Research on sexuality education

Year 2016
Location Kenya, Russia, Indonesia, Nepal
As researcher for Butterfly Works (commissioned by Dance4life)
Collaboration University of AmsterdamDance4life
About sexuality, education, taboo, youth
Methods Literature review, surveys (366), interviews (11), participatory research: photo observation (40), communication mapping (36), diary (18)


Dance4life, a worldwide organisation focussing on sexual health, commissioned Butterfly Works to conduct research into the delivery of sexuality education worldwide, with field research in Russia, Kenya, Indonesia and Nepal. With Butterfly Works I conducted this research in collaboration with Drs. Mark Hoeksma from the University of Amsterdam. We wanted to create insights by combining theory with youth’s daily experiences. We deployed a mixed methods approach including a literature review, surveys, interviews and participatory methods with youth in all four countries.

Desk based research

The literature review into successful delivery models clearly showed the need for an educational framework and an instructional theory. Interviews and surveys showed that at the core of dance4life’s success lies in its personal and fun approach as well as its ability to connect to people and their lives. Its education programme comes to life and becomes a success through the personalities and competences of the facilitators, most of them being peers. Peers are good for facilitating a conversation, but their ‘peerness’ is not enough to teach. They struggle with educating (implementing an instructional design theory) as well as more concrete challenges such as chaotic classrooms and unmotivated students.

Participatory research activities

In the participatory activities we went into depth on specific questions that had surfaced in the research: how do youth share information; what does fun mean for different people in various cultures; how do young people experience safety; and how and from whom do young people learn. These topics were purposefully very broad in order to allow for unexpected insights. I gave a research workshop to selected youth who then went out to conduct research activities in their own community. Through communication mappings, photo observations and diaries, we gained an insider perspective of young people’s lives.