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 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. P>
“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 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.”
“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.”