependence in Relationships

  • Multiple Gender Identities

  • YOU*TH Relationships in the Context of New Media

  • The Impact of Social Stereotypes in YOU*TH Relationships

All of the above-mentioned themes are in English; two of the topics are also available in Czech (YOU*TH Relationships in the Context of New Media and The Impact of Social Stereotypes in YOU*TH Relationships) and two of the topics are also provided in German (Economic (In)dependence in Relationships and Multiple Gender Identities).

In each thematic section, we have decided to focus on two specific aspects (subtopics), providing two distinct perspectives on the main topic. Each aspect is subsequently developed in detail, forming individual educational resources that offer theoretical background and a series of activities on how to raise a specific subtopic safely and sensitively in YOU*TH collectives.

The structure of the e-handbook is as follows (from highest to lowest level)

  • The main page with a selection of main themes
  • An introduction to the selected main theme and its two aspects
  • An introduction to the aspect chosen from a main theme
  • Individual techniques/activities contained in a particular aspect

Since we aimed to create an e-handbook that would connect with a wide audience, individual aspects and techniques are designated for diverse target groups — young people of various age groups or different types of educational settings (formal and non-formal). At the same time, each theme and each aspect has its specifics that directly relate to the way how to work with a given topic, how to create a safe space within this topic, or what challenges we may potentially face when bringing it up. Therefore, before entering the activities as such, we recommend spending some time reading introductory texts that provide a wider context of a given topic and method.

While developing the e-handbook, one of our aims was to create such material that will be living, connected with practice as well as theory. That is why all topics and their aspects with activities are accompanied by methodological annotations and recommendations of individual facilitator teams or by quotes from participants involved in the development process. This material also includes illustrations and photos from the test-phase that visually supplement and elaborate on specific texts. The e-handbook also contains a glossary, explaining the meaning of each technical term so that the expert and theoretical inputs are available to everyone interested in this topic but lacking adequate vocabulary.

About authors

NESEHNUTÍ is a Czech independent social-ecological organization based in Brno. Since 1999, NESEHNUTÍ has engaged in activities that draw attention to gender inequality and the related problems, using various strategies. We participate in education without prejudices, personal development of secondary school students, fighting sexism (not just in advertisement). We educate young people, reach out to the public and cooperate with public institutions. In our activities, we involve people with diverse experience.

NESEHNUTÍ contributors that participated in the development of the e-handbook WITH YOU*TH Creating Relationships Safely and Sensitively include:

  • Lucie Čechovská — NESEHNUTÍ’s facilitator and content developer, who contributed to development of the topic The Impact of Social Stereotypes in YOU*TH Relationships.
  • Eva Čivrná — NESEHNUTÍ’s facilitator and content developer, who contributed to development of the topic The Impact of Social Stereotypes in YOU*TH Relationships.
  • Kristina Kvapilová — NESEHNUTÍ’s facilitator and content developer, who contributed to development of the topic The Impact of Social Stereotypes in YOU*TH Relationships.
  • Eva Bartáková — NESEHNUTÍ’s facilitator and content developer, who contributed to development of the topic YOU*TH Relationships in the Context of New Media.
  • Zuzana Martanovič — NESEHNUTÍ’s facilitator and content developer, who contributed to development of the topic YOU*TH Relationships in the Context of New Media.
  • Nika Mazániková — NESEHNUTÍ’s PR specialist and content developer, who contributed to development of the topic YOU*TH Relationships in the Context of New Media.
  • Hana Morávková — NESEHNUTÍ’s external collaborator, who contributed to development of the topic The Impact of Social Stereotypes in YOU*TH Relationships.

Poika is an award-winning, not-for-profit NGO, which focuses on gender-sensitive education of boys and young men. It was founded in 2008 with regard to the rising need of young men to reflect traditional gender roles and male stereotypes. Poika offers workshops for boys and young men to support their development from child into manhood. The workshops are held in schools and social centres, where boys and young men can explore and reflect on their identity/ies under expert supervision. Themes range from violence-prevention, gender equality, sexuality and masculinities to job-coaching and life-perspective planning.

Poika contributors that participated in the development of the e-handbook WITH YOU*TH Creating Relationships Safely and Sensitively include:

  • m Horvat — poika’s facilitator and content developer, who contributed to development of the topic Multiple Gender Identities in YOU*TH Relationships
  • Anna Morawetz — poika’s facilitator and content developer, who contributed to development of the topics Multiple Gender Identities and Economic (In-)dependence in Relationships in YOU*TH Relationships
  • Teresa Schweiger — poika’s facilitator and content developer, who contributed to development of the topics Multiple Gender Identities and Economic (In-)dependence in Relationships in YOU*TH Relationships
  • Anna Gierometta — poika’s content developer, who contributed to development of the topics Multiple Gender Identities and Economic (In-)dependence in Relationships in YOU*TH Relationships
  • Anna Vida — poika’s illustrator, who contributed to development of the topics Multiple Gender Identities and Economic (In-)dependence in Relationships in YOU*TH Relationships

To the development of e-handbook WITH YOU*TH Creating Relationships Safely and Sensitively this people also participated: 

  • Denisa Kuimcidis — graphic design
  • Martin Švarc — Czech–English translation and English proofreading
  • Vendula Švecová —  Czech–English translation
  • Jan Martínek — web design