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India@70: Youth driving change for a better, cleaner world

These events support boys to move from being mere bystanders to becoming active contributors to the solution

pune Updated: Aug 14, 2017 23:33 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Pune
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These young boys were guided by a local NGO, Equal Community Foundation’s Action for Equality Programme.(HT Photo)

Over a period of two weeks, 300 adolescent boys across 19 low-income communities in Pune took a series of actions to address the critical issues that women in their communities face. Street sexual harassment, child marriage, lack of access to clean and safe sanitation were some of the issues that the boys challenged their community members on.

These young boys were guided by a local NGO, Equal Community Foundation’s Action for Equality Programme.

This programme focuses on ‘action events’. The action events are a platform that enables the participants to create awareness about a particular issue; engage in a dialogue with their community members; identify problems related to the issue and develop solutions. These events support boys to move from being mere bystanders to becoming active contributors to the solution.

For the two-week period, participants had chosen the topics they would like to focus on. They addressed these issues through multiple mediums such as rallies, surveys, focussed group discussions, role-plays, debates and poster exhibitions.

The participants are currently working on developing solutions along with the community members including women and girls. Some of these solutions include: writing a letter to the local authorities to make public toilets clean and safe for women to use; and forming a committee to prevent street sexual harassment.

“Women in Kashewadi community appreciated the boys taking action towards ending the street sexual harassment. They pledged their support in forming a local committee to meet this common goal,” said Yogesh Kamble, senior programme mentor.

The Action for Equality programme is designed to provide adolescent boys with knowledge, skills, peer support and leadership to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination. The journey of a participant starts from learning about gender equality, understanding the role they play in it, learning skills to changing their own behaviour and advocate change to others.

“I used to think that women already have equal status in society. Being a part of Action for Equality has opened my eyes. I now know that isn’t the case. Women are not able to exercise their rights because of existing gender norms. This has to change. Change needs to start with me,” said Mukesh Pille, who passed through the Action for Equality Programme. The Equal Community Foundation’s mission is to raise every boy in India to be gender equitable. In order to make progress towards their mission, ECF not only works in Pune, but also supports other development-sector organisations to adopt this approach across the country.

First Published: Aug 14, 2017 23:22 IST