Masculinity and India’s Young Men | Rohini Nilekani’s Address at OTV’s Prerana 2019

March 2, 2019 | Gender

Rohini Nilekani’s talk on Masculinity and India’s Young Men at OTV’s Prerana 2019.

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Or at least 70 million women are in self help groups in this country and they’re learning to find ways to make themselves stronger. All of today’s women we know you saw how much they have come on their own feet and done such amazing things. So we should all celebrate that first. So let us all clap for all the women in this country who have moved forward.


It has been a very hard journey and we have a long way to go. If you read the newspapers or if you watch TV you will know how far we still have to go. Every day we hear of rapes, we hear of violence, we hear of this, fear of that. The MeToo movement has allowed some of these things to come out. So that’s very important. But if you stop and turn the mirror around, what do we see? And that’s what I want to talk about for the next…

There are 230 million young men in this country below the age of 18. And about another 80 million men between the ages of 18 and 25. If you look at the data, too many million of these young men are uneducated or under-educated. They are unemployed or underemployed. Their jobs are at risk, their livelihoods are at risk because the job scenario is changing very fast. Many of them don’t have good role models in their house. Many of them are trapped in what we call patriarchy masculine remodels. Key, how should boys be?

Always we tell our boys and men to behave like that. So, when you imagine the pressure of always having to be like that. Especially when we look at young people. I have seen and I’ve been reading about this and meeting some people through my work. There is a lot of fear and a lot of insecurity among the men of India today. And actually it’s a global phenomenon because the future of work is not what it used to be. And in their houses, they may find that their sisters or their mothers or their daughters are maybe doing well and sometimes they may not see their own path so clearly. So, the point I’m making is that men in their own right, especially young boys and young men need some help. Need us all, as women, as citizens, as citizens of this country to look at what is happening to this cohort of 200 million young men. Unlike for the women, they don’t have safe shared spaces to speak about their masculinity, their sexuality or fear if they can’t speak about it…

When they talk in their peer groups, the same message gets reinforced very often. So there is no place for young men to go, young boys to go and ask.

“Ma, how come you expect me to be very, very responsible and you don’t expect the same thing of my brother?” I said.


The boys get away with it. We don’t expect much from them in the house as we expect from the daughters.

Can we be kind? Can we be sensitive? Do we always have to be the breadwinners? If our wives earn more than us, does that mean that we are small? We are not good men? Is there anybody doing work like this? And I found that there are very, very, very few organizations in India that are doing that work. Many organizations who are working with women to also start working with this young vulnerable group of boys. You know why? You know why? One is…

Say important questions safely, without being ridiculed. We need to create a society where men do not have to be burdened with old ideas of masculinity. It is 2019. If women have changed so much, we need to give men the space to change. Because otherwise, when an empowered woman goes into a disempowered situation at home, she has two bad choices. One is she can regress or second, she has to rebel. Both are very bad choices. It is much better that all of us, especially those of us who have sons, those of us… Everybody has a male in their house, most people. It is time I think to begin these conversations right in the house. We need men to be as empowered as we want women to be.

Masculinity and India’s Young Men | Rohini Nilekani’s Address at OTV’s Prerana 2019

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