How important is Critical Thinking?

We work in communities through the Action for Equality Programme with the objective of creating leadership so that men are collectively raised, to end violence and discrimination against women.

The ECF mentors are in a 5-day workshop to understand how can we maximise three elements: critical thinking, active participation and collaboration when they are working with men and wider communities. This workshop is organized with three simple objectives:

  1. To move from a focus on content to a focus on a participatory process
  2. To understand the importance of facilitation
  3. To adopt a critical thinking approach to training

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With a uniquely skilled and fun facilitator like Aravind Chittawale, the team of mentors have been learning with visible zest. Starting with an introspective session has helped them identify the existing corpus of strength and skills – a solid foundation which is a good place to start building almost anything. Aravind has crafted the sessions so that the art of Critical Thinking is neatly woven into each segment, facilitating better grasp of the principles.

Practical sessions have been used to emphasise facilitation skills, how to engage participants in the community, identify what is missing in our training sessions and build on ways to address these challenges. ECF’s curriculum focusses on the inside-out approach which taps into the existing resources to create change in perceptions, ideology, behaviour patterns and worldviews.

 

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How is this training going to be translated into action? Here are three solid steps:

  1. Over the next two days the team will have an intensive review of the current curriculum, to integrate the learnings from this workshop into every module.
  2. The output of the two days will be tested over the next three months in the Action for Equality Programme. In the weeks ahead, an hour will be dedicated to analysing and reporting the effectiveness of the updated curriculum during weekly meetings. Based on the implementation and feedback, the revised version of the curriculum will be released towards the end of 2014.
  3. The Monitoring and Evaluation framework will also go through the enquiry to assess how to measure the progress due to this inclusion.

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Even though this workshop was meant for mentors, it was beneficial for the entire Programme team. The team is now armed with more practical ways to first develop competence and then strive for excellence – ready to translate the ECF mission statement into action.

184 more young men join the force

Graduates of Action for Equality Graduate Programme - Cycle 9

Graduates of Action for Equality Graduate Programme – Cycle 9

With the completion of the 9th cycle of Action for Equality graduate programme in April 2014, 184 young boys from 18 communities all over Pune have successfully become ECF graduates, raising the total number of boys pledging to change the status quo towards more gender equitable communities to 1400!

This cycle ended last week with action events that were designed to encourage boys to have a dialogue with women to understand workload distribution within household responsibilities. The interaction enabled the boys to understand that the workload distribution is unequal and what are the practical steps they can take on a daily basis to reduce this burden on women.

The 184 graduates will be invited to join AfE Alumni Programme.
Cycle 10 of the AfE Graduate Programme will begin in the second week of May. ECF is currently looking for partners who will help to extend Action for Equality Programme in 2 more low-income communities in Pune.
You can get a glimpse of the action events through some of the photos available on this link.

BBG Pune Annual Charity Ball – A grand success

The British Business Group (BBG), Pune’s Annual Charity Ball – It’s groovy baby was held on February 15 at Hyatt Regency Pune in aid of ECF.  Over 300 guests attended the evening.

The ball brought together a fantastic mix of people, amazing prizes, delicious food and drinks, live band, casino tables – overall an event that everyone enjoyed.

We raised nearly 11 lakh for Equal Community Foundation (ECF). This amount will go a long way for supporting the work ECF does. It will pay for further development and implementation of Action for Equality Programme across 5 low-income communities in Pune. Which means over 250 young men will get an opportunity to study and practise gender equitable behaviour in order to end violence and discrimination against women.  A special mention also goes to 20 guests who pledged support for sponsoring 6 men to go through the programme each.

On behalf of ECF, we would like to thank Vandana Poria (BBG co-chair), BBG executive committee members, all sponsors and most importantly all guests who attended the event, for making it a huge success. We would like make a special mention of Sonali Rao and Sheetal Rao from ECF for doing a fantastic job of organising the ball.

We hope you enjoyed yourself as much as we enjoyed hosting the event.

Engaging parents in the process

Parents are one of the most significant incubators of change. ECF launched a pilot within the AfE Leadership Programme where AfE volunteer leaders form committees of parents to identify problems and develop locally relevant solutions, on issues related to violence and discrimination against women.

The objective here is for the communities to gradually start taking ownership of the programme; and raise boys and men to be equitable.

A parents' committee in action

Volunteer leaders facilitating a discussion in the parent committee meeting.

Though this is in a pilot phase, the response to the first few meetings is extremely positive. There is no doubt that the parents themselves understand the role they can play. The active discussions in these meetings revolved around identifying some of the main issues that the community faces. Not surprisingly, the issue that was pulled up for intense discussion in this meeting was “eve- teasing” a term that is loosely used to denote all the harassment, (verbal and non-verbal abuse, taunts , catcalls and often derogatory remarks) that is handed out to young girls and women on the street and in the community.

Sarita, one of the parents who attended this meeting is all praise for the work that ECF has been doing and is especially thrilled to now be an active part of the change process. “One big change that I can immediately point out in Premnagar is the unity of the boys in the 3 different sections of the community, where earlier there was a lot of rivalry and competition, which tended to get out of hand. Seeing these boys now putting their hands together for something good is perhaps the best testimony to the change that ECF has brought into our community,” she says enthusiastically. She goes on to say that the parents now look forward to the Parents Meet sessions so that they can contribute to the discussions on other relevant issues like Child Marriage and Education of the Girl Child, which need to be addressed.

Rekha, another parent in the community shared her response to the session they had on Eve-Teasing. “It is really a positive thing that we are now an active part of the change process. Being able to raise this issue and list out the cycle of negative domino effects of eve-teasing on a girl – namely, that she is first pulled out of school/education, confined to the home for a while and then married off early in order to address this situation, is helping us to make the boys see things differently. We are proud to be a part of this process,” she concludes.

The formation of community support groups is an extension of AfE Leadership Programme. The format of these sessions requires leaders to drive the process and to facilitate open discussions in the community to analyze which issues are most pressing for them and how they can tackle them together.

 

Our Star fundraiser: Mithra’s 10kms for ECF

Mithra our star fundraiser

Mithra our star fundraiser

“This is the first time I ran a marathon for a cause, and it has been most life-affirming and positive,” says Mithra Suresh, who is based in Hyderabad. She participated in the 10k marathon organized by IIM at Calicut, where she is originally from.

“As a woman, a lot changed for me after the December 16 incident in Delhi. Somehow, it felt like a clarion call, a reason for me to stand up and say, ‘It is enough’,” Mithra speaks with conviction. This is where the ‘running for a cause’ came from.  Mithra was able to raise an incredible Rs. 26,500/- for ECF, all of it through her friends and acquaintances. “The most interesting thing for me was the process of getting people to know the cause I was running for,” she says, and explains that not being present on any social networks like Facebook and twitter posed quite a challenge!

So how did she let people know? Mithra has interesting and thought-provoking experiences to share. “I started speaking personally to all the women I know, yes, every woman I know….I told them about ECF and the work they do, explained my reasons for wanting to run for ECF and asked them to be a part of this event by donating for ECF’s work,” smiles Mithra. She later went on to involve all the men she knew in the conversation as well.

The women she approached were all very enthusiastic and passionate about the “cause”, but most of them showed a reluctance to be vocal or proactive about it, which was quite baffling. The women were apprehensive about having these conversations in the presence of their husbands and did not even want to remember any personal experiences/incidences they had. “This brought home to me that this problem has deeper and darker roots in our society.”

When Mithra spoke to men, the main reaction from them was “yes we understand and are sympathetic to this wrong treatment women face, but it doesn’t happen with me – it is not something I do”. This kind of thinking, where the problem was an “outside problem” made Mithra see again the need and importance of a larger awareness and sensitization across the society. “I personally am very supportive of ECF’s approach, which is focussed on educating and informing, rather than on reforming. They are about including men in the dialogue,” says Mithra.

So the Calicut marathon has been run and a fair amount of funds have been raised for ECF. What are the next steps for Mithra? “I would like to keep my relationship with ECF going beyond this marathon,” she says enthusiastically. “I want to talk about ECF’s work in different forums and raise awareness about this stellar work. I want to look at any initiative which will give me a platform to speak up and point people towards ECF,” she concludes.

 

Taking a break to reboot: ECF Annual Retreat

Mentors' team in one of the breakout sessions..

Mentors’ team in one of the breakout sessions..

In the beginning of April 2014, the ECF team took off for a 5-day break. Yes, a break which definitely involved a lot of fun and games, between intense sessions of retrospection, strategic thought, planning and preparation for the year ahead.

The 5-day Annual Retreat was designed to skillfully engage every member of the team in the process of reflecting upon and taking stock of our work.  The aim was to ensure that the reflections/learning can pave a more effective way forward.

The “River of Life” session focussed on creating a pool of information and knowledge for ECF, by drawing from each person’s individual experiences, learnings, challenges and sources of motivation. This was an important exercise that culled out intuitive points of reference and suggestion. These come together in making the strategy the organization adopts that much more fine-tuned and incisive. “This was a very insightful and useful session, which gave us a chance to understand the overall ECF journey and each person’s personal journey in it. I think it was necessary for us to reflect on the past, using all the multiple mediums, in order to effectively plan what we see ourselves doing in the future,” says Ramesh, who has been a mentor for the past 3 years.

Annual Retreat 2In a unique session titled “Wishing Tree” the team put together a virtual collage of the changes and improvements that they would like to see and implement as an organization, in the coming months. It drew on each person’s contribution to change management and highlighted the areas that could be strengthened in strategy. “The Annual Retreat helped to bring us all on same platform, both concepts and perspectives. It refreshed and energized the staff. This is a very important process of retrospection and gives us a chance to increase the scope of work for ECF,” says Shrikant, program development associate.

The 5 days saw various interactions that drew avid discussions on the best ways to communicate the work we are involved in, to various stakeholders and external audiences, as well as sessions where the mentors shared feedback and experiences from communities.

“The role play presented by the mentors, which demonstrated a day in the life of a mentor was particularly interesting for me. Though this is something I know so well, the role-play just made it more visceral and brought it alive. The 5 away days were insightful, creating a mental space for reflection, getting to know the team and an understanding of how we all fit in,” says Claire, Research and Development Manager at ECF. Some of the other sessions covered topics such as: ECF theory of change, ECF 5 year strategy, priorities for every team member, team development plans, and so on.

Annual Retreat 4“The Annual Retreat this time was very interactive, with the voicing of opinions/experiences by each staff member. The session where Mentors had a platform to present the challenges they face while working in communities was really good.  Everyone had a chance to speak about our strengths and weaknesses,” says Anjana, ECF’s Program Manager. While the whole team can vouchsafe for the fun and unwinding that the Annual Retreat allowed, there is no doubt that batteries have definitely been recharged. Each individual has brought back a renewed motivation to the tasks at hand, and a sharpened sense of vision for what lies ahead for us as an organization.