Why Development Needs More Boys Programs
After the introduction of our Boys for Positive Change (BPC) Pilot program last term we witnessed very positive reactions from the participants. Some of the responses on the anonymous feedback forms included;
“I like that we learned more about gender equality because I had the same mind as the society, but now I know the truth”
“I have an interest in gender roles, because in the olden days we were told that boys should not cry during funeral celebration”
“The most important thing I liked about the group is how we cooperate”
After receiving this feedback, and from the observations of the BPC Facilitators, we knew that BPC was a program that Expo should continue running. I have been lucky enough to start the program this term at Asanteman SHS in Kumasi with a group of enthusiastic and inquisitive young boys aged 16 -19.
The mission of BPC is to sensitize boys to recognize the social norms underlying gender inequality and empower them to become agents of positive change within their communities. To read a more in depth description of the program take a look at our website. I think that this is really important and not a program that is emphasized enough in many communities all over the world.
Here are the top three reasons that I think we, as a globe need more programs similar to BPC.
Men are in charge. This is changing, and that is great. Everyday we are seeing more women in leadership roles and acting as powerful women. However, the reality for many places, including Ghana is that men have the most powerful roles, the final say and overpower most decisions. By targeting boys in Senior High School, we are able to create a new generation of thinkers. If the men of a society acknowledge that women are equals, have the ability to create change and that women are important players in development, then women will have a much easier fight for equality.
Gender Based Violence is a Problem. In many places around the world -Ghana included- Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a prevalent issue, and men often are unaware that it is a problem. In Ghana, 27% of women have reported being sexually assaulted (this does not include the number of violent acts that go unreported) and complementing that, there is a massive lack of knowledge of GBV. In a report done by the Human Rights Advocacy Centre in Ghana found that only 33% of students know what the concept of GBV is. By working with young boys to deconstruct and explain the negative implications and connotations of GBV, we can work towards a world where women do not need to be worried about violence simply because of their gender. This is not a problem unique to Ghana, so I believe many countries in the world could benefit from boys gaining this knowledge.
Understanding your emotions are important for communicating with the world. Stereotypically men are supposed to be “tough” and are not supposed to cry. In BPC we challenge these gender stereotypes, and encourage the boys to address their feelings, accept them and act on them correctly. By doing this from a young age, boys will have less bouts of violence, build stronger relationships and learn valuable communication skills that can be used for the rest of their lives. Encouraging boys and young men to be in touch with their emotions will build their personal development and future success.
I am really excited to be working on, what I believe to be such an important topic in development. I look forward to seeing the transition of the boys in my program as they learn, ask questions and grow as individuals. It is my hope that we will be seeing more programs similar to BPC all over the world, bridging the gap of gender equality and creating a more cohesive generation.