Every conversation with the young graduates and community volunteers brings into sharp relief the deep-rooted process of change that ECF’s Action for Equality has begun in these communities.
Almost-18-year-old Goureesh from Prem Nagar, who has recently become a volunteer leader after graduating from the programme, shares his experience and thoughts with the enthusiasm of a fire-brand. “I will be honest and say that my initial interest to join the AfE programme was because I had heard that they talk about ‘women’ and that sex education was also in the mix,” he says with a short laugh, “but after I started attending the weekly classes, I genuinely began to appreciate what was being taught. This completely changed me as a person. ECF taught me to look at women, all women, with respect.”
Goureesh vouches for not only changed perspectives and mindset – he has put it into action when he had the opportunity. He protested against the dowry that was being taken for his uncle’s marriage. He took his mother’s help to convince the family to finally settle for an agreement, where the family of the bride-to-be only paid for half of the expenses for the wedding. This is a huge step forward in a society where taking a dowry is considered so normal that parents begin to save up for it the moment a girl is born into the family.
Abhishek is now 18 years old and has been a very active leader/volunteer for a while now, having gained the respect and support of all his peers. The younger boys in the community look up to him as a role model. He currently is doing Mechanical Engineering at Bharatiya Vidya Peeth (BVP). He finds pleasure in advocating change and passing on his thoughts/ideas to the boys in his direct circle of influence.
“All 14 year olds are in the phase of discovery and can grasp things very easily…want to learn something new, so giving them a chance to get into the ECF course at that time is the best thing that can happen,” he says with a smile of sage wisdom. “There was a time when the mothers used to just say that their sons were displaying changed behaviour at home, but now we can see the evidence too. I have seen our boys doing their share of work at home, changing roles without caring about people’s perceptions and doing all the stuff they didn’t before.”
He added, “I have benefited from these activities and I want to support ECF in taking this work forward.”