boysclub meeting
Boys must respect girls
“I pledge as follows: I will not marry untill I am 21 years of age and I will not marry a girl less than 18 years of age!”

The atmosphere is festive as the twenty boys deliver their pledges strongly and clearly together, just as they always do to end each club meeting. Sagar, 15, in the little village of Rohilagadh is among the 5,000 boys and young men who have so far been reached by Ashok’s message that girls and boys have equal worth.

The members of the Boys Club meet twice a month and talk about child marriage, harassment of girls, domestic abuse, what being a man means, gender equality and loads more. The meeting goes on for two hours and our teacher Ravindra is a social worker at Ashok’s organization, IHMP.

“It’s important that we talk about these things because girls have it much harder than boys here. Child marriage is still something that affects girls, for example.

ashok with a boy

- Ashok is a man who treats girls and women with respect, like humans. He is an important model and I want to be like him, says Sagar.

“At the club, we learn that it’s illegal to force a girl who is under 18 to marry, but that some families do it anyway. If a girl is married off as a child, she has to quit school and look after her husband instead. It shouldn’t be like that. All children should have the same opportunities to get out into the world and enjoy life. If you want to achieve your dreams, you have to go to school first.

“And also, a young girl isn’t ready to have children. Both the girl and the newborn baby can die during the birth. And if they survive, the girl still isn’t ready to look after children and a family. By stopping child marriage, you’re actually saving girls’ lives.”

A real man

“It used to be that a ‘real man’ was a big, strong guy who beat his wife. He was the woman’s ‘boss’ and she had to obey him and do whatever he commanded. At Ashok’s Boys Club, we learn that a real man respects girls and women, treats them well and sees women as equals.

“A good man gives his sons and daughters the same amount of attention and chances in life. He does good things for everyone in society and the village. Basically, he’s a good person.

“I want to be such a man when I’m an adult, but I’m trying to be like that already. At home I fetch water and wash clothes. I want to help, so my mum and sisters don’t have to do everything. It wouldn’t have been right if I bossed my sisters about and ordered them to do things. Now it’s fairer because they often help with the cooking and cleaning.

Girls used to do everything at home, but it’s got a lot better here after the Boys Club meetings, where we learn about gender equality.”

two girls playing and a woman watching

More equal

Sagar helps fetch water and wash clothes, which means his sisters Baisheli, 13, and Arati, 12, also have time to do their homework, meet up with friends and play.
boy hanging laundry

Wants change:

“Discrimination against girls isn’t right. I joined the Boys Club to gain more knowledge, so that I could work with others by getting involved and influencing people and changing behaviour,” says Sagar.

Boys need to be on board

“Us boys need to learn about girls’ rights and about gender equality if the situation for girls is to get any better. It’s no use just having Girls Clubs, we need clubs for us boys too if girls are to be treated with respect.

“Without Ashok’s clubs, arranged child marriages would have carried on being a common thing here. But we’re starting to see a difference now. Girls are going to school and being treated with greater respect, and I think life is going to be good for everyone in the future.”

Sagar’s list of how boys abuse girls’ rights


• Men force girls and women to do all the work in the home.
• Boys harass girls on their way to school. They say stupid things and force girls to look at porn on their mobile phones.
• Men force their daughters and sisters into child marriages, which means they have to quit school.
• Girls are harassed and abused in their homes by their dads and then by their husbands.
• Boys subject girls to rape and other sexual violence.

 
x
x
x
Donate!
Your donation is doubled