A team of 55 boys from Dharavi are staging plays, giving speeches and writing songs to raise awareness among locals about the state’s disappearing girl children.
The boys, aged 14 to 17, are members of the Pune-based non-profit, Equal Community Foundation (ECF), which conducts, among other things, four-month training programmes for boys in order to sensitise them to gender discrimination issues.
This month, 150 adolescents from Pune and Mumbai completed a training programme focusing on the state’s declining sex ratio as revealed in the 2011 census.
The plays and speeches they have been staging since May 9, will conclude on May 12 and are part of the course’s final segment, Action for Equality.
“The aim of these public events is to convey to the community what the boys have been learning during the course,” said Sanjay Kadam, a trainer at one of the four ECF centres at Dharavi where the awareness drives are being carried out.
Though the street plays and speeches have not been able to draw a very large audience among Dharavi’s men and women, the programme brought about a paradigm shift in 17-year-old Swapnil Kadam.
“Like most men, I too believed that girls cannot work as hard as we do, but now I know that they are strong and can be very independent,” said Kadam, a Class 12 student from Matunga who now spends his time convincing slum dwellers to give the girl child a chance.
The boys have written their scripts and directed their plays with minimal assistance from their trainers.
“We do not expect an overnight change in attitudes, but I hope we make a small, gradual difference,” said Kadam.