Ghent, Belgium


The study site in Belgium is a city with one of the largest pockets of low income youth: Ghent. Ghent has a population of 250,000 people. Around 8-10% are living in poverty and approximately 3.3% of the population are young adolescents.

Research Team

Our collaborating partner in Blegium is the International Center for Reproductive Health at Ghent University.

Kristien Michielsen, Principal Investigator

Dr. Kristien Michielsen is a senior researcher and post-doctoral assistant, International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH), Ghent University. She is a trained social scientist (2001), and obtained a PhD in Social Medical Sciences from Ghent University in 2012. She has been working for ICRH since 2006, and in this period her main topic of research has been the effectiveness of HIV prevention interventions for adolescents and youth, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. A substantial component of this study was collecting quantitative and qualitative data from adolescents and young people on how (sexual) relationships are formed and on prevailing sexual scripts. Furthermore, over the past years, Michielsen has been involved in the European Expert Group on Sexuality Education, led by the German Federal Centre for Sexuality Education (BZgA) and the World Health Organization – European Office. This Expert Group developed Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe and an Implementation Guide for Sexuality Education, where she co-led the work of the Expert Group on indicators and methods to evaluate holistic sexuality education. She currently holds a position as post-doctoral assistant at ICRH, where she is responsible for general support for the centre, and PhD and master students, fund acquisition, external representation, and setting out the general long-term strategy. Kristien Michielsen is member of a number of national and international networks related to sexual and reproductive health. Contact Dr. Michielsen.


Sara De Meyer, Field Coordinator

Sara De Meyer has a master's degree in social-cultural sciences, a degree in secondary teacher training, and a post-graduate degree in gender studies. She has been working for the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH) since 2009. During this period she was involved in research projects about sexual and gender based violence and homosexuality among adolescents. The last four years Sara has mainly been working on the CERCA project, an intervention study on community-embedded reproductive health care for adolescents in Latin America. She has a special interest in gender, adolescent sexual health and behavioural change projects at national and international level. Sara has extensive international experience in giving training on gender related issues and is member of various national networks related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. 


How are social (gender) norms linked to (sexual) health of adolescents?

March 30, 2018

Gender norms and sexual health of young adolescents in Ghent

Sara De Meyer – International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University

How interventions on gender norms with local communities can contribute to an improvement of adolescent sexual health

Rebecka Lundgren - Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University

Debate: how can we improve adolescent sexual health?

Kristien Michielsen – International Centre for Reproductive Health, Ghent University

Stories from the Field: Ghent

After being part of an international and national training in qualitative fieldwork, after translating and back translating informed consents and interview protocols, searching for interviewers and calling people to convince to participate in the international research project on gender socialization, the rush stopped. Suddenly I found myself in front of you.  All the things I heard, I read, I said, they all came together to that one moment when we looked in each other’s eyes.

I was there–where I had to be–and you were there because you wanted to. Maybe you were curious about the questions I would ask? Or maybe your mother convinced you that it was important to participate? Most important: you said yes. And I imagine I was as excited as you were to be there together and to start this new adventure. I wondered… Would I be able to capture the thoughts you were willing to share with me?    Read More...