“Make men and women part of the solution”

Being a foreigner in India is not always easy, especially not if you are a single white female. During my stay in India I have to face several forms of harassment, which varies from ‘innocent’ staring and screaming words of sexual nature to following and touching.  It does not matter where you are – be it in the rural parts of Maharashtra, the capital New Delhi or in the expat neighborhood of Pune. Wearing a traditional Kurta or a tank top with jeans;  does not make a difference. You need to be alert for hands and eyes all the time.

The solution for “eve teasing” in Loni – the village where I was studying was easy: girls are not allowed to be out of their hostel after 9 pm. This is something that also tends to ‘solve’ the problem in places like Delhi. However, boys can be out all night. So, instead of  punishing the perpetrators, the victims need to stay in! After 2 months in Delhi I could not deal with the ongoing harassment anymore and left for Pune. It is not just me; Delhi is famous for being dangerous for women, as research showed:

‘ ( …) 85.4% women,  87% men and 93% common witnesses said that sexual harassment was “rampant” in public places and that this was the single most important factor that made Delhi an unsafe city.’ (http://www.indiatogether.org/2010/aug/ksh-harass.htm)

The longer I stay in India, the more I realise that  gender inequality and violence against women cannot be ended by only empowering women. Focusing on women again only emphasises that they should change their behaviour and not the men. As Gauri Shendge – a young woman from Khadki Bazaar community in Pune – said:

“If a man harasses us on street our parents tell us to look down, ignore it or take a different route. I like your approach – you ask the men to stop harassing us”.

Changing the opinion, view and behavior of men towards women is crucial to fight gender based violence as:  ‘65 percent of Indian men surveyed said they believe there are times that women deserve to be beaten. ‘ (http://www.icrw.org/media/news/gender-equality-indian-mens-attitudes-complex)

When I came across ECF, I was very happy that finally an organisation was aiming to engage men to end violence against women. I gave up my former job and joined ECF as a volunteer. Whenever I visit the communities I am happy to see the way young men are involving their peers in the programme, their motivation for fighting gender inequality and the positive feedback we receive from their mothers.  

Change should come from men as well as women. More and more organisations should start to engage men; so both genders will work on this cause together!



– By Mireille Vos (Volunteer, Equal Community Foundation)


Advocate in the spotlight


Rohan Mane is a graduate of our first programme cycle of Action for Equality Programme. He is from the community near to Mauli Hall in Khadki Bazaar. His mother reported that since he joined the programme that he has started caring about things around the house. “When I’m not well, he and his brother do all domestic chores.”

Since joining the programme, Rohan has started changing his own behavior and also has become a role model in his community. He is can active volunteer who knows the community and understands the problems that women face. 

He advocates to his friends to adopt equitable attitudes and be a real man. At a recent event he shared with us what he says to his friends about being a real man – “आपण कायम मुलींवर इम्प्रेशन पडायचा प्रयत्न करतो. जर त्यांना छेडले, त्रास दिला तर त्या नाराज होतील आणि मग इम्प्रेशन कसे पडणार. आपण नीट वागलो तरच इम्प्रेशन पडणार ना” (We often try to impress girls. If we tease and harass them then they will get upset. How will they get impressed then? Only if we behave well with them then they get impressed with us)

5-stage approach of the programme

The objective of Action for Equality Programme is to build the capacity of men to take personal and collective action to reduce violence and discrimination against women in their communities. In the programme, we work on preventing the adolescent men from developing discriminatory attitudes towards women or if they already have a discriminatory attitude then helping them change it for better. The programme focuses on going beyond attitude change and working on behaviour change in them. Through out the programme cycle our team of mentors coach the adolescent men through a process of behaviour change.

The programme is designed taking into consideration the stages in the process of behaviour change: Pre-contemplation –> Contemplation –>Determination –>Action –> Maintenance –> Termination. We recognise that this process is gradual and time taken by every individual to change varies.

The five stage approach on which the programme is based is given below. Marked in grey are the parts in which the programme is divided.


1. Engage

We engage men in the programme through the medium of organizing film events in the community. We show popular family Hindi films to these men. The events are punctuated with social messages. AFE uses the medium of films to attract the men into our community centres. This is the time that mentors use to identify men who will be interested in enrolling for our programme. The mentors utilise this time to start a dialogue and work towards developing a rapport with the adolescent men and the community at large. 

2. Enroll

 At the film events, along with starting the dialogue we market the training as ‘livelihoods and personal development’ to enroll high proportions of peer groups. Mentors spend time in the communities to meet parents and gain their buy in.

3. Retain 

We package the gender material within inconspicuous livelihood material to retain men’s interest. Mentors train men in peer groups to utilise inherent comradery and support. They act as role models. In this period the mentors deliver the specially designed curriculum. During the training events, the mentors understand in detail about the way the advocates think and behave. Mentors also utilise this time to gain trust with advocates and create a peer support group.

4. Facilitate 

During the training sessions, after being introduced to the new pattern of behaviour men start taking personal and collective action to support women in their families and communities. Men have to face many obstacles when they begin to change their behaviour. On the programme, we continue to graduate successive batches of men to provide an expanding group of graduates who support each other and garner support from the returning programme facilitator. 

5. Maintain 

At graduation men take collective action to support women. We are aware that over time the frequency of these activities will drop, unless we provide AFE Graduates with continued “touch points”.  In order to reinforce and sustain the positive behaviour change in men, continued opportunities must be provided for them to practise the new found pattern of behaviour. 

The Alumni Action Programme builds on this finding and provides opportunities for graduates to volunteer to develop, prepare and deliver interactive and multimedia community activities on the several issues to contributing towards ending violence and discrimination against women in their communities. This will enable us to build their capacity to continue this work in future even in absence of Equal Community Foundation. 



7 things you can do…

People often think that violence and discrimination is not our problem. It is always somebody else’s problem. It’s high time we realize that it is our problem and we do something about it.

Here are 7 things you can do to reduce violence and discrimination against women in your family and community.

1. Man Up! 

  • Next time when you ask any woman in your life to pass that glass of water or clean the house or cook for you, ask yourse
    lf: Is there a way I can help her, Am Irequesting her or ordering her, Do I do this sometimes or often? If often, is that fair to her? And, how about writing down these answers…
  • Remember that a real man doesn’t use violence, force in his relationships with others. Be it holding hands, kissing, or more – always seek consent 
  • Remember that no woman on the street “hints” or “asks” for harassment – Not through her looks, the makeup or the clothes she wears.

2. Speak up! If you are a victim or see anyone being a victim of violence and discrimination do not stay quiet. Stop it or report it.

3. Be a role model 

  • As a man, teach other men in your life about healthy equitable attitudes. 
  • As a woman encourage and support men who are changing their behavior and do not tie them down by gender stereotypical expectations. Be proud of them. 
  • Do not commit, support or condone any act of gender inequality. Also, next time when your friend makes a sexist joke or passes a rude comment at a woman, don’t encourage or laugh at it!

4. Spread the word Create awareness about the issue amongst your friends, family and community. Be it through discussions, activities, art or media. 

5. Support Read more about the issue of violence and discrimination against women. Volunteer or support any organisation that you know that works for this cause

6. Share your story of change Email us the story where you have taken to reduce violence and discrimination against women and the impact it has had. We will share it on our facebook page.

7. Remember you have the power to change things around you 




AFE graduates take action


Since January 2011, more than 450 graduates of Action for Equality Programme have taken personal and collective action to reduce violence and discrimination against women in their communities. Similarly women have reported a positive change in men’s behaviour and attitude.

On this map of Pune city, you can track indicators of behaviour change in the last one year. These indicators are in the form of:

1. Number of men graduating from Action for Equality Programme

2. Number of volunteers on Action for Equality Programme

3. Average percentage of women reporting positive change in men’s behaviour (based on outcome assessment interviews conducted in December 2011)