Shekhar (name changed) was a sensitive boy. At the tender age of 5, he took up the role of a caregiver and a nurturer to his 3 year old sister. Since both of his parents were working, he happily took on the role of being a sensitive guardian. As he grew, his gastronomic insights made him a wonderful cook. He did not enjoy sports like his peers while growing up but that didn't matter because he enjoyed his studies and playing mostly with his younger sister. Shekhar was emotionally expressive and he didn't ever held himself back from fully experiencing his emotion. He was moved by the smallest of things and he never felt judged.
Suddenly puberty arrived. First slowly and then very quickly things started changing. Everyone around him, including his parents, expected him to behave a certain way that was alien to him. He was often told he was not 'man enough'. He was criticised for his culinary skills and lack of interest in 'manly' games or sports. He was called a 'sissy' or ‘soyboy’ every time he shed a tear out of being hurt.
As he aged, Shekhar started withdrawing from his peers, but at home, the perils continued. Shekhar started growing into a withdrawn, under-confident and indecisive person. He felt estranged from his ownself and this started impacting his personal as well as professional life. He grew desparate to seek validation. He stopped entering the kitchen, started faking his interest in sports and constantly compared himself to an image of the "masculine" man
. He soon started portraying insolent behaviour towards his partner and children followed by immense feeling of guilt, remorse, self-harm and passive aggression when alone. Who is to be blamed for what has become of Shekhar?
Like our Shekhar, there are many more out there, and this is our chance to not let these young lives be impacted because of the expected gendered behaviour.
Why does a 'real' man have to be 'macho', 'less emotional' and not sensitive? The pressure of gender-based behaviour is immense on children since their young days and this often finds expression in violence, self-harm and mental health issues. When we fight for gender equality and equity out in the world for women and girls, we often do not include the boys and men in the conversations.
We forget that how toxic masculinity also plays a part in shaping a boy's life.
If boys do not get structured opportunities to study and practice gender equitable attitudes and behaviours:
I am Sanjina, a Social Development Professional along with a few friends have decided to change this and take up a pilot project with knowledge support from team #ProjectRaise. We will be working with multiple boys aged between 13-17years over 16 weeks in multiple Government Schools in Kolkata.
- Boys too will continue to be victims of gender norms, depriving them of their rights
- Progress towards gender equality will be much slower than required because we are focussing on just one section of the population
- We therefore, need to continue to invest in treating the root cause of the problems instead of treating the symptoms of the problem
During these 16 weeks (4 months) we will train the boys to understand gender, masculinity, human rights, consent, mental health, gender-based violence and challenge exisiting gender roles/expectations.
This will empower them to go back to their family and school and facilitate a more gender equitable space. They will grow up to be more sensible parents and will not impose socially contructed rules on their children, partners or siblings. This project aims to bring about behivoural, attitudinal and knowledge level changes that will accelerate the collective work that many organization are doing with girls/women to bring in gender equity.
This is our opportunity to start a journey of change. Let us join hands to Raise Boys Who Cry!
**The funds raised through this campaign will be utilised for logistics like training materials, space rent, electricity, basic travel expenses and basic stipend to trainer/facilitator for their time and skills.
A detailed progress report will be generated once the project is over and shared on social media platforms.