ECF launches its all new AFE Alumni Action Programme

As a social organization it is one thing to start an innovative programme and achieve positive effects on a certain issue. But it is a whole new story, if you ask yourself how to sustain these effects on a long term basis. We have asked ourselves this question, and spent hour after hour to come up with an idea to continue the success of our primary work.

The Action for Equality graduates are sensitized about the prevailing gender inequality in several spheres of their lives, the pivotal role of women in their family, community and in society.  Evidence demonstrates that men are taking personal and collective action to end violence and discrimination against women. But, we are aware that over time the frequency of these activities will drop, unless we provide AFE Graduates with continued “touch points”. 

Since we value our graduates as agents of change, the programme had to be rewarding for them, even though the main focus is on women’s benefit. And what could be more rewarding than a fun programme with lots of group activities, a sense of belonging to the peers, and achieving something that makes them feel proud and competent? Therefore, at the root of the Alumni Action Programme design lies a structured volunteer hierarchy with clear roles and responsibility allocation and targets.

Senior Alumni will be rewarded for their commitment and performance through an incentive scheme that includes participation in local and regional meetings, where we share successes, learn from mistakes, and recognize Alumni who have taken action to end violence and discrimination against women in their communities.

Through this structure we aim on building Alumni Leaders, who will commit the time to learn the skills and tools to deliver the message of gender equality in their own community resulting in reduction of violence and discrimination against women.

Considering all the above, we came up with a programme, designed to:

  1. Be fun and easy to conduct. That means the modules are high energy and utilize delivery methods such as street plays, games, songs, slogans etc.
  2. Be aspirational. Activities are conducted in peer groups to build a sense of belonging.  Association of the programme with young and dynamic nature of working makes it exciting for the participants.
  3. Develop men’s skills. All Alumni will be provided with roles and responsibilities and the training to deliver them, making this an integral part of their personal and professional development.
  4. Make a visible difference. We know that Alumni are motivated by evidence that their actions really do make a difference, so we will always ensure that we provide feedback from the women themselves to demonstrate the impact.
  5. Relevant: We constantly receive feedback from our graduates that activities including women are the most exciting for them to deliver because they are relevant to their community. Activities will therefore involve street campaigns, street plays, speeches and so on. 

In the month of June, we will launch AFE Alumni Action Programme Pilot in 16 communities in Pune. In our first year we will mobilize 100 AFE graduates during one programme cycle, delivering 580 programme hours with messages and training to reduce violence and discrimination against women.

 

 

Action for Equality graduates raise alarm on declining sex ratio in slums across Pune and Mumbai

Afe_action_event

On 22nd May, we completed our first cycle of the formal Action for Equality pilot in 20 branches across Pune and Mumbai. The pilot batch was launched in January. Since the launch of the pilot, evidence is positive with women reporting a reduction in violence from our graduates. The last four months were extremely challenging, yet rewarding for the team.

At the end of the cycle, we organise Action Events. Action Events are designed to facilitate AFE graduates taking personal and collective action to end violence against women.  This graduation, men volunteered to provide education to women on the declining sex ratio highlighted by the recent census from the government of India. 

The 2011 Indian Census reveals that the Maharashtra’s proportion of females under the age of 6 years is in rapid decline. There are now 883 girls aged 0-6 years for every 1000 boys, the lowest ratio since Indian independence, and a significant decline from 1991’s figure of 946.

This points to a continued preference for male children and an increase in violence against females, including sex selective foeticide and infanticide.

Research demonstrates that the process of engaging men is an essential element of any programme to address the issue. Husbands are key decision makers (alongside mothers-in-law) in the family planning process, and their positive engagement in tackling the declining sex ratio is essential. Working with men for women’s empowerment complements the many existing programmes that work with women.

We mobilised 152 advocates from our 20 branches to provide practical information to women on the implications of a declining sex ratio, and raise awareness of the issue amongst their male peers. From 9-12 May, AFE advocates delivered the message through street plays, lectures and community media during 90 minute long structured events.

Activities like these are carefully designed to empower women to tackle the issue themselves, with the support of other men in the community. 330 women and 25 men benefited from these events.

This was made possible only because of our hardworking mentors and the continued support of our partner organizations: Suzlon Foundation, Deep Griha Society, Swadhar, and Akanksha. Thank you!

The cycle was complete with 152 men graduating from the programme. As per our research each man impacts the life of three women in his home and community. As a result, a conservative estimate of 450 women will benefit. However we are not satisfied. We recognise the need to engage more men and work with them on an on-going basis. These are just our first few steps.

 

Lessons we learnt on field

Equal Community Foundation develops programmes through research and development, and the last 18 months have provided us with unparalleled experience in engaging men to end violence against women.

In the upcoming issues, under this section we will share with you some of the challenges we have faced.

 

Are four months enough to change a person?

We are often asked if four months are enough to change a man’s behaviour. Is it enough time for him to unlearn everything he has always been told or has seen, and learn an alternative pattern of behaviour? 

The answer is complex, but in short, yes, it can be. 

Many of the men we work with change their behaviour towards women, reducing the violence they experience. However at the same time, many more require continued exposure to alternative values towards woman before they change their behaviour. All men who come through our programme need continued support, which we provide through peer groups, and an Alumni Action programme where men can reconvene to remember the rationale that drove them to take action initially and share their experiences. 

You can get further information on AFE Alumni Action Programme by clicking here.

 

Mothers:  “Why should my son work at home? I have a daughter at home who does everything.”

We are trying to change men. But in many cases they receive no support from home. If a man starts washing his own clothes or picks up his own plate after a meal, his mother would say “Oh! Don’t do that, your sister will do it” or “Are you a girl to do house work, what will the neighbours say!”

We do not blame women for this attitude. If that’s what they have grown up watching, if they haven’t had exposure to alternative behaviour then we cannot expect them to act differently.

We have started to get the mothers and other women involved in this process of men’s behaviour change. Our regular parents visits conducted by mentors act as mini-counselling sessions for the mothers. We encourage the mothers to support this positive change in their sons rather than mocking them. There are women in the communities we work in who take pride in the sons and brothers who have equitable attitudes.

AFE action events and activities under the AFE Alumni Action Programme are designed to facilitate this process. Men get a chance to showcase what they have learnt and women get a chance to witness, appreciate and encourage this behaviour change.

Our partnership with the local community based organisations also helps in this process. We do not want duplicate their efforts; instead, we work with their staff members to help them build their capacity. Also, our mentors strategically plan to be a part of events organised by these organisations to interact with women.

In the upcoming newsletters, we will be talking about:

1. We do not have trainers; we have mentors!

2. Need for community ownership of the programme

3. Working with adolescent men – Is the gap between 14-17 too large?

4. The seemingly informal structure of events

 

A 180 degree change

Ambedkar Nagar Vasahat was one of the 20 communities we started working in January 2011.We received tremendous support from our CBO partner Deep Griha Society. 

Being a densely populated huge community, enrolling the boys wasn’t a problem. Approximately 30 men enrolled on the programme, making it the branch with the most participants.

As soon as we completed film events and started training events, the number dropped to 13 men who attended the sessions on a regular basis. We have anticipated this dropout rate in our programme design. Out of the 13 men, there were 5 adolescent men in particular who made it next to impossible for the mentor, Sunil, to run the sessions. Still the mentor continued and managed somehow. But by the seventh week, things got worse. The adolescent men became more arrogant, the comments being passed got worse, and worst of all the men had started being violent in class towards each other and towards Sunil. The ones who were willing to listen and learn, would instead get distracted by the 5 men and act in the same manner. 

The scene was completely opposite to what we wanted to achieve. The local CBO staff representatives tried to explain to the boys but it was of no use. We had started thinking of moving out of the community once the cycle was finished.

But, we wanted to complete the cycle. We placed another mentor, Ramesh, to help out. So the group of adolescent men was divided in two groups. One mentor was responsible for 8 men and the other mentor was responsible for 5 men. Ramesh started to spend more time with these men during the day. During the sessions, the rude and offensive comments continued. But, Ramesh continued to work with them by linking their own comments to themselves and their family members. When Ramesh spent that extra hour with them he would talk about anything and everything. This in many cases was the first time they were being heard by anyone. He was able to build trust and rapport with them. He explained that everyone in the community has a negative opinion about them, and if they want to change that, they have to do something about it. They need to change themselves so that they can achieve their own personal dreams as well. He conveyed that it would not be easy to change but the mentors and other advocates would support them. 

These informal counselling sessions worked! Over the period of 9weeks, Ramesh managed to complete all topics and Sunil did the same with rest of the boys.

While preparing for the action events, both groups were combined together. This was the first time when the men expressed that they felt like this is their programme and they should work harder to make it a successful event. The event was attended by 50 women. 11 advocates participated in the event. They performed a play called “Dhokyachi Ghanta” to inform women about India’s declining sex ratio, which was very well received by all.

Ujjwala Kamble, mother of one of the troublemakers proudly said at the event that her son has changed a lot in the last couple of months. “He would not listen to me. He would be quite rude. If I asked him to help me with something he wouldn’t do it. But in the last couple of months he has started helping me with domestic chores. He used to be very aggressive at home. But he has mellowed down and now listens to me. I hope this change in him continues even after the programme ends.” One of the other advocate’s sister, Mohini Dhade said, “My brother has started helping me at home. I get to do what I feel like doing for at least some time. He used to trouble me a lot but in the last few days has stopped that completely. I get to rest a bit. I’m very happy.” 

We know all men wouldn’t change immediately, and sustaining this behaviour change is going to be our next challenge. We are in process of conducting impact assessment interviews. There are many more examples of the fact that the wheel is turning. The only thing required is to provide support and opportunities for involvement in similar activities in near future. 

We are ready for the challenge ahead. 

Ambedkar_nagar

 

An advocate for change

Milind_patole

Milind Patole, age 16, has been associated with Action for Equality Programme since January 2010. He is one of the graduates from the pilot batch of the programme.

Milind used to hit his sister, and do domestic chores only when forced. Now, his mother and sister vouch for the changes in him that have been because of the programme. Even after he graduated he continued to participate in the various activities organised under AFE.

He has helped the mentor to enrol more men for the programme by sharing with them what he has learnt, and how he has benefited. He continues to attend the sessions of the new batches and assist the mentor in conducting the film and training events. Milind often uses the examples that are much more relevant to the men in their own community to help the mentor explain a certain topic.

Within his own community he has been actively participating during the action events for helping new advocates and graduates for preparation and conducting the events. Not only in his community, but he voluntarily assisted the mentor to organise action events three other branches.

In the last 12-14 months we have noticed a continued behaviour change in him. His mother, sister and other women in the community often talk about him as an example for others to learn from. 

We recognise the fact that giving men like Milind an opportunity will not just benefit them on an individual level personally and professionally but will help the programme by making the concept of gender equality stronger in the communities. More men will continue to look at Milind and want to change. They will join him in this fight and continue acting on it, even if ECF stops working in that community after a few years.

Through AFE and AFE Alumni Action Programme we will continue build the capacity of men like Milind, to change their behaviour, practise equitable attitudes, and reduce violence and discrimination against women in their communities and beyond.

 

 

 

 

Action for Equality goes to London

After two successful breakfast briefings in London in March, and catering to popular demand, ECF is pleased to announce two new dates for breakfast briefings.

Join us for a coffee before work and hear from Will Muir, founder of Equal Community Foundaton, and Rujuta Teredesai, Action for Equality’s Programme Manager. You will have a chance to discuss the ground breaking programme that works with men to end violence against women in India.

1. Discover the personal and collective actions of 400 men in behavior change in the last 4 months, and
2. Hear stories from the women who experience reduced violence and discrimination as a result.

 
Dates are set for the 9th June and again on the 14th June. Our venue will again be The Hub Kings Cross, where we have been provided the Board Room from 830am.

Please RSVP to Will Muir at will.muir@ecf.org.in.

Find the invitation online here:

The Hub Kings Cross,
34b York Way,
London.
N1 9AB,
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7841 3450