WiseGuyz is a healthy relationship, life skills program for male-identified individuals in grade nine. WiseGuyz is an evidence-informed participatory program designed to promote healthy relationships and prevent adolescent dating violence. The program provides a safe space for participants to reflect on the impacts of harmful gender stereotypes and build essential relationship skills. These skills aim to promote healthy sexuality and healthy relationship development while decreasing attitudes related to homophobia and gender-based violence. In school settings, WiseGuyz strategically targets grade 9 boys who are 13 – 15 years old because this is an important time of change as they transition to high school.
A few years ago, the Centre for Sexuality began to see a critical need in the community. Through research, focus groups, and a review of current programs covering social, emotional, sexual, and relational health, we discovered a need for a program designed specifically for young men.
We recognized that most sexual health services were focused on pregnancy prevention and that while teen pregnancy rates had dramatically dropped, STI rates continued to rise. We saw alarming trends around the cultural and media messages young boys were receiving about what it means to be a man. We continued to see bullying and homophobia occurring in schools. What was society teaching our young men and how could we change the conversation? As a result, WiseGuyz was born.
WiseGuyz runs weekly within selected schools in Calgary and area. The program is comprised of four sequential core modules that are facilitated over the course of the school year.
WiseGuyz is also offered in community settings to boys aged 12-18 in partnership with other community organizations.
If you are interested in having WiseGuyz in your school or community organization, please email Youth Programs Manager, Becky, for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Module 1 – Health Relationships
This module focuses on supporting participants develop skills to build healthy and respectful relationships. Participants will learn about personal and relational boundaries, consent, coping skills, and effective ways to express emotion and resolve conflict.
Module 2 – Sexual Health
This module focuses on increasing participants’ understating of their own sexual and reproductive health. Participants will learn about healthy sexuality, how bodies change during puberty and tools to make informed decisions about their own sexual health. Participants will elaborate on what sexual consent is and will learn about Canadian laws and ages of consent for young people.
Module 3 – Gender, Sexuality, and the Media
This module focuses on challenging harmful and limiting representations of gender. Participants will learn the differences between sex and gender and will be encouraged to examine and deconstruct harmful gender norms and stereotypes that are portrayed in the media.
Module 4 – Human Rights, Advocacy, and Allyship
This module focuses on encouraging participants to discuss concepts of equity and justice on a broader social scale, and to explore how stereotypes and prejudices can have an impact on people’s opportunities. Participants will discuss ways in which they can stand up for the rights of those experiencing oppression. This can range from being an active bystander in their day to day lives, to advocacy and engagement with broader social issues.
WiseGuyz is an evidence-informed program. Comprehensive evaluation and ongoing formative research have been conducted on the program since 2012. It has been recognized as a promising practice program for the prevention of domestic violence (https://www.calgarywomensshelter.com/images/pdf/Prevention&EarlyIntervention_DV_FCSSJune2014.pdf).
We have collected evaluation data from over 800 WiseGuyz participants since 2014 to help us understand the impact of the program. From this research we know that WiseGuyz are better able to engage in healthy relationships and feel more comfortable making social connections and coping with negative emotions. We also know that as a result of taking the program that WiseGuyz demonstrated significant improvements in homophobic attitudes, social expectations around what it means to be a guy, and attitudes about their own sexual health knowledge and abilities. Recent data also suggests that the program improves mental help and friendship quality.
We are also working in partnership with the Hope Lab on outcomes evaluation and scaling of the program: https://www.hopelab.ca/evaluating-healthy-relationships
For more information about our program impact please see the research and articles below: