Boys in Save the Children Pilot Program Alter Their Views of Girls in Rural Egypt, Demonstrate Support for Breaking Social Barriers

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Making Change for Girls
After participating in the pilot project, boys exhibited greater support for girls to make their own decisions about marriage, participate in sports and go to school. Photo credit: Save the Children staff.

WASHINGTON, DC (May 13, 2013) — Boys who were presented alternative views of traditional roles of girls and women through a Save the Children pilot project in rural Egypt developed a more positive outlook on the role of girls. Research showed that boys at the end of the pilot had a lower tolerance for accepting violence against women and girls, and exhibited greater support for girls to make their own decisions about marriage, participate in sports, go out with their brothers outside the home and go to school.

"Boys can help shape how their families and communities view the role of girls in society," said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, who spoke at the "Making Change for Girls" #ChangeforGirls event in Washington, DC, where the research findings were presented. "As our research shows, by engaging boys at an early age, girls gain a strong advocate at home. Brothers can empower their sisters to plan their future and achieve their dreams. In years to come, we hope these boys will also do the same for their wives and daughters."

The pilot project, called Choices, was sponsored by the Nike Foundation. The research, gathered at the start and at the end of the pilot, measured changes in attitudes and behavior among adolescents who participated in the activities. The study was conducted among 100 girls and boys, ages 10 to 14, in four villages in Assiut and Beni Suef governorates.

Some of the key findings are:

  • Boys and girls who agree that a girl should have a say as to whom she chooses to marry have significantly increased from 84% to 92%. The percentage of boys who had no reaction to girls marrying young and to men chosen by their family has decreased from 18% to 2%.
  • Children are now more convinced that it's suitable for girls to do sports. The percentage of boys and girls who support girls doing sports activities increased from 34% to 49%.
  • In situations where parents oppose their daughter traveling outside the home unaccompanied, brothers became very supportive. Almost 60% of boys said they can accompany their sisters to where they need to go, compared to 44% of boys who supported this at the start of the activity. The percentage of boys willing to accompany their sisters to travel outside their home increased by 30%.
  • Boys and girls who agree that a brother can help his sister do household chores increased from 59% to 86%.
  • Boys and girls who agree that a brother can hit his sister has decreased from 51% to 27%.
  • Boys and girls who agree that a husband can hit his wife has decreased from 49% to 31%.
  • While children may agree that fathers have the right to hit their daughters, this attitude among boys and girls significantly decreased by 35 percent.

"Girls in rural area of Upper Egypt are extremely poor and feel isolated. They have restricted mobility, have had little to no schooling and marry young. This cycle has gone on for generations," said Basant Montaser, gender manager for Save the Children in Egypt who presented the Choices project at today's event. "Girls tell us they want their brothers to acknowledge their presence, ask how they are doing, joke with them and take them on errands. These seemingly small changes in behavior can make girls feel more valued at home, and can transform how girls see themselves and how others see them."

Montaser added, "We are already seeing small changes in deep-rooted attitudes and behavior among young adolescent boys within a short time. Boys now support their sisters with homework and chores, and take them out on errands. This gives us hope that we can help girls break social barriers and have a brighter future."

The Choices curriculum was first tested by Save the Children in Nepal in 2009. The curriculum engages parents, community members and children in a dialogue on various topics, such as how boys can be respected even if they treat girls as equals, how treating girls equally begins with small actions, and how boys and girls can express emotions and realize their hopes and dreams. Choices is being applied in other areas of Egypt, and being replicated in Ethiopia and Bolivia this year.

Save the Children is the leading independent organization for children in need, with programs in 120 countries, including the United States. We aim to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives by improving their health, education and economic opportunities. In times of acute crisis, we mobilize rapid assistance to help children recover from the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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