The idea almost seems radical: educating boys on women’s rights and violence against women when they’re young. And yet at the Safe School for Girls, a co-educational school in Rwanda, adolescent boys are learning how to respect and improve the lives of women — and it’s working.
The boys are talking about how to support women and better understand the issues facing them in Rwanda in the after-school program, which is carried out every weekday at 174 schools across the country through Care International and local non-profit organizations. Boys are getting a full-spectrum education, learning about emotional and financial abuse and physical assault, and holding each other accountable for the actions of other men.
“If we happen to see such violence, we report them and make sure the people who have [committed the violence] are judged,” 18-year-old Rini Mutijima told the BBC.
But it’s surprising how fundamental and yet revolutionary this idea is — and how necessary the conversation, not just for Rwanda, but the rest of the world. Young boys learn about issues ranging from menstruation to domestic abuse to gender-based violence, and participate in roundtable discussions. More than 19,000 boys have gone through the schools (not to mention 47,000 girls), which gives a semblance of hope for the next generation.
This reality seems a world away from the Rwandan genocide of 1994, during which half a million women were raped and 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutu extremists. Now, more than 60 percent of Rwanda’s Parliament is female — the greatest percentage in national government.
Perhaps an even brighter future starts with a few boys gathered around tables after school, thinking about not just their future partners, but all the women in their lives. As one sixteen-year-old boy said: “It’s my responsibility as a boy to protect my sister.”
Just one question: Can this be taught in every country?
Read the full story at BBC News.