Boys are becoming gender equality allies

12 MARCH 2018

Boys across Latin America are embarking on a process of self-discovery. They’re learning to identify their privileges and understand the part they can play in helping achieve gender equality. 

Oscar, 16, Nicaragua is a Champion of Change for gender equality.
Oscar, 16, Nicaragua is a Champion of Change for gender equality.

“Before we used to think that girls couldn’t do the same things that boys do and that they had different roles to play. But now we have learned that we can both do the same things,” explains Oscar, 16. 
In a community in the mountainous region of Madriz, Nicaragua, girls and boys, like Oscar, are being trained by Plan International to become ‘Champions of Change’.  
“The project is about achieving gender equality, how to be equal for girls. Girls have skills and qualities. They can be presidents, we have women who are football players and we must fight to get to the point where all men and women are equal.”

Educating teens about pregnancy

The programme teaches children and young people the value of gender equality. It also explains how to protect themselves from the various forms of violence prevalent in the region as well as how to avoid teenage pregnancy.  

I am learning and I’m investing what I have learnt in others.

“With the programme, we are learning how to prevent pregnancies before girls are in their 20s because not only do the women get pregnant, but it is also the man’s responsibility because it takes two,” says Oscar. 
The young people are trained to become champions in their own community so they can pass their learnings onto other young people and their parents. 
“I am learning and I’m investing what I have learnt in others.”

Becoming young leaders

Changing attitudes towards girls and women isn’t easy: “Parents make their daughters get married because they see them as a burden or they don’t want to pay for their schooling,” says 17 year old Sandra.

Sandra, 17, (centre) sees herself as a role model for other girls. She uses her new skills to teach other young people about equality.

As a Champion of Change, Sandra wants to lead the way for the next generation of girls.
“It makes me feel like I have to set an example for other girls. I hope they don’t get married too early and learn that we are very valuable. Girls are learning how to value themselves, think for themselves and take their own decisions to learn. Now I know my rights and how to defend myself and how to make others respect my decisions,” Sandra explains. 
During training workshops, the young people learn about the consequences of harmful behaviours such as teasing, name-calling and street harassment.  

“Before, we talked in a group when a girl passed by, we said things that made her feel bad and called her names. So we did an activity where we made a boy pass a group of men and we told him the things we would say to girls and then we understood how bad it feels. So then we realised that we should not do it.” Oscar says.

Developing more harmonious communities 

The programme doesn’t just teach young people about gender-related issues, it includes all the issues that affect young people, such as self-esteem, developing peaceful relationships, and ending all types of discrimination.

Now I know my rights and how to defend myself and how to make others respect my decisions.

“There was a lot of violence in this community… but now I don’t see much discrimination before I had friends who discriminated against me [for being poor] but now they are different since they’ve had the training. Oscar explains, adding: 
“This whole process has been very valuable to us, very important because it’s making us better and happier people.”

Empowerment and self-discovery 

As part of the Champions of Change programme, boys embark on a process of self-discovery. They recognise their advantages and privileges, and the part they can play in helping achieve equality. They see opportunities to eliminate sexism from their lives and to invite others to do the same. Core lessons for boys are being responsible regarding sexuality, being non-violent in personal relationships, being committed to gender equality and showing solidarity.

Girls begin their journey by increasing their sense of self-worth. They begin to visualise gender equality and what they can do to help promote it and learn to appreciate strength in the unity of a group of empowered young people. Core lessons for girls are being assertive, being body confident, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and economic empowerment. 

The Champions of Change programme is being implemented in over 20 countries across all regions in which Plan International works.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights, Youth empowerment, Activism, youth empowerment