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Stepping Stones 

The original Stepping Stones manual has been adapted for use in South Africa and is now available in a new Third Edition (2010) (pdf format, kb) as ‘Stepping Stones – South African edition’. This is distributed by the MRC Gender & Health Research Unit and if you would like a copy please contact: Monalisa Hela on

What is Stepping Stones?
Stepping Stones is a workshop series designed as a tool to help promote sexual health, improve psychological well-being and prevent HIV. The workshops address questions of gender, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, gender violence, communication and relationship skills. In doing so they recognise that our sexual lives are embedded in a broader context of our relationships with our  partners, families and the community or society in which we live.

It is relatively easy to give people knowledge about making changes in their lives e.g. using condoms but people often find that they are not able to make such changes because they do not communicate well with their partner, fear violence or abandonment, or think their culture or religion does not allow it. If we are successful in reducing interpersonal violence and frustrations arising from poor communication people will feel healthier.

Stepping Stones WorkshopsWhat do the Stepping Stones Workshops provide?
Stepping Stones workshops provide opportunities for participants to examine their values and attitudes towards gender and relationships, to build on their knowledge of aspects of sexual health and HIV/AIDS, and to develop skills that will help them communicate their needs and wants to others.
The workshops are based on participatory learning approaches, as people learn better when their knowledge is affirmed and they are able to discuss issues and come to their own conclusions.

Using the Stepping Stones manual
The manual is intended to be used in its entirety with peer group participants who work through all sessions, each building on previous sessions. It is designed for use with people of any age and both genders.

Originally developed for use in small, rural communities in Uganda, it has now been adapted for South Africa and after well over a decade of use is in its 3rd Edition.

Stepping Stones manual contents
The Stepping Stones workshops are designed to be held with two or more peer groups drawn from a community at the same time (although this is not essential). They consist of 10 sessions held with separate peer groups.

Research on Stepping Stones
Stepping Stones has been evaluated in a randomised controlled trial conducted with young men and women in the rural Eastern Cape. The main findings have been published:

  • Jewkes R, Nduna M, Levin J, Jama N, Dunkle K, Puren A, Duvvury N (2008) Impact of Stepping Stones on HIV, HSV-2 and sexual behaviour in rural South Africa: cluster randomised controlled trial British Medical Journal 337:a506
  • Jewkes R, Wood K, Duvvury N. “I woke up after I joined Stepping Stones”: meanings of a HIV behavioural intervention in rural South African young people’s lives. Health Education Research 2010; Advance access published 11 October 2010.

If you would like further information about the Stepping Stones manual contact:
Nwabisa Jama Shai
or Monalisa Hela,
Gender & Health Research Unit, Medical Research Council,
Private Bag x385, Pretoria, 0001 South Africa, Tel: +27 12 339-8526 /
E-mail address: and/or

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Last updated:
8 May, 2017
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