What the boys do: The Young Men Initiative in the Balkans

Boys sharing a 'high five' during a gender equality session at a school in Pristina

What do the boys who take part in the Young Men Initiative actually do? Of course, they sit around in workshops and talk about things – like the boys (pictured above) at a school in Pristina, Kosovo, sharing a joke with their teacher during a classroom session on the difference between sex and gender...

But it isn’t all talk – the boys in the Be A Man club are getting out, spreading the word, and changing attitudes outside the classroom too...

Rap video

A local rapper, Lyrical Son, went to the same school in Pristina where CARE’s Young Men Initiative started a Be A Man club. Besnik Leka, a frontline worker with the Young Men Initiative, takes up the story: “Lyrical Son wanted to write a song about his teenage years. We asked the boys if they wanted to join the ‘Be a Man’ club – perhaps 20 out of 500 said yes. And those 20 then got a text directly from the rapper and suddenly everyone wanted to join.”

Lyrical Son then invited the boys to take part in his video, with Aid Kelmendi (above left) taking the lead role. The video has more than 1m hits on youtube.

Aid says: “I’m into song writing and playing the guitar, I featured in the rap video that got over 1m hits. I’m going to do my best to share what I have learnt about gender equality. I’ll put the messages in my music, prove people wrong and change their attitudes.”

Ironing in the street

On International Women’s Day the young men took to the street of Pristina doing ironing and other ‘women’s work’ – and their fellow girl students were doing DIY and other ‘men’s work’. They wanted to start conversations that would help shatter perceptions on gender – the boys even ended up on a popular national TV cooking show.

Facebook fans

The Be A Man club in Kosovo has a big, and growing, following – 17,000 and counting – for their Klubi Bonu Burrë Facebook page which they run themselves.

Sporting chance

Recently, they wanted to change perceptions around girls and sport – it’s usually a case of the boys playing and the girls cheering but they wanted to change it around. It was hoped that eight girls’ teams would show up to the football tournament. 16 teams showed up and the boys stood and cheered while the girls played.

Signing boys up

In the school the boys undertook to get other pupils and staff to sign their declaration of zero tolerance to sexual harassment: the signatures are displayed on a whiteboard.

Signatures on the declaration of zero tolerance to sexual harassment

Signatures on the declaration of zero tolerance to sexual harassment

What girls say

The girls at the school in Pristina say they have noticed a huge difference in their classmates: they see they are being treated differently by them, they are getting respect. All the evidence from the Balkans shows that challenging and changing attitudes in schools really works.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.