Though VOICE’s chief beneficiaries are adolescent girls, we have long recognized the pressing need to involve boys in discussions pertaining to gender and inequalities that are so deeply rooted in the Indian psyche.
After months of hard work, the first chapter of the We for V program for adolescent boys — Pahal Camp was piloted for 13-15-year-old boys enrolled in Telangana Social Welfare Residential Schools. The curriculum is designed to provide boys with information and skills to make healthy, informed choices for themselves while understanding the intricacies of gender and gender-related discrimination in India. The program seeks to instill empathy and respect in young boys, help them resist harmful social norms, and ultimately become changemakers who will join the crusade for an equitable and inclusive society.
From the 6th to 12th of May, over 300 young boys attended Pahal Camp at TSWREIS, Bhiknoor. To teach these young boys, VOICE recruited and trained male college students from across Hyderabad to be facilitators. Any skepticism we might have had about how well this curriculum would be received by these facilitators was wiped clean by the amount of passion, commitment, and thoroughness with which these college students participated in their training.
At camp, each facilitator transformed into a changemaker, winning the hearts and confidence of their young campers. Pahal means ‘a beginning; this camp was exactly that for our impressionable young campers. They absorbed like sponges every grain of information. They started to feel more comfortable about the disconcerting changes that accompany puberty; they understood the life-altering effects of violence; they were introduced to their rights and thought about their responsibilities. Pahal camp also helped campers think about fostering healthy relationships.
The seven days of camp were truly a magical experience as boys began to question social systems and practices; they learned to tell sex from gender; they began to envision themselves as agents of change determined to make the world a better place, not only for their mothers, sisters, friends, and wives but also for any individual who is experiencing inequality.
Among the many stories of change that we witnessed at Pahal Camp, this 14-year-old’s words are still ringing in our ears…
“Today I learned about violence. Before coming to this camp I used to beat up and tease others; I would often make fun of the younger boys. Now I have decided not to hurt anyone ever again.
I did not know about the different forms of violence women face. I used to whistle and tease girls but now I have decided not to do these things; I know that this is violence.”
– G. Chaitanya Class 8