India, despite being the world’s largest democracy, remains one of the most unsafe places to be a woman. Even the so-called ‘liberated’ women, who are educated and economically independent, have reported experiencing violence and harassment, especially in public places. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of crimes against women continues to rise. Independent research done by the International Centre for Research on Women accounts to around 400 million Indian women (that is, every 3 women out of 4) who have faced some form of physical or psychological violence. Out of which, only 2.3 lakh cases were reported to the police in 2011 – perhaps a reflection of women’s fear of retribution from the perpetrators of the crime, or rejection from the very institutions that are there to protect them.
Recent incidences of men participating in violence against girls and women, and later suggesting solutions of restrictions and ‘safety’ orders for women, promote a strikingly misogynist approach –women are responsible for the brunt of violence targeted towards them, hence they deserve it. The men who perpetrate the violence and harassment in the first place are left unaccountable. Even the traditional women’s empowerment movement places the onus on women to achieve equality, leaving men, whose attitudes and behaviour sit at the root of the problem, absent from the process.
ECF’s research shows that very few NGOs working on women’s empowerment engage men in their approach. But the recent public attacks on young girls have generated public awareness about this issue. Empowering men for women’s empowerment has hit the headlines in India.
Recently, a progressive statement was released by Delhi Minister for health and Family Welfare, Kiran Walia. She said in a statement to the press, “We need to bring up boys differently in our homes. Boys need to be made sensitive right from school. We need to tell them right from the start that being macho is about being cultured and treating women equally.” Many senior journalists in India, after the recent public attacks on women, have echoed her sentiments. Barkha Dutt tweeted, “Don’t let the mob win. Don’t tell your daughter she can’t go out alone at night. Don’t restrict the clothes she wears. Teach your sons better.”
The need to address the root cause and engage men as a part of the solution to violence against women has been recognized, finally.
Equal Community Foundation (ECF) is one of the very few organisations that empower men and boys to empower women. Our mission is to empower every man in India with an opportunity to end violence and discrimination against women.
In practice, this is what we do:
- We develop, deploy and scale high impact programmes that mobilise men to take personal and collective action to end violence and discrimination against women.
- We evaluate these programmes to gather evidence that empowering men does indeed empower women. We measure the impact by assessing the experiences of women who live with men who have completed the programmes.
- We research and analyse the best practices employed by other organisations.
- We share all of this information, along with our insights from the field, to grassroots organisations, policy makers, and funders. We do this to shift policy, increase the available funding, and ultimately increase the number of organisations who empower men to empower women.
So far, we have worked with over 1,450 men in 20 communities across Pune; over 600 men have completed our programmes and we have developed over 200 male leaders who continue to volunteer in their communities on a weekly basis. Over 61% women from these communities have reported a significant reduction in incidents of violence or discrimination.
We are actively seeking opportunities to scale our approach of empowering men to empower women through partnerships with organisations, networks of community based organisations, civil society groups, and schools and colleges. We will partner with organisations by providing training and developing a database of best practice tools, methodologies and curriculum that can be adopted and replicated by anyone who wishes to work with men in women’s empowerment.
At the same time, we are seeking partners who can provide us with organizational capacity building and financial support in this venture. If you have any ideas or suggestions for building partnerships and support, please contact us.
What do you think of our approach of empowering men to empower women? We would like to hear your opinion! Please write to us or simply comment below.
 NCRB – Crime against women, 2011 http://ncrb.gov.in/CD-CII2011/cii-2011/Chapter%205.pdf
 ICRW – Report on domestic violence, 2000 http://www.icrw.org/files/publications/Domestic-Violence-in-India-3-A-Summary-Report-of-a-Multi-Site-Household-Survey.pdf
 A mob of 20 men molest a schoolgirl outside a pub in Guwahati, caught on camera http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/news/Shocking-20-men-molest-girl-in-Guwahati/videoshow/14862672.cms
 Sting operation by Tehelka journalists on senior police officials in Delhi-NCR region http://www.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ne140412Coverstory.asp