Kushal is done harassing girls

Kushal holds up a sign

“Hey baby!”

“Let me see your face.”

“Smile for me.”

That’s what girls in New Delhi are used to hearing as they walk down the street. Just a non-threatening “good morning” would seem like a luxury.

Being catcalled is a part of the experience of being a girl in New Delhi. Street harassment is one of the many reasons that girls don’t feel they have a place in public life. But why do some boys and men think it’s okay? And who are they?

It used to be Kushal. Until a few years ago, Kushal was just like any other young man in New Delhi. He spent hours hanging out on the corner near his house with friends. And when a girl or woman would pass, they would treat her like an object.

“Harassing girls felt so normal,” Kushal remembers. “That’s what everyone did.”

And “everyone” is the operative word here. The widespread discrimination against girls and women in India is a massive human rights violation. One in three girls in India expect to be stalked or physically assaulted when they go out in public. One study found that 42% of girls in India are sexually abused before they turn 19 years old. Another report found that 54% of men believed beating their wives is acceptable.

But things changed for Kushal when he heard about a Plan program called Safer Cities, focused on making public spaces in his community safer for girls. He got involved and started to think about those encounters with girls on the corner differently. For the first time, he had a new perspective on street harassment. He wondered how his actions impacted the girls that he and his friends catcalled.

“I realized I was very much part of the problem – how gangs of boys and men standing on street corners and harassing girls make life so difficult for them,” Kushal says. “I was horrified.”

So, Kushal decided that he needed to do more. He wanted to change himself, and change the way other young men were thinking about girls.

Working with Plan, he started a rugby team in his neighborhood. But Kushal’s team is different from the other sports teams in the area: on his team, girls and boys play together.

Hear from the girls themselves on how sexual harassment hurts their chances of getting an education, and how by supporting Plan you’re keeping them safe in the video below.

“Initially, it was very hard to convince girls’ parents to allow them to play rugby,” Kushal says. “Some rejected the idea outright, while others feared their daughters would face sexual harassment.”

But Kushal made an effort to create a safe space for both boys and girls, and he kept talking to parents. With time, their numbers grew. And today, the team is thriving. They’ve even qualified to play in an international tournament for co-ed teams!

Communities Safer For Girls

“It’s amazing to see how girls who were once shy have become so confident playing sports,” Kushal says. “It has transformed their lives, and I can say it has also transformed the attitudes of people in my community, including boys and men. Now, they can see girls’ potential and what they can achieve.”

Thank you for taking a stand for girls, and the allies that support them.

Read more stories of inspiration.