To Help End Gender Violence, Class Teaches Teen Boys To Treat Girls As Equals : Goats and Soda All his life, Aniket Sathe has been taught that men rule the world. He lives in India, one of the worst countries for women. Now a new class is changing his attitude.
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Why This Boy Started Helping His Sister With Chores: #15Girls

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Why This Boy Started Helping His Sister With Chores: #15Girls

Why This Boy Started Helping His Sister With Chores: #15Girls

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CORY TURNER, HOST:

Steve, how do you get brothers to be nicer to their sisters?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

I don't know.

TURNER: How do you stop the name-calling and get them to help with chores?

INSKEEP: Don't give me these difficult questions. I'm only a parent. I have no idea.

TURNER: (Laughter) Well, and as every parent knows, it's hard. But it's especially hard in a country like India where boys are taught at an early days that girls are supposed to be subservient. Our next story is about a class that's trying to change that message. It's in the city of Pune, India. NPR's Nurith Aizenman introduces us to one student, 15-year-old Aniket Sathe.

NURITH AIZENMAN, BYLINE: Evening rush hour at a street market, Aniket sits right on the edge of the road surrounded by piles of orange flowers. He sells them every day after school. Friends keep popping by. Aniket checks out motorbikes.

ANIKET SATHE: (Through interpreter) See those headlights? That one's a Focus.

AIZENMAN: He and his friends compare favorite models.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) The Dio is really stylish and the Bullet is impressive.

AIZENMAN: They dream up crazy schemes, like the vendor next to them is selling balloons. Aniket points to a building.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Can you see that big building? If we took as many balloons as we could fit in there and tied them to our hands, we could fly in the sky.

AIZENMAN: You'd have to tie a lot says his friend. Yeah, says Aniket. But lately, all the fun he's having in the market is making Aniket feel a little sorry for his older sister.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Every day she has work to do at home, so she can't come here.

AIZENMAN: This observation is a new one for Aniket. The division of labor in his family - he sells flowers in the market, his sister is stuck at home washing clothes, cooking dinner - it's something he never thought to question, until recently when he joined an unusual class. The class meets every Wednesday. Ten boys stand in an empty shop donated for community activities. They're playing "Simon Says."

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Laughter).

AIZENMAN: The games are just a hook to get the boys in the door. This class is run by a nonprofit called the Equal Community Foundation. Their goal - persuade India's boys to help end discrimination against India's girls.

SUHAS KAMBLE: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: The teacher, a social worker named Suhas Kamble, sits the boys down in a circle for tonight's lesson. He starts with some questions about the traditional roles for husbands and wives.

KAMBLE: (Through interpreter) Who rules in the house?

ANIKET: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: The man, answers Aniket.

KAMBLE: (Through interpreter) Who makes all the decisions?

AIZENMAN: The man, says Aniket.

KAMBLE: (Through interpreter) So the woman is at the bottom and whatever the man says she has to listen. She can never argue with the man or disagree.

AIZENMAN: Kamble explains to the boys that this is just one way the culture works against women in India. The boys are all nodding. But Kamble has got his work cut out for him. So many other places these boys go - home, school, the street - they're picking up a different message, that girls should be subservient, that they're fundamentally inferior. After class, I ask them all a question. What makes a good sister? Here's 15-year-old Prashant Hatangale.

PRASHANT HATANGALE: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: "She should prepare food for me when we get home from school," he says. Next is 13-year-old Krushna Sathe.

KRUSHNA SATHE: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: "She shouldn't be flashy," he says. "She should wear modest clothes, traditional clothes." And our flower seller, Aniket...

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) She should not stay outside long, and she should not be chatting with boys.

AIZENMAN: Basically he's describing his older sister.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: It's morning in Aniket's neighborhood. It's a maze of metal shacks. Aniket's sitting on the family's one bed. He's in his school uniform. His older sister Aishwarya, who's 16, wears a traditional tunic and pants. She dropped out of school this year. She's helping their mother prepare a breakfast of spiced rice and ground nuts. Rekha Sathe gives her daughter a smile.

REKHA SATHE: (Through interpreter) She's a very good cook. She is better than me.

AIZENMAN: How old was your daughter when you first taught her how to cook?

R. SATHE: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: "Ten years old," says Rekha. She didn't teach Aniket. She says her daughter Aishwarya needs to know how to cook for one important reason.

R. SATHE: (Through interpreter) My expectation for her is that she find a good husband with a good job and a nice home.

AIZENMAN: So Rekha has been carefully training Aishwarya for married life.

R. SATHE: (Through interpreter) When she goes to her new home, if somebody comes home from work, she should offer them water and make them tea. She should serve food. I should not get any complaints that she's not behaving properly.

AIZENMAN: Aniket's sister Aishwarya is listening to all this. She doesn't object to her mother's plan for her. Still, she says she does want her brother to pitch in on the chores. But when she'd ask for help he'd say not my job.

AISHWARYA SATHE: (Through interpreter) He was so arrogant. I used to get mad at him and I used to fight with him. I would ask him why do you talk like that?

AIZENMAN: He'd make fun of her skin tone, say she was too dark, tell their younger sister she was fat. Then one day she found Aniket cleaning the house.

A. SATHE: (Through interpreter) Suddenly, when I'd ask him to do something he would do it. I asked the teacher what are you teaching him?

AIZENMAN: It turns out one of the assignments was to try a chore your sister normally does. Aniket says one class discussion in particular really stuck with him.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Our teacher showed us poems and pictures. The girls were doing all the work at home while the boys were allowed to go fly kites. I thought that's like me and my sister. What would it feel like if I stopped doing everything for one day and only stayed at home? That's how my sister must feel. And that's why I started doing work at home.

AIZENMAN: Aishwarya says Aniket is now a changed boy. He listens to her. He pitches in which she asks. And he stopped the teasing. He's nice.

The sun has set over the flower stand and the talk between Aniket and his buddies has turned to romance. A short kid in a yellow shirt plucks a slip of paper from his pocket and shows it to Aniket.

ANIKET: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: It's a love note from a girl at school. The kid wants to know how do I get a message back to her? Aniket's got lots of advice.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Listen, leave it under her desk, but stick it there with chewing gum, otherwise it could fly off and another girl could find it and tell the teacher.

AIZENMAN: Aniket is not speaking from experience. He says he's not exactly smooth with the ladies. Like, there's this girl whose family runs a fruit stand. Her parents let her hang out there until late. She wears a polo shirt to and pants. She walks where she likes, banters with the boys. She's not traditional. Aniket watches as she wanders from stall to stall, helping the vendors make change, blow up balloons.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Yeah, I don't know how to talk to her.

AIZENMAN: He's too shy. But does he like her? Yeah, of course, he says. She's cool. Nurith Aizenman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TURNER: This story was produced by Vikki Valentine.

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