‘If we really want to advance equality for girls, boys need to be part of the program.’ so says Edem Hunu, Program Officer for WiLDAF Ghana leads the Girls’ Empowerment Programming there.
In 2017 after a successful launch of the Girls’ Empowerment program, WiLDAF sought Crossroads support to pilot a program for boys. That’s where Randell Adjei and Anthony Gebrehiwot two social entrepreneurs from Scarborough came in.
Randell is the founder of RISE (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) a youth arts organization in Toronto dedicated to supporting people finding their voices, looking to discover themselves and find their purpose and make the world a better place, specifically it’s for people of colour – people who are usually underprivileged, silenced, marginalized, racialized. Anthony Gebrehiwot is a RISE team member and passionate community leader and social entrepreneur.
‘In Toronto, we are perceived as men that do not practice toxic masculinity. And I think we’ve learned that through our experience with RISE. Growing up with RISE, we kind of learned how to detoxify ourselves. It took us time to get to a point where we could teach or share what we’ve learned throughout the course of our own life experiences,’ says Anthony.
“It is integral that as young women are learning and developing that the boys also do the same. Otherwise the cycle of inequalities would continue despite the knowledge and experiences gained by the girls,” he adds.
In their first overseas placement they put their experience to work in Ghana working with boys and WiLDAF to develop a pilot with and for boys that would engage them in challenging gender stereotypes, Boys4Change. Leveraging the good and bad experiences they had growing up in Toronto and Scarborough, the pair implemented workshops and training sessions to demonstrate some ways to prevent gender-based violence.
“Anthony and I realized that, had we got the type of mentorship we gave to those boys, we probably wouldn’t have gotten into as much trouble when we were young. Luckily we got the mentorship later on and that’s why we are passing on the torch today” adds Randell Adjei.
Last month, the pair returned to Ghana to further this work with new partner DUNK, a local organization that supports boys living in poverty by nurturing these young students-athletes to become agents of change.
In this pilot program the two leveraged engagement in arts and sport, especially basketball, to involve boys in enriching activities while exploring gender-based issues and transformative gender norms in the household and at school. Years of work with young people in Canada allowed both men to share with these boys how they could rise, grow and transform their neighborhood for themselves, for their community and also for girls and women.
Beyond their work with the boys, they also developed curriculum to strengthen the initiative and allow it to be spread across the country.
“What we’re doing is, we’re sharing what we know with them and we’re also learning what they know so that we can help each other I think mentorship is a reciprocal relationship so we’re teaching, but we’re also learning as well,” says Anthony.