Chair in Masculinities and Gender Equality 

Queen’s University Belfast – Professor Maria Lohan

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UNESCO will work with Professor Lohan of Queen’s University Belfast, the first UNESCO Chair in ‘Masculinities and Gender Equality” to enhance male engagement in challenging gender and power inequalities as part of UNESCO’s strategy to achieve gender equality globally.

Chair Themes

Gender Equality

“This UNESCO Chair has come at perfect timing and it will be such a privilege. UNESCO, and UNFPA and working together with WHO, have generated huge momentum to implement high quality comprehensive sexuality education worldwide in their global partnership for comprehensive sexuality education and this is a golden opportunity for me – alongside my global collaborators – to add value in terms of engaging boys to make a step change for gender equality”

Professor Maria Lohan


Globally, the loss in human capital due to gender inequalities is estimated to be around US$160 trillion, which is about twice the value of global GDP.

Educating girls has huge societal impact and can help to address gender inequality. It enhances women’s agency and their decision-making. It benefits their health and nutrition of their children. Education can help to end child marriage and unintended pregnancy. It also enhances women’s access to decent employment and boosts economic development.

But, to create a step-change in gender equality for women and girls globally, it is equally essential to engage men and boys as partners, and as allies for change. The aim of this UNESCO Chair will be to improve understanding of the best ways to engage men and boys in support of gender equality for women and girls – and to improve men’s and boys’ lives alongside.

Comprehensive sexuality education among school aged children is a great place to start to educate boys as well as girls in gender equality and to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights in early adolescence to last a lifetime. Professor Maria Lohan, the UNESCO Chair in Masculinities and Gender Equality, has been leading ground-breaking research on this topic.

Johanna Herat Acting Chief, Section of Health and Education, and Team Leader of Sexuality Education, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Gender at UNESCO said:

Professor Lohan’s study, called the Jack trial, published in The Lancet Public Health was the first randomised controlled trial study of a male engagement gender-transformative comprehensive sexuality education programme. It was also uniquely thorough, including a health economic cost-effectiveness study and qualitative research evaluation embedded in the trial”.

Professor Lohan added:

“The results were encouraging. Sex education is often gender-blind, assuming adolescent males and females will equally engage and sometimes fails to even question the gender inequalities in roles and responsibilities for safe sex. The Jack trial showed that if you make an effort to reach boys and challenge boys, with high quality materials, they will lean in.

The trial has been one of the first to demonstrate that comprehensive sexuality education can reduce rates of unprotected sex for boys as well as girls as they become sexually active over time and is therefore likely to be cost-effective.

This UNESCO Chair will contribute alongside collaborators in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa who are developing this work further. The Chair will also continue to work closer to home with the prison service of Northern Ireland and Scotland on a relationship an sexuality education programme that was co-designed with young men in prison.

Finally, together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and MenEngage Global Alliance, this Chair is to launch in 2024 the results of a global research priority exercise with diverse stakeholders world-wide on masculinities and SRHR in the Lancet Global Health.

The aim of this WHO exercise is to set sail the next decade of research to build evidence on challenging harmful masculinities and harnessing positive masculinities to foster gender equality and improve sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.

Professor Maria Lohan

Professor Lohan’s research focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender equality.

Within this field Professor Lohan has advanced a focus on engaging men and boys in SRHR and especially on implementing and evaluating comprehensive sexuality education (in schools and in prison settings). This work has a multi-country focus in Ireland and the UK, and with international collaborators in Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Professor Lohan has led over ten multi-disciplinary studies as Principal Investigator, including systematic evidence reviews, co-design of interventions to improve health and education together with stakeholders and end-users, (cluster) randomised controlled trials with process and health economic evaluations, qualitative inquiries, implementation science, and capacity building projects.

These multi-institutional studies have been funded interalia by the the National Institute of Health and Care Research, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, and UK Aid.

Professor Lohan works as a consultant to the World Health Organization in leading out systematic reviews of the global evidence on male engagement in SRHR and gender equality. Following compilation of the evidence, Professor Lohan was commissioned by WHO to lead a multi-institutional team to conduct a global research priority setting exercise on ‘Masculinities and SRHR’.

The aim of this exercise was to set a collaborative global research agenda for the next decade to address male engagement in SRHR and gender equality.

Professor Lohan has published over 100 publications in international peer-reviewed journals and has contributed to the strategic development of research, international collaborations and gender equality at Queen’s University Belfast.