3 boys championing gender equality and girls’ rights!

Gender inequality is an issue everywhere. It’s a global problem fueling discrimination, violence and negative stereotypes that not only impact girls and women, but boys and men too.

Aggressive. Strong. Macho. These outdated perceptions of what it means to “be a man”, and other gender norms pervasive in societies around the world can have a harmful effect on young boys – and subsequently, the men they’ll grow to become.

Educating, engaging and encouraging boys to challenge gender stereotypes and champion gender equality is key to creating lasting change, and critical to moving us all closer to a just and fair world for everyone.

Meet 3 boys proudly taking action to speak out against negative stereotypes and norms to promote equal rights in their community!

Alemayehu, Ethiopia – Speaking out to end female genital mutilation

A teen boy standing in a forest.Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as cutting, is deeply rooted in many cultures around the world. FGM is a violation of girls’ rights that can put the health, well-being, and even the lives of girls at risk.

In 14-year-old Alemayehu’s community in Ethiopia, Plan International is arming girls with information about the harmful effects of FGM to empower them to speak out about it, while educating boys about the issue too – encouraging boys to become allies!

“I’m a member of a boys’ club support by Plan International. We discuss harmful practices in our club meetings,” shared Alemayehu. “We also spread the word to our friends.

“Before I joined the club, I didn’t know much about FGM – only that it was something that should be done.

“At times, it feels awkward to speak about FGM as a boy…But I pluck up courage from the thought that if I and other boys stay silent, our sisters and friends will die.

“I want to marry an uncut girl.”

Keshob, Bangladesh – Stopping child marriage

A teen boy talking.Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage, with approximately 65% of all girls married before the age of 18. To protect girls in communities across the country, Plan International’s supporting children’s groups, where members learn about their rights, and the issues surrounding child marriage.

With this knowledge, the groups speak to parents and families about the importance of educating – not marrying off – their daughters. Leading one of these groups is Keshob, who’s determined to help his community become child marriage-free! As a result of his commitment and courage to speak out about this practice, he has played an important role in stopping the marriages of many girls in his community.

“We’ve now stopped seven marriages,” shared Keshob.

WATCH VIDEO: How courageous youth like Keshob are vowing to end child marriage and unveil brighter days for girls in Bangladesh!

Harly, Nicaragua – Working to end sexual violence

A teen boy standing in front of a house.Machoism is a major issue in 19-year-old Harly’s community in Nicaragua. This aggressive, male-dominant culture is a contributing factor to the region’s high rates of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence.

Determined to turn things around and help create a community that’s safe for all, Harly and other youth are rallying together to educate boys and men on the consequences of violence.

“I do not believe in violence of any kind and I’ve always been keen to show others why this behaviour is wrong,” shared Harly.

Defy Normal to advance equality

Gender equality is about ensuring that everyone has equal rights, regardless of their gender. Girls and women can’t do it alone – engaging boys and men, like Alemayehu, Keshob and Harly, in the fight for equality is critical to meaningful and lasting change.

In many parts of the world, it’s considered ‘normal’ for girls and boys to have different opportunities, rights and roles based on their gender. But together we can Defy Normal and help all children reach their full potential.

Defy Normal