The YP Foundation’s youth-run and led projects have worked with 5,000 young people in Delhi over the past 9 years. We’ve noticed a marked change in the changing attitudes of young men who have participated in programs. Many of them have gone from working as volunteers to becoming peer educators. Referrals between young boys have increased and are now one of the major ways in which now young men will ask to volunteer with the programme. That’s a significant attitude shift from 5-6 years ago when working on gender equality was considered to be ‘a female issue’. There is a notion of joint responsibility and an aspiration to be involved in addressing the rights of girls and the need for equity – which is the outcome that we have been working towards. We have found that to do this, it is key to have integrated spaces for young men and young women. We still keep a safe and an equal space for both genders to clarify concepts separately, but to have shared space where young women challenge young men changes the power dynamic and how it works.
We have found that introducing young men to feminist principles and values that explain gender roles is really powerful. Contrary to popular belief that the “f word” is not friendly to young men and boys, it’s proved to be an empowering space for young men to go beyond the perceived masculine stereotype. Furthermore, comprehensive sexuality education provides a critically empowering context to address gender equity.
This series of posts about engaging men and boys in sexual and reproductive rights and health work is based on a speech that Ishita Chaudhry gave at the High Level Meeting on Youth at the United Nations in New York in July 2011.