Boys and men play a crucial role in overcoming gender inequality and discrimination.
Currently, men hold many of the key roles of power in the household, the classroom, the workplace and other public spaces. To achieve gender equality and allow girls to meaningfully participate and lead in society, it is essential to challenge these existing power dynamics.
That’s why Plan International is committed to empowering boys and men to be actively involved and dedicated to redistributing power in their personal lives and public spheres.
Through our Champions of Change program in Nicaragua, we are currently working with boys and girls to promote gender equality and challenge social norms by helping them grow as peer educators and change-makers in their communities.
“Before we used to think that girls couldn’t do the same thing that boys do and that they had different roles,” says 16-year-old Oscar.
Oscar is one of many youth from a community in Nicaragua where Plan International is currently engaging boys and men in dialogues that aim to challenge and transform prevailing attitudes towards women and girls.
“The project is about achieving gender equality, how to be equal for girls,” he says, adding that the program also teaches boys about violence and how to prevent it.
According to studies, Nicaragua has one of the highest rates of sexual violence against women and girls in the world – with 70% of women and girls in the country having experienced some form of violence. In addition, Nicaragua has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Latin America, with 28 percent of women giving birth before the age of 18.
To challenge these statistics, we’re working with youth to champion change in their own communities through passing their learnings on to parents and other young people.
“We are learning how to prevent pregnancies,” he says. “Not only do women get pregnant but it is also the man’s responsibility, because it takes two.”
“I feel like an entrepreneur,” he says. “I am learning and investing what I have learnt in others.”
Girls leading, learning and thriving
For 17-year-old Sandra, the Champions of Change program is inspiring her to lead the way for the next generation of girls in her community, many of whom become child brides due to poverty and discriminatory gender norms.
“It makes me feel like I have to set an example to other girls. I hope they don’t get married too early and learn that we are very valuable,” she says.
“Girls are learning how to value themselves, think for themselves and take their own decisions to learn. Now I know my rights and how to defend myself and how to make others respect my decisions.”
And Oscar couldn’t agree with Sandra more.
“Girls have skills and qualities. They can be presidents, we have women who are football players and we must fight to get to the point where all men and women are equal,” he says.
A blossoming community
And it’s not just gender related issues that youth are learning about: it’s also issues that affect all young people including self-esteem, developing peaceful relationships, and ending all types of discrimination.
“There was a lot of violence in this community… but now I don’t see much discrimination,” says Oscar. “Before I had friends who discriminated against me [for being poor] but now they are different since they’ve had the training.”
“This whole process has been very valuable to us, very important, because it’s making us better and happier people,” he says, with a smile.
Show your support for gender equality
Every boy, girl, man and woman has the right to reach their full potential.
And no matter where you are or who you are – YOU can be part of this growing movement to end gender inequality around the world too!