Identity & Body


Gender & Gender Roles

Harmful Traditional Practices


“Identity cannot be found or fabricated but emerges from within." - Doug Couper (American writer).

Identity is about who you are! Having an identity is a human right! It recognizes your existence in society as an individual. For example, you have the right to a name, nationality and among many other rights, you have the right to express yourself in the way you want:

  • Choosing your clothes
  • Choosing your friends
  • Showing your cultural identity
  • Choosing your religion
  • Expressing your feelings
You also have the right to have a sexual identity. This means that you can express your sexual orientation, choose your partner and choose to (or not) identify with a gender. To know more about sexual identity, go to the lesson on sexuality

To feel good about who you are, you need to have self-esteem, confidence and self-respect. You can get more confident by thinking positively about the things you are good at and what you like about yourself: “I am a good friend” or “I am a good student” or “I am good at sports”… If you think positive things about yourself and your future, it is more likely it will happen!

Your identity forms as you grow up, and will be influenced by personal, environmental and cultural experiences. Belonging to a certain group, for example a family, friends, students, community, religion, sports club can be important influences in developing your identity. Being part of a group, means you interact with other people. In interaction with other people, you learn and find out what your preferences are or what you dislike. When being part of a group, you can relate to or identify yourself with other people. This can positively affect your self-esteem. But you can also learn who you are and who you really want to be by being by yourself! Remember, you could be a part of different groups at the same time and within each group, you might behave in a different manner or be seen differently – this is another aspect of our identity – it is never only one thing but a combination of many ‘identities’.

Your body image is also part of your identity. Body image refers to how you evaluate your own body. It is normal for people to have an opinion about their bodies, some people are perfectly happy with their body, others don’t like a thing or two, and others don’t like their bodies at all. Both men and women feel pressure to comply with a body image and might feel insecure about this.

You practice!
The best way to be comfortable with your own body and to have a positive self-image is to:
  • Experiment with your appearance: what is your favourite style? How do you wear your hair?
  • Know your body and understand that it is unique.
  • Understand that media images are not ‘real’ or ‘perfect’ bodies.
  • Keep a good hygiene and be active.
Now you understand what is meant by Identity. But let’s see how this applies to others and in your own life:

• Read the story on a Kenyan writer and how his sexuality was criticized to see how others deal with their identity.
• Do the quiz to test your own self esteem
• Use the reflective questions to think about your own identity.

Next page




Am I African enough?
Sometimes in February, a prominent Kenyan writer and African icon BinyavangaWainaina came out; the reactions in the Kenyan media as well as barbershop conversations and roadside gatherings were full of hatred leaning to extremism. Among the arguments against his public disclosure was that homosexuality is un-African?

I have been largely puzzled by this un-African tag. It somehow points to the existence of a creation that defines what it means to be or not to be African. It also legitimizes behavior using a set of rules and guidelines based on nothing more than an “African” code of conduct. I am also similarly puzzled when I hear western-raised individuals declare themselves true Africans; or when young people are criticized of having lost touch with their African roots.

Is anyone able to mentally grasp the African identity? Does being African mean anything beyond the borders that shape our continent? Should African be defined in comparison with others, or should it be based on inherent qualities that make up our “African-ness”?

Source: Voices of Youth


Do you have characteristics that you feel belong to your country, city or continent? Make a list of characteristics you have and mark the ones you feel are related to your culture. Review the list again and think about people from other countries, do you think they might have these characteristics as well?



What are the characteristics which really define you as a person?

How do your friends influence your identity?

Who are the people who influenced your identity while growing up?

Discuss about these and other questions in our Facebook community!

You Practice! It is sometimes easier to think about these things when you make them visual. Create your own identity map. Do this exercise with a friend you trust and in case any bad memories come up then ask for help or talk to your trusted friend about them. Look after yourself!

Take a big piece of paper and write down your name in the middle. Around your name you write your characteristics. Now make a list of people who have influenced your characteristics and give them each a colour. Now you draw lines in these colours from your name to the characteristic to show who has had an influence on that. You can add a plus or minus if the influence was positive or negative.



Let’s test your self-esteem!

Let’s test your self-esteem!



“Sexuality is one of the biggest parts of who we are” – Carla Gugino (American actress)

Sexuality is part of every person’s life, and is much more than sexual desire and activity. Sexuality can be a source of great pleasure and meaning in life. People are sexual beings and sexuality is experienced in thoughts, feelings, experiences and practices. Sexuality can be expressed in many ways, like through the clothes people wear, the way they behave or talk, what they say and how they say it, and what they do with other people, the relationships they choose to have, their fantasies, desires, and attitudes towards sexuality. Sexuality is influenced by several things including:

  • Biology: Hormones can influence one’s sexuality
  • Personality: One’s experiences can influence sexuality
  • Culture: Cultural norms and values greatly influence people’s attitude and behaviour related to sexuality
  • Laws and policies: put strict rules on what is allowed and what is not allowed in a country concerning sexuality. Laws and policies may also be influenced by cultural norms
Sexual diversity

Sexual diversity is an important part of sexuality. Although the term “sexual diversity” can apply to many different aspects of sexuality (for example people are diverse in terms of their sexual likes and dislikes), it is usually used with respect to sexual orientation (i.e. to what gender(s) someone is attracted to) and gender identity (i.e. how you feel about and express your own gender).

There is a lot of diversity as people feel attracted to someone of a different sex from their own, the same sex, or all. Even though not all cultures and societies accept this diversity (for example, same sex relationships), people experience different desires in all cultures, societies, families and religions. Those who do not meet the norms of the societies they live in, can experience different forms of stigma and discrimination. It is also important to understand that sexual orientation and gender identity range along a continuum, which means that we don’t always fit into neat and specific boxes of ‘male’ or ‘female’ and/or ‘heterosexual’, or ‘homosexual’, or ‘bisexual’.

Several terms of sexual diversity are:

Homosexuality: People being attracted to people of the same sex

Heterosexuality: People being attracted to people of a different sex

Bisexuality: People being attracted to people from both sexes

Asexuality: People not being sexually attracted to any sex, but they could have romantic feelings

Have you heard of the acronym LGBTQI? It is a reflection of sexual diversity within society.

L is for lesbian. Lesbian refers a female person whose primary sexual attraction is toward females.

G is for Gay. Gay refers to a male person whose primary sexual attraction is toward males.

B is for Bisexual. Bisexual refers to a male or female person who is sexually attracted to both males and females.

T is for Transgender and/or Transsexual. Transgender refers to a person whose gender identity is neither exclusively female nor male. Transsexual refers to a person whose gender identity is the opposite of their biological sex or the sex they were born with.

Q is for Queer or Questioning. Some people refer to themselves as Queer because they are uncomfortable labelling themselves according to the more traditional categories of gay, lesbian, or bisexual. A person who is Questioning is in the process of arriving at a clearer sense of what their sexual orientation is.

I is for Intersex. This is a person who is born with both male and female genitals or with genitals that are ambiguous, and can choose which sex they most identify with. It is a human right that you can choose who you want to start a relationship with, no matter the sex of your partner. As long as the relationship is consensual, which means that it is voluntary and wanted by both partners.

You practice!
Have a look at your sexual rights below and try to give a personal example with each of these rights! How do these rights play a role in your personal life?
  • receive the highest attainable standard of health in relation to sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services
  • seek and impart information in relation to sexuality
  • receive sexuality educationn
  • have respect for bodily integrity
  • have a free choice of partner
  • decide to be sexually active or not
  • have consensual sexual relations
  • have consensual marriage
  • decide whether or not and when to have children
  • pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life
Next page




Danish is a staff member of the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA) and is involved in their youth programming.
“I’ve been working with the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association for 6 years, three years as a volunteer and three years as staff. I joined IPPA because, as a human, I wanted to help other humans. My friend died of AIDS and another got depression about her sexuality. This is a heart-breaking thing to talk about and I just want to help others.

In my work I support young people including young sex workers and LGBTI people. I also work in shelters for young women who have an unwanted pregnancy and who run away from home through shame. The shelters house them and provide them with access to services through IPPA, giving them advice and helping them through their choices.

I’m from the LGBTI community and it has been hard. My parents are not supportive, so it’s important to communicate with them to try and inform them that it is okay. My parents don’t agree and still hold onto religious principles. I work with the LGBTI community and support them with accessing services through outreach and at the clinic.

A lot has changed through IPPA’s work. There has been an increase in access to services and I feel being LGBTI is no longer as shameful. Young people have more confidence and safety because of stories we share from the heart. I feel sharing stories is the best way to pass on information to others. IPPA supports our voices, not just for LGBTI, but for all young people.”

Source IPPF

You practice!

Sharing stories is for Danish the best way to pass on information. What pieces of information do you remember from this story? Do you have similar stories to pass on to other people?



What does the law in your country say concerning same-sex relationships and transgender? Are there traditional values making it difficult to be homosexual, bisexual, transgender or intersexual in your community? How can you change values in a community about sexual orientation and LGBTI people? How much open discussion about the body and feelings of sexual pleasure exists — in sex education classes, in families, and in your community?
Check the lesson on Awareness Raising to find out more!
See sexual rights database for information on laws and policies related to different aspects of SRHR in your country
Discuss about these and other questions in our Facebook community!

You practice!

Have a look at this interactive map to find out more about laws concerning same-sex relationships.
Where is it illegal to have same-sex relationships? Where can gay couples get married?
You can also check out The Pleasure Project for its Trainer’s Guide on helping you discuss sexual pleasure in a safe and positive manner with other people your age.



Indicate whether these statements are true or false

Choose True or False For Each of the Questions






Gender discrimination is still present in our society. Even today we find that many women are still suffering from gender based discrimination. Read the story of a young lady who has suffered in no small way:

I am from Bida, in Minna, Niger state. I am 19 years old. My father had two wives who didn’t produce sons for him so he married my mum as his third wife. After my elder sister, myself and my younger sister, my mum gave birth to a boy.

From where I come from, it is viewed as a sign of weakness if a man has no sons. This is why my dad had to have a son at all cost. In the village we stay in huts which are in compounds. Each man would have a compound, and he and each of his wives would stay in separate huts within the compound.

I started school early, I don’t really remember when. What I do remember is that when I was about 4 years old my father came to the school I was attending with a cane and beat me terribly. I remember that I had not done anything wrong and even my mother didn’t know that he did that. My dad felt it was “useless” to educate female children. I continued school. He repeated the beatings 3 other times. When he did it the last time he insisted that my name be removed from the registers, exercise books and so on. School authorities couldn’t do much as he is my father. Though my teacher at that time tried to convince him, he didn’t agree.

Read the rest of the story online Advocates for Youth

You practice!

Take a piece of paper and draw yourself in the middle. Write down ten words around your name describing why you think it is important you go to school. Are the reasons you wrote down the same for boys and girls?


What does gender equality mean to you? Why is it important for young people? How can you promote gender equality in your community? Discuss about these and other questions in our Facebook community!

You practice!
Think of a slogan to convince others that gender equality is important. Make a colourful poster of your slogan and hang it in in a visible place in your community! It can be as simple as “Women = Men” or “We are all equal”.

You practice!
Go take a walk in your neighbourhood and be attentive to the behaviours of men and women. Look at what they do and decide if it is an example of sex or gender. For example, if you see women washing clothes, then decide if it is a thing both men and women can do, or only women can because of their physical characteristics.



Indicate whether the following statements refer to sex or gender.




“We should be respectful but we must also have the courage to stop harmful practices that impoverish girls, women and their communities” – Graca Machel (International advocate for women’s and children’s rights)

Harmful practices refer to behaviours and practices which are harmful to people’s physical and mental health. These practices are against people’s rights. People have the right to live free from harm, oppression, discrimination and violence. This includes harmful practices directed towards both men and women.

Harmful traditional practices refer to behaviours and practices which have been committed primarily against women and girls in certain communities and societies for so long that they are considered, or presented by perpetrators, as part of accepted cultural practice.

International human rights protect people against harmful traditional practices with the following rights:
  • Right to life and health
  • Right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex
  • Right to liberty and security
  • Right to freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment
The most common harmful traditional practices are:

Forced or early marriages refer to a marriage, in which one or both parties (boys or girls) are younger than 18 years old and do not consent to the marriage. Forced or early marriage is also called a child marriage and can bring a lifetime of disadvantages for the children involved. It goes against children’s rights to health, education, being free from violence and exploitation.

Female genital mutilation or cutting is a traditional practice which refers to procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. This practice has serious and sometimes lasting health consequences for girls and women.

Honour based violence or honor killings, where relatives, including fathers or brothers, kill girls in the name of family ’honor’, for example, for having sex outside marriage, or refusing an arranged marriage.

The harmful traditional practices described above are types of violence related to a person’s gender. You can call this gender based violence. Victims of harmful traditional practices can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including painful sex, forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, traumatic fistula, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death.

Other types of gender based violence are any form of unwanted sexual contact (sexual abuse or harassment), or even violence within a relationship or marriage.

You practice!
The best way to prevent harmful traditional practices, is by speaking out against it and looking for help if necessary! Look at the map in Youth Friendly Services to know where you can go for help. If you have suggestions yourself where you can find help, then add it to the map!
Next page




Meron’s story: Click here
Mary’s story: Click here

You Practice!

Think about the harmful practices the women in these stories experienced. Are any of these practices common in your community too? Think about how we can stand against these harmful practices (start a campaign, sign a petition, make a speech…).


What harmful practices are most common in your community?
What can you do to stop harmful practices in your community?

Discuss about these and other questions in our Facebook community! Also have a look at the course on Awareness raising to know how to talk about sensitive topics to other people.

You practice!
If you thought about how you could stop harmful practices in your community, then list them all down on a piece of paper, and decide which of the interventions is most likely to succeed.

Try to come up with an action plan for your intervention, by listing down the steps and activities you need to do for your intervention. Also have a look at the course Advocacy and Awareness raising to see how you can make a change in your own community!



What would you do or who would you talk to?

«Write in textbox»



“When women have the tools they need to plan their families – information, access to contraceptives, and high-quality health care – they are much more likely to finish their education. That gives them the opportunity to do what they do best: build thriving families, communities and nations.” – Melinda Gates ( American philantropist)

Contraception (also known as family planning) can be defined as any method used to prevent pregnancy. A person (or couple) who intends to have heterosexual intercourse, but does not want a pregnancy can use a contraceptive or engage in sexual activity other than intercourse.

Women and men have the right to decide if and when they want to start having children, the spacing between each, as well as the person they want to start a family with. Contraceptive use enables many people to have greater control over their bodies, their relationships, and their broader social and economic lives. .

nIn the past, many men expected women to assume the entire responsibility for preventing pregnancy. Nowadays, many males share this responsibility by abstaining from sex without contraception; communicating with his female partner before having sex; educating himself about different contraceptive methods; supporting his female partner in using her contraceptive method; among others.

For effective control over their own bodies and sexuality, young people need:
  • Access to quality informationn* Access to quality services and contraceptivesn* Support from partners and communitiesn* Support of strong national health systemsn* Supportive policies from the national governmentn

It is important to note that though the term ‘family planning’ is widely used, often young people do not see themselves as ‘planning a family’. Thus the term contraception is less stigmatising of young people, especially those who are not married.

nThe chart below shows different contraceptive methods and demonstrates their effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. It has a few key messages on how to make one’s chosen method more effective:



The calendar method or fertility awareness method (also known as a ‘natural’ method): is a frequently used method by women who calculate their fertile days, i.e. when they are ovulating in their menstrual cycle. In this period women refrain from sex. This method is not very accurate, especially for girls and women who have irregular menstruation. The method does not prevent STIs.

Female and male condoms are the thin rubber or synthetic covers worn on the penis (male condom) or inside the vagina (female condom) during sexual intercourse. It is a simple method, which is easy to purchase in convenience stores, pharmacies, or health centres and in some instances you can access them for free at health centres. Condoms are the only method that also prevent STIs including HIV. click here for more information on STIs.

Contraceptive pill (or oral contraceptives): Women take the pill daily for 3 weeks in a row to prevent ovulation until the ‘stop week’ when women don’t take the pill and menstruation starts. After 7 days, women start the same cycle again. Pills can be obtained in health centres and pharmacies (usually with a prescription). This method only prevents pregnancy; it doesn’t prevent STIs.

Contraceptive injection (or injectables): A hormonal injection for women to prevent pregnancy over one to three months. They are given in health centres. Just like other hormonal contraceptives, they don’t prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs.

IUD (Intra-uterine device): The IUD (sometimes called coil or loop) is a small device, containing either copper or levonorgestrel, placed inside the uterus by a professional health worker in a health centre. It gives protection against pregnancy for 5 to 10 years; however, this method doesn’t prevent STIs.

Subdermal implants are thin tubes (with 1, 2 or 6 rods) which are inserted in a woman’s upper arm by a trained health worker and release hormones. Implants prevent pregnancy for five to six years. They do not prevent STIs.

Vasectomy and bilateral tubal ligation: provide permanent protection against pregnancy (vasectomy for men, tubal ligation for women). These methods are performed by a professional; vasectomy is a simple, outpatient procedure, while tubal ligation is a surgical procedure. Vasectomy is not effective until three months after the surgery. These methods do not protect against STIs.

Emergency contraception (sometimes known as morning after pill) is an oral contraceptive which can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse. The emergency contraceptive pill does not replace regular contraception and should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It does not prevent STIs.

You practice!

So do you know where you can access these contraceptives? nChoose two of these contraceptives above and make a list for both on the advantages and disadvantages of using these two contraceptives. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages, what contraceptives would you adopt?n
Next page




Silper Agandi - Kenya

When Silper Agandi, a cleaner at the Tupange-supported Migosi Health Center in Kisumu, Kenya, was invited to a training on family planning, she was sure there had been some mistake. "Those things are always for the nurses and doctors only--why would they ever want a sweeper to go to that class?" she asked herself. But the 32-year-old mother of seven is exactly the kind of woman the program hopes to reach. "We learned so much about family planning in those classes," Silper says of the Jhpiego-led urban reproductive health initiative, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "Everybody had questions--even the nurses! I asked so many. With seven children, I knew I just couldn't manage anymore. I was so tired. But I was fearing that it was going to hurt my body." After attending just two of the series of classes, Silper started using Depo Provera. “Family planning is good. Tupange made me feel like I belong to myself again,’’ she says. “Now that I have taken those classes I tell everybody about family planning. I encourage them to come and talk to our nurses and to choose a method. I show them how well I am, and I tell them that I am not having any problems. Because they can see me with their eyes, they believe me.”

You practice!
Write down the things you find most inspiring about this story of Silper. Also think about why you find them inspiring and how this could play a role in your own life.


Why is family planning important for young people? What are the advantages of good family planning? Discuss about these and other questions in our Facebook community!

You practice!

Make a poster which explains the advantages of family planning for young people. Hang the poster in a visible place in your community (school, health centre, community centre,…). What are the reactions of people around you?



Which skills belong to the statement Contraception

Click on the contraceptive method which is explained



Take Action

Find more skills here