sponsor a child

Why poverty isn’t just a girl thing

We’ve talked a lot about the impact poverty has on girls. While these conversations are long overdue, are we left asking, ‘what about the boys?’

struggles faced by boys in poverty

We’ve talked a lot about the impact poverty has on women and girls. How girls are missing from the classroom, the danger cultural practices pose on health, and the fact there are more women living in poverty than men. And while these conversations are encouraging and long overdue, are we left asking, ‘what about the boys?’

With this in mind we tackle three misconceptions about boys living in poverty by exploring some of the pressures and dangers Compassion-supported boys in Mexico and Thailand face. 

1. Only girls face challenges with cultural pressures

In Mexico, tradition and culture can place a heavy burden on boys. Expected to be physically and mentally strong, from a young age they are taught not to show emotion or weakness. Families will often remind their sons, ‘boys don’t cry,’ teaching them to reject behaviours that are considered weak. These deep rooted attitudes not only put boys under pressure to behave in a certain way, it also leads to a negative view of women as the weaker sex.

struggles faced by boys in poverty

As a boy reaches his teenage years there is also a growing expectation that he will provide financially for his family. Where poverty and unemployment is high, men and boys can feel increasingly frustrated and disempowered if they can’t meet these expectations. This frustration may lead to violence in order to regain a sense of power or control.

Through the Compassion programme and the love invested by staff, children are taught how to form healthy relationships built on respect and valuing each other. As 10-year-old Mario says, “What I like the most about the programme is coming and learning about God. I know I do not have to say bad words or behave wrong. I know I should not hit others and that I should obey my parents and my teachers.”

As part of their lessons, boys are also equipped with the tools they need to challenge unhelpful stereotypes within their own families and communities. While this will take time, the project staff know this will bring transformation and lasting change within Mexican society.

2) Girls are the only ones vulnerable to issues such as sex trafficking

For boys growing up in the slums of Kampang Nagam, Thailand, life is incredibly risky. Parents work long hours at the night markets, leaving their children to fend for themselves. With nothing to do to while away the hours, boys are lured by game arcades. Unattended and unsupervised, boys as young as six become easy targets for sex trade recruiters who take advantage of their vulnerability. Lured with false promises of high earnings, once a boy becomes entrapped in the sex trade, it is very hard to get them out.

struggles faced by boys in poverty

In 2013, the church in the area, Chiang Mai Acts of Grace Church, saw the problem and were determined to respond. They began by setting up a football programme to give local boys from the slums an alternative to the arcades.

Shortly after, they partnered with Compassion and were able to reach out to even more vulnerable children through the programme. For boys like Peersak, they now have a safe place to come and are no longer easy targets for the sex trade recruiters. In the comfort of the church they can learn and play without fear, surrounded by loving Compassion staff, who care for them and know them by name.

As well as playing football, children learn to build good friendships, how to stay healthy and they also hear about the love of Jesus. The impact is clear, as project director, Mr Wanchai says: “Now, because they’re tired from the football practice, they sleep! The children stay home and are well rested for school the next morning.”

3) A boy’s education will be prioritised over girls

While a boy’s education is often a priority for families, this doesn’t mean a boy will always complete his education. In Mexico, pressure to provide for the family can disrupt education. From an early age, boys will be given errands to run or sent to help their fathers with their economic activities.

struggles faced by boys in poverty

One of the major issues that church-based Compassion projects in Mexico face is the number of boys under 18 who work to support their families. The work these boys do is normally in the fields, growing corn, cutting sugar cane, picking up coffee, cleaning the field, cutting, carrying or selling wood, or taking care of the cattle. Doing this type of manual work at such a young age has implications for a child’s health and well-being, as well as the impact it has on their schooling and opportunities for play and free time.

Thanks to parenting classes run through the Compassion project, parents and caregivers are taught about the benefits of education, how important it is for their children to stay in school and the risks and dangers of child labour.

Children equipped to thrive

Whether you sponsor a boy or a girl, thanks to you, your sponsored child attends a project where they are known, loved and valued. Whatever pressures or situations they face, by truly knowing each and every Compassion-supported child, project staff are able to meet and address their individual needs. This means your sponsored child should never be afraid to have big dreams.

WORDS : Emily Laramy

PHOTOS : Compassion International


Article Comments


Thank you for this it helps in choosing God bless
23 June 2017 |  Author : Christian wotherspoon
Article Comments



Thank you for this it helps in choosing God bless
23 June 2017 |  Author : Christian wotherspoon
Leave a comment

Leave A Comment

Leave A Comment



The big poverty quiz: test your knowledge!

Put yourself to the test – how much do you know about the issues facing the world’s most vulnerable children?

, ,


25 different types of houses from around the world

Join us on an exciting tour of homes from around the world.

, ,


Lent with Compassion: Your free family Lent resource

Download our free family Lent planner, suitable for children of all ages and packed full of activities.

, ,


How to teach children about poverty

How can we talk to our children about the sadness and complexities of poverty in an age-appropriate way?

, ,


5 things to pray for in 2018

At the start of a new year, here are 5 things to pray for in 2018.



Why doesn’t Compassion work in conflict zones?

3 reasons why we work in more stable communities.


Update: 7.1 earthquake strikes Mexico

The latest reports show that five of our church partners have been affected.


Update: Mexico’s largest earthquake in the last 100 years

Many people affected by the earthquake in early September are still living in tents.


The great-grandpa living in a carpark to provide for his grandson

“My great-grandpa Mateo is the best person I have ever known. He has given me everything.”


“Thank God my family and I are alive”

Please pray for our church partners and project workers who help families in crisis, even when they face personal loss.


Why help people in other countries when there is poverty in the UK?

6 things to consider as you struggle through this question.


Compassion UK’s history and heart

On a war-torn Korean street in 1952, God moved Everett Swanson with compassion.