Last week we held our first Girl Power training for boys (the first of three to be held this year) as one way of creating a sustainable and enabling environment for girls' empowerment at one of Just Like My Child's school communities, St. Joseph Magogo.
In order to support an environment that will allow the girls trained in our Girl Power Project to lead empowered lives and fight any injustices against girls, the community must also be empowered to support the girls. So, we decided this year that it is critical to our program's success to involve boys and parents.
We've already held meetings with all of the parents in our five schools, introducing them to what their girls are learning in the program and what they can do to support their daughters. The parents' response to the program was enthusiastic, and they were grateful their daughters have this opportunity. We plan on having more meetings with the parents toward the end of the year to discuss changes they witness in their daughters' behaviors, how this has affected the relationship with the parents, and what parents can do to be supportive.
The boys' training showed similar promise. Our local facilitators Ismail and Monica discussed social survival skills, puberty, growth and development, and gender roles with the boys.
During the Girl Power training with the girls, girls often complained that boys who are just friends would ask for sex, which is problematic for the girls because they feel they have to say yes to remain friends. Monica takes the girls through an exercise that teaches them how to say no to boys, or men, who ask for sex, and explains the reasons why this is important (remember the 7 Bs?)
Monica gave the boys a similar exercise and opened with this story:
There were two friends, Peter and Jane. They've been very close friends since childhood. Now Jane is in the 5th grade and Peter is in the 7th grade. It was about time for Peter to join high school and since they wouldn't see each other again, Peter asked Jane to have sex just this one time as a farewell.
Question: What should Jane do? And why/or why not?
Boys Answered: She should accept because they have come from so far, and have been friends for long
Boys Answered: She shouldn't accept because:
She is still at school
She is still young
She may get sick with unknown diseases
She may waste her days ahead if she got pregnant
On the topic of gender roles, Ismail asked the boys various questions about the myths of gender roles. Here are their responses:
Myths of what boys do, that girls should not do:
Going out at night
Myths of what girls do, that boys shouldn't do:
Serving or carrying food
Sweeping and mopping the house
Housekeeping and babysitting
Reasons as to why boys are failing to perform these 'girl' roles:
Some of their parents have told them so
It is shaming
They have not been trained to do them
Boys have been raised to become men, and then get a wife
Girls are naturally weak and cannot handle some 'boy' roles
Who is a man? What is your image of who a real man is?
A big voice
Must not tell all on others
Must not cry
Shouldn't be weak
Some of their answers aren't that different from what many boys or girls might say back in the United States, and we aren't saying there is anything wrong with traditionally defined gender roles in any cultural context. However, if a girl or boy wants to go outside of the norm or break from the stereotypical image of what a man or woman is, it is a choice JLMC and our local partners feel they should be allowed to make without criticism or shame. At this early stage, we can't expect boys' behaviors will change. But three of the boys at the end of the training said they would be more helpful at home, helping out with chores. Next session will focus on domestic violence and women's and children's rights. Stay tuned.