Across the board in Vikalp’s programs we work with men from all walks of life – from government representatives and caste and religious leaders, to teachers, police officers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, businessmen – to sensitize them to the discrimination women face on a daily basis. Vikalp recognises that issues such as gender-based violence can’t be combatted by working just with women. To end violence, stop child marriage and empower girls, we have to challenge deeply ingrained norms within entire families and communities – men included.
Vikalp’s Youth for Equality (Yuva Samanta Ki Aur) Program is one initiative currently active in 30 villages across Rajasthan, which focuses specifically on engaging men and boys in the promotion of equal and positive gender roles. The program sees young men come together to discuss the issues ranging from child marriage to sexuality, and to share experiences relating to gender in their lives. The program aims to increase young men’s awareness of the rights and potential in women, so that they are able to become role models in their own family, and create more open and equal societies in the long term. Men support each other to address issues in their families and communities which perpetuate inequality, including speaking to families of group members who are performing child marriages, and advocating for girls education in community forums.
One of Yuva Samanta Ki Aur’s most passionate youth volunteers, Shankar has been interested in creating social change since he was a small child. As one of very few people with higher education in a village where only about one in 20 girls finished school, Shankar felt it was his role to help others get the same opportunities. When a friend encouraged Shankar to attend a Vikalp meeting in a nearby village, it didn’t take long for him to decide that Vikalp was the way to do that. Shankar says that the trainings he has done through Vikalp since that initial meeting have given him a deeper understanding of the social issues facing his community, the skills to be able to impart this understanding to others, and the confidence create change in his community. Shankar runs youth groups in his village, and says that the group’s work has led them to be seen as role models, who others look to for guidance and assistance. Together they talk to community members and leaders about expanding girls’ rights and opportunities, and he is particularly proud of having helped re-enrol 15-20 girls in schooling. Shankar has seen huge attitudinal changes in himself and his community as a result of their new understanding of gender, and now runs workshops and activities at Yuva Samanta Ki Aur trainings to impart his infectious passion for change onto other people.
To learn more about Vikalp’s work with men, watch: