Meet a Member: Breakthrough India’s Pauline Gomes

‘Meet a member’ is a regular feature in the global MenEngage Alliance newsletter. This month we spoke to Pauline Gomes (she/her), Deputy Director and Strategic Partnership & Scale-up at Breakthrough India.

What do you work on?

Breakthrough works to make gender-based violence unacceptable by transforming the culture that permits violence, particularly violence and discrimination against women and girls. We work with nearly 1.5 million adolescents in schools and communities across India to challenge patriarchal beliefs before they solidify into behaviour and acceptance of unequal gender norms.

We work to strengthen adolescents’ capacity to question gender norms and engage in gender transformative practices—by fostering aspiration, leadership, agency and negotiation skills—we enable a generational shift towards a gender-equal culture. Our work in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand and Delhi is contributing to the steady rise in the age of marriage and the number of girls who stay in school.

In an external evaluation of our programme across 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh, we saw far reaching changes:

  • 6% reduction in dropout despite Covid-19
  • girls’ age at marriage increased by nearly 2 years (1 year 11 months)
  • A 17% increase in adolescent girls aged 15-18 years accessing health services
  • Intergenerational dialogue between adolescent girls and their families increased by 17.8%

In Bihar and Jharkhand an RCT (Randomised Control Trial) showed that our programme led to:

  • 28% reduction in incidence of early marriage in the areas where we were implementing our programmes vs. 22% reduction in incidences of early marriage in the control where there were no interventions or programmes being run by Breakthrough. Thus, showing that with interventions that address gender norms with various stakeholders, their is higher change of reduction in incidences of early marriage
  • 89% greater likelihood of a girl being enrolled in school if exposed to Breakthrough’s programme

How did you get involved in this work?

During my master (post-graduate) in social work, I was actively involved in community development work and realised the varied experiences of gender disparity. This got me interested to work with the girls in the community in Delhi. While involved in different activities with these girls and women, I began to understand the nuances of their experiences with education, mobility, early marriage, street harassment and other related aspects. This led me to explore work opportunities with organisations with an intersectional lens on genders, sexualities, and disabilities. The role of men and boys as contributors to change gender norms and prevent violence against women and girls became quite apparent, especially Breakthrough’s Bell Bajao campaign that called on men and boys to take a stand against domestic violence. This inspired me to join Breakthrough, and learn how community-led initiatives use interactive and collaborative tools to address and prevent domestic violence, early marriage, gender-biased sex selective practices, street and workplace gender harassment among other types of gender based discrimination and violence.  

Is there an initiative you are proud of that you would like to share?

Breakthrough works with men and boys to address and prevent domestic violence through various campaigns and community mobilisation activities. Recently we have begun to engage with state governments in Punjab and Odisha to scale-up and create gender-transformative education systems. We recognise the role of men and boys as allies in creating an environment that contributes to change towards a more gender-equitable and just society. 

We embarked on a gender-transformative education programme in schools in early 2022, and have been able to create an integrated curriculum with three subjects – English, Social Studies, and Welcome Life, for grades 6-8 students (aged between 11-14 years). This work was informed by our past experiences with our Taron ki Toli (TkT) programme which is a 2-year engagement with students from government schools in Haryana, Bihar, and Jharkhand from grades 6-8. The sessions in the curriculum include interactive games to learn life skills like planning, communication, negotiation, and decision making. The sessions include activities that enable students to understand gender norms, and recognise gender-based stereotypes and discrimination. They learn practices that can transform cultures that discriminate based on gender, to ones that are gender just . The conversations during these sessions, and through the scaling-up programme in Odisha and Punjab, involve discussing patriarchy, and how it impacts all of us including men and boys. Through these discussions, we engage with men and boys on their roles as active bystanders, enablers, and people who can share power with their peers, family members, colleagues etc.

What keeps you motivated in this work?

I feel quite passionate about creating a society where gender-based discrimination and violence are unacceptable. Thus, seeing how young people learn through our initiatives, and their achievements through our work, motivates me. It encourages me and reinforces my belief in the possibility of achieving this mission.

What are some resources, a podcast or a book, that you found inspiring for gender transformative work that you would like to share?


  • Keeping it Feminist! This podcast was started by Breakthrough recently to discuss the different perspectives and experiences of being and keeping it feminist.
  • FilterKoffee, I like the variety of topics that this podcast takes-up, the conversations are simple and quite engaging.

What do you hope we can achieve together as an Alliance that we cannot do as individual organizations?

As a member of the MenEngage alliance I hope to identify new ways for members to learn from each other’s work. While we face challenges, including backlash, we can build effective tools and methodologies to work on masculinities, to create effective practices to engage men and boys for gender justice. I hope this will help to inspire transformations, and enable a society where gender-based violence is unacceptable.

An inspiring quote that you would like to share? 

Quote: “Personal is political” is one phrase that I identify with, and find that it holds true in most aspects of my life, and for the kind of work that we do on norms change.

Is there a part of the MenEngage Core Principles that resonates with you?

The following principles resonate with me: 

  • Embracing intersectional feminism (principle 2)
  • Believing in the capability of men and boys to actively support gender, social, and climate justice
(principle 7)
  • Believing that transformation must begin with ourselves
(principle 9)

These principles align with my personal beliefs, and I strive to work towards them. Additionally, some aspects of all of these principles are at the core of our work at Breakthrough. They enable us to collaborate with our partners and stakeholders and achieve our mission.


You can find more information about Breakthrough’s work on their website, and their social media accounts Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook. You can also find Pauline on X, FB, Insta @ Pauline_in, and LinkedIn.


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