Kosovo: Young men learn new ways to Be A Man
Is picking up rubbish and having fun at the same time possible? 16-year-old Gramos Salihu from Pristina thinks so. He is part of a “Be a Man” club in Kosovo – a group of young men between 13 and 19 years of age. For over a year now, these young people have done almost everything together, even collecting rubbish. “We organise different activities to improve our community,” the young man explains.
Around 70% of people in Kosovo are younger than 26 years. This is a great opportunity for one of the poorest countries in Europe – but also a challenge. In some parts of the country classes have to be held in shifts because there are not enough teachers. And once the young people graduate, they compete for jobs. Nearly 70% of young people are unemployed. There is a strong feeling of frustration and uselessness and extracurricular activities are rare.
At the same time expectations of young men in Kosovo are often still dominated by traditional stereotypes about what it means to be a man, which can mean a lack of respect for women.
CARE’s “Be a Man" clubs aim to overcome this, working with teenage boys to prevent violence and discriminatory behaviour towards women and girls. Boys usually learn how to talk and act from their fathers and other male role models. Meeting other young guys and openly discussing where they fit into society helps to break barriers. Young men reflect on their attitudes and social roles. CARE is using the same approach in the whole Balkan region. Clubs like this began to operate in Kosovo in 2010.
Social activities and education
The young men meet for social activities, to play football or watch movies. They also come up with joint activities, such as litter picking in the local park or handing out roses on International Women’s Day. At the same time, they take part in workshops to discuss gender roles, violence and sex - topics they may otherwise never discuss in depth as they are rarely part of the official school curriculum. In small groups they can ask questions – perhaps about how to use a condom.
The “Be A Man” clubs share a logo in all Balkan countries: A biceps with a brain painted inside. Symbolising that real men don’t just use physical force, they act with their head.
Speak about feelings
“I changed a lot through the Be A Man club,” says Gramos. “I am able to speak about my feelings without feeling ashamed these days. I really evolved and think more about how I treat other people and what is important in my life.”
He even encourages friends and family members to get involved. “I want everyone to become part of it.” He himself is eager to stay a member as long as he can.
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