The Adolescent Boys Program: the Beginnings of a New Future

By: Lindsey Cawood


The Adolescent Boys Program (ABP) is an idea over 40 years in the making. The concept of the program was conceived by Dr. Raj Arole while in the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1966. While working with young Navajo Indians on public health measures, Dr. Arole noticed the behaviors and changing attitudes of children were having an effect on their parents as well. Navajo children were pressuring their parents to adopt the new public health measures they had learned, especially in regard to the construction of toilets. As toilets began to spring up in households, Dr. Arole realized that by targeting children, public health could be improved for entire families and communities.

In 1977, Dr. Raj’s wife, Dr. Mabelle Arole, proposed CRHP focus on Jamkhed’s young boys as agents for change, in regard to health and social issues. It was another 30+ years before CRHP Social Worker Jayesh Kamble began to put this proposal in action. Kamble began to focus on two pressing issues he had noticed deeply affected the Jamkhed community: domestic violence and female infanticide. Searching for the root causes of these social ills, Kamble set up focus groups in the nearby villages of Khandvi, Kusadgon, Nimbodi, and Mahi. There, they discovered that the local men did not believe in gender equity and had little respect for their female counterparts. The focus groups also uncovered that changing the attitudes of community elders would be all but impossible. Therefore, building the Aroles’ discovery, CRHP decided to target young boys to spur social change.

With the permission of Shobha and Ravi Arole, the current directors of CRHP, Kamble planned a pilot program to be launched in the villages of Kusadgon and Mahi. Through literature review and discussions with the directors, Jayesh Kamble began to construct the curriculum.

The informally structured program would evolve from attractive lessons on income generation into more values-oriented curricula including social health and development, leadership, sanitation, gender equity, types of violence, alcoholism, microfinance and lending, and peer pressure. Kamble also realized that in order to connect with the boys, he needed to forgo traditional lectures in favor of a hands-on learning approach. In each village, an executive committee was formed to respond to any social issues that may arise from the program, including problems with participating families and village politics. Additionally, village health workers were given application forms and asked to compile a list of those who would be interested in the program. It was important to select boys that had displayed exemplary behavior to serve as program leaders along with boys in most need of behavioral change.

The program was launched with an initial selection of 15 boys. Interest in the ABP was maintained through the use of games to facilitate learning, such as cricket matches. ABP boys from different villages would practice together, play, and during that time, discuss many of the issues they had learned in class.

The program evaluation used a variety of methods, such as visiting school teachers, asking the village girls about the boys’ behavior, speaking with parents, and relying on VHWs to report behavioral changes. Pre- and post- tests were also administered to assess changes in attitude. The results were stunning. Mothers reported their boys had better attitudes and had increased help with household chores, while female villagers reported they felt more respected. Everyone seemed to notice a change in the boys’ behavior. At the program’s end, a ceremonial graduation was held in which each boy received a certificate.

Not only did the boys change their behavior, but began to assist with other CRHP activities as well. When VHWs would visit villages, it was the adolescent boys that would inform other villages. Whenever CRHP conducted cataract camps, again, the program graduates spread word from one end of each village to the other, proving to be instrumental in the camps’ high turnout.

The ABP results showed not only that values of gender equity could impressed upon the young, but also that such programs could benefit communities in other ways as well. Through ABP, the boys had learned to be better citizens and were able to improve the status of women through changing their own behavior and educating their family and friends.

CRHP is ready to launch the ABP in two additional villages, yet needs funding to commence program activities. Please check out our ABP Campaign Page to see more details on the program and donate to our cause!

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