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Pune takes a step towards making the future inclusive

ECF’s Action For Equality programme, that seeks to develop a scalable model for raising boys and men to prevent violence and discrimination against women and girls in India

Updated: Mar 10, 2019 16:17:21

By Anjali Shetty

L to R - Anand Danane, Rohan Dasade, Akshay Gajdhane and Ashok Hadimani at a slum near Market yard in Pune (Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)

A mechanical engineering student, Anand Danane, is patiently awaiting for Rohit Dasade, 14 and Akshay Gajdhane, 15 at the anganwadi centre of Premnagar community, Market Yard. A graduate of the Action for Equality programme, Danane admits to seeing a complete 180 degree change in his life. The 20-year-old will be having a casual chat with the young boys and senior programme mentor, Equal Community Foundation (ECF), Ramesh Kokate. Every week, they meet as a part of ECF’s Action For Equality programme, that seeks to develop a scalable model for raising boys and men to prevent violence and discrimination against women and girls in India.

Danane joined the programme in 2013 as a teenager and is now a proud alumnus. A few months ago, he helped stop a child marriage in his maternal side of the family. He credits the programme for giving him the confidence to take a stand and make life-changing decisions. “When I joined, it was more of because they showed us interesting movies and played games. Over the past six years, I have seen a considerable change in my behaviour and decision making skills. I stopped my family from getting my underage cousin married off twice,” says Danane.

However, he adds that it wasn’t an easy journey. “While in the programme it was easy for me to maintain everything. Once I graduated, I realised that I wasn’t practising what I preached. Today, when I interact with the younger boys in the community, I ensure that I do as I say,” says Danane.

Every week, they meet as a part of ECF’s Action For Equality programme. The foundation operates in 20 communities across the city and work with boys aged between 13-17.



Kokate, who has been mentoring boys like Danane since 2010 holds a Masters degree in social work. Kokate adds that when he started out he was first trained for a month to understand the programme. While demonstrating a session with the leadership programme students, Kokate shares, “We have undergone many curriculum changes over the years. The challenge initially is to keep the boys engaged and grab their attention. Hence, initially, we play games and have do activity based sessions. Once they get a hang of what actually is going to be taught, we introduce them to more detailed information.”

He adds that the boys in this age group are very curious and as a mentor he has to constantly be on his toes. “While I share my knowledge with them. There is so much I get to learn from them too. It is very satisfying when these young boys take initiatives and a stand in the community.”

14-year-old Ashok Hadimani, would spend most of his days loafing in the bylanes of Market Yard with friends. He would stop and stare at a fight or accident and never react. “When I started the foundation programme, I was made aware that by not getting involved but merely standing there I was equally responsible for the event. My friends would eve tease and I would just stand and stare. The programme made me realise that I should not encourage them to do so. Now, I try and pass on what’s right and wrong to my friends,” says Hadimani.

Founded in 2009, ECF is the brainchild of co-founder Will Muir and it completes its tenth year in 2019. Will shares, “Over the last decade, we have grown from a small practitioner to an organisation with national influence and network of partners. At the centre of our growth are the two programmes we have build, Action for Equality and Project Raise. These continue to deliver our core impact. Growth has been both in terms of knowledge and in terms of outreach, We now reach twice as many young people because of our partnerships. We have over 120 partners who have engaged with ECF on technical and non technical support through Project Raise. Over 10% of these have delivered pilots through Project Raise technical training programmes.”

What is ECF?

Founded in 2009, ECF is the brainchild of co-founder Will Muir who was amazed to see how in India like many other parts of the country young men believe that abuse of women is normal. Muir felt strongly against and realised no one is really working on these issues. In July 2010, he narrowed down thoughts and decided to work with men for women. There was no programme or design the and we just sold the concept. Through the programmes they have worked with 8,868 adolescent boys in Maharashtra. The goal is that women and girls in action for equality communities will be free from gender based violence and feel safe from the threat of such violence.

Programme structure

The Action for equality programme includes:

Foundation programme: A first step is held across 15 weekly sessions. The aim is to provide a basic understanding of gender norms and their relationships with gender-based violence and discrimination against women. Participants are encouraged to develop communication and critical thinking skills. With 60 percent attendence, students graduate and move to the next programme.

Action programme: A 15 weekly sessions aims at deepening the participants understanding of gender issues and developing their capacity to initiate the collective actions to change gender norms related to violence and discrimination of women in their communities.

Leadership programme: It is open to all graduated from the action programme. It is focused on developing the community mobilisation skills of participants and gives them opportunities to lead collective actions. It also builds relationships with community stakeholders to prevent gender-based violence and discrimination.

Hits and misses:

Muir says, “One of the key elements we were not aware of when we started on our partnership model was the need to engage with funders - who are so key to delivering change in partnerships. As long as the wider ecosystem, including funders, is not engaged too, then the impact will be limited.”

What’s next?

Muir adds, “We will continue to focus on building programmes, and building partnerships. However, we expect that the way we build programmes needs to change in order to allow us to build programmes faster and increase programme impact. Also, we need to change the way we build partnerships, so that we catalyse outcomes more effectively.”

First Published: Mar 10, 2019 16:16:24

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