Paritosh Agarwal is now used to the looks he gets when he tells people he is a part of his college’s women’s development cell. “People think ‘what is a boy doing in a women’s cell?’” he said.
Agarwal, 19, a second-year student of HR College in Churchgate, joined the cell this year and said the involvement was “great” so far. “It’s important for boys to get involved, because you get to know how both women and men can build a better environment together,” he said.
There are many young men like Agarwal who are participating in their college cell or getting involved in issues related to women, and in the process taking the first step towards gender sensitivity.
Boys are part of the women’s cells at Jai Hind College in Churchgate, as well as RA Podar College in Matunga.
“As a co-educational college we believe in equality and promoting it in every sphere of life,” said Shobhana Vasudevan, principal, RA Podar.
Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), a city-based organisation, has been working with young men in colleges for the past five years.
Ganesh Jadhav, a third-year student at Dr TK Tope College in Parel, said he had changed after he signed up with MAVA. “Earlier I would see a woman in short clothes and think what is she wearing?” said Jadhav, 22. “But now my thinking has changed. Girls have the freedom to dress as they like. I’ve learnt about discrimination against women.”
Colleges are trying to ensure that boys as much as girls are involved when it comes to discussing gender issues, because the onus on changing mindsets and attitudes lies with everyone.
“We include boys in our lectures because their mindset has to change,” said Kavita Rege, principal, Sathaye College, Parle.