Stepping Stones: Promotion of Life Skills and Sexual Well-being in Rural Communities through a Standardized Training Package

Category 2

Stepping Stones is a workshop series designed as a training package to help promote sexual and reproductive health. The training package, conducted as weekly sessions over 4 months, addresses questions of gender, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, gender violence, communication and relationship skills. It uses a participatory training methodology based on a communication model that helps communities explore root causes of HIV, sexual health and gender.

Stepping Stones requires time, good training, skilled facilitation, care, thought, negotiation, and, ideally, prolonged follow-up in communities participating in the training.

For more information or to request copies of the Stepping Stones manual and workshop DVD, contact TALC.

All documentation below has been taken from the Stepping Stones website:

Goal of the Practice
  • Promote community dialogue and communication to reinforce the key messages to respond to the local context of the HIV epidemic.
  • Promote sexual and reproductive health.
  • Empower men and women to reduce their risk for HIV infection through behavior change.
Core Components
  • A 240-page training manual and a 70-minute workshop video designed to help women and men explore their social, sexual and psychological needs, to analyze the communication blocks they face, and to practice different ways of addressing their relationship. The program includes modules that help adolescents and parents talk more openly about sexual values.
  • Facilitation by trained male and female trainers.
  • Weekly sessions over four months so that participants can use/process training.
  • Provides separate spaces for women and men to share ideas and feelings on sensitive topics without fear and bring men and women together in facilitated sessions to share perspectives.
  • Follow up by trainers three to six months after program ended to gather anecdotal information on community/individual change.
Noteworthy Results
  • Empowering women, men and young people to talk about sex and sexuality.
  • Improve communication between couples and among families.
  • Young people started to adopt safe sex behaviors, including condom use.
  • In one randomized clinical trial in South Africa reduced the number of new HSV-2 infections over a two year period by 34.9 (1.6 to 68.2) per 1000 people exposed.
  • Significantly improved a number of reported risk behaviors in men, with a lower proportion of men reporting perpetration of intimate partner violence across two years of follow-up and less transactional sex and problem drinking at 12 months.
Lessons Learned
  • Focus on men is essential in constructing a gender-sensitive approach.
  • The potential of Stepping Stones to change gender relations is strongly influenced by the capacities of facilitators, particularly their level of gender understanding and commitment.
  • There is a strong link between involvement of local leadership and the level of local participation and commitment to the process.
  • Funding and other forms of support for initiatives set up by the participants of Stepping Stones programs need to be built into the project design at the planning stages.
  • Standardized monitoring and evaluation tools should be used to collect baseline data in the community and track behavior change over time within the same community.
Focus Areas
Implemented By
Originally developed by Strategies for Hope and ActionAid
Participating Organization
Target Population
  • Adults (over 18)
  • Adolescents (ages 13-17)
  • General Public
  • People Living with HIV (PLWH)
> 50000
Implementation Years
01/1994 - 12/2008