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3 ways boys are busy supporting girls' rights!

The girls' rights movement isn’t just about girls – it’s about ensuring that everyone has equal rights, regardless of their gender. Like any social movement, it needs widespread support – from girls, and boys alike – to ensure a better future for all.

How do girls' rights help boys?

Usually, when we talk about gender equality, our focus is on women and girls. It's true that women and girls face discrimination and often lack opportunities that are available to boys and men. But, promoting gender equality is about securing greater respect for both girls and boys.

In fact, Plan’s Because I am a Girl: So what about boys? 2012 report explains that gender equality can benefit boys too. Gender equality can give young boys and men the chance to break their own gender norms and stereotypes – helping them build positive relationships, based on mutual trust, while embracing their own identities.

Here are 3 ways boys are campaigning for gender equality around the globe:

1. Teen boys say no to machismo in Guatemala

Teenage boys participate in a team building activity.

“Macho culture is a huge problem in Guatemala,” says 20-year-old Marielos, a Plan youth leader. “You notice it everywhere when you are young. Machismo makes parents value their daughters less than their sons and it makes them not want to pay for girls’ education.”

At the most extreme, girls face violence and exploitation just because they are girls. Machismo is passed from generation to generation, making it difficult to stand up against chauvinistic behaviour at home and in public places.

A group of young men have gathered together to try to break the macho culture of violence and discrimination towards women through a workshop-based project supported by Plan and its partner.

Through a series of workshops involving theatre, dance and music, young men aged 14 to 20 are training to become gender pioneers. Together they are shaking off the stigma of machismo and spreading a message of equality throughout their community.

2. Mohamed tackles child abuse in Sierra Leone

Teen boy talks into a microphone.

Travel to Mohamed's community in Sierra Leone and you may get the chance to hear him on air. The 18-year-old joined the Girls Making Media project a year ago after hearing one of their shows on the radio.

“When I listened to the radio on that day, the girls were talking about gender-based violence. I deeply felt the discussion point from within not only because the issue was very widespread in my community but also because my younger sister was abused when she was 15 years old. She got pregnant but the man – who was older than her – refused to take responsibilities for her and the child," said Mohamed.

Mohamed designs radio skits and live performances about the impact of sexual exploitation. He hopes that these efforts will soon contribute to change local perceptions about a girl's right to continue her education – even after she has given birth to a child.

"I am proud that my role on the project is contributing to making changes: women are now involved in decision-making that affect them and their children," says Mohamed. "I have learned a lesson: where issues of girls and women’s rights are often not respected, involve men and boys in the fight."

3. Oli campaigns against child marriage in Bangladesh

Boys in a classroom.

12-year-old Oli is campaigning to put an end to early and forced marriage in Bangladesh.

The legal age for marriage is 18 for girls, and 21 for boys in Bangladesh. But many younger girls are made to give up their education to marry and raise families when they reach puberty.

Girls are seen as a financial burden with less potential to contribute to the household income than a son. Many parents view arranged marriages as a good way to secure their children’s future and a younger bride can mean lower dowry payments for her parents.

Oli, a Plan sponsored child, has created a children's group that performs street skits to raise awareness about child marriage. Oli's group promotes birth registration, making it easier to prove when girls are too young to marry. They also step in directly when they hear a marriage is planned.

“We go to see the parents and try to get them to stop the marriage. We have tried this on many occasions – sometimes with success and sometimes we are not able to stop the marriage.”

There are 25 children in Oli’s children’s group and Plan has 60 similar clubs across the country. Plan staff in Bangladesh know of 4 child marriages that Oli’s club has directly prevented in his small community alone.

Girls’ rights are human rights.

These boys believe in justice and fairness. They see that their mothers, sisters, girlfriends and friends are often not treated the same way as they are, do not enjoy the same level of respect in the community, and do not have the same opportunities to make choices about their lives. These inequalities have motivated them to take action and make change.

Like these boys, you can empower girls around the world by helping them gain access to their rights.

Support the Because I am a Girl Project today!