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.
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.