“These boys have gone crazy,” remarked the men of the community. They were talking about Amit and his friend Satyam. The two boys had taken the initiative to take out a rally to spread awareness on helpline numbers. They had also contributed their pocket money to get printouts of helpline numbers, which they were putting up around the village. In this rally, they were joined by other adolescent boys and girls of the village.
Amit and Satyam are both peer educators under the Adolescent Empowerment Programme run by Breakthrough. They hail from from Mulla Khera village of Churahiya Gram Panchayat Gosainganj block in Lucknow. They had both been greatly impacted by Breakthrough’s Taaron Ki Toli sessions, a gender sensitisation programme for schools, as well as the peer educator training imparted to them in June 2018. Immediately after the training, they had taken this initiative. The village community, which had been making fun of them, was silenced when the very next day, the news of their initiative was reported in the newspaper.
It was clear that the boys had become sensitive to gender related issues and were firmly resolved to work towards making their village a better and safer place for girls. And as the next step, they had a new demand: a playground for girls.
“Don’t girls have a right to play?” This was a question that Amit asked. He spoke to the pradhan of their village and submitted an application for a playground which was signed by 150 people. But despite this, there was no positive response forthcoming.
This didn’t mean the boys gave up. On 10th January, Amit participated in a state level convening of stakeholders organised by Breakthrough at Lucknow. They shared information about their initiative as well as concerns they had. Encouraged and inspired by the panelists at this convening, Amit and his peers then held a meeting the next day in their village. They drafted a letter for the Block Development Officer with the following demands for their village:
- A playground for girls
- Repairs made to the village school
- Lights to be installed on the village road
110 adolescents signed and submitted this letter. Soon, they got a call from the secretary and were told that there was no ground available that could be developed into a playground. However, the secretary promised to come with them to the Lekhpal and bring up this matter with him. And to add to the good news, Amit was assured about the other two demands: lights had been arranged for in his village and the school building was being repaired!
This is especially a remarkable achievement keeping in mind how the absence of lights is associated with the high incidence of crime against women and girls. Such sensitivity and concern in the two adolescent boys for other adolescents especially girls is definitely worth applauding.
The story doesn’t end here. The boys are determined to continue their work of improving conditions of women and girls of their village. Due to their initiative, they were invited to a state level network meeting organised by the UNICEF, where they shared the story of their struggle and success to a larger audience. The village community is also all praise for the two boys for not only lighting up their village but also illuminating their thoughts and mindsets.