Equal Community Foundation (ECF) in association with Suzlon Foundation hosted the seminar – First step for engaging men for gender equality’ in Pune on April 28, 2012. Over 40 participants from different organisations attended the event.

Suzlon Foundation Head, Ms. Seemantinee Khot was the keynote speaker at the seminar. Other speakers included Harish Sadani from Men Against Violence and Abuse (MAVA), Achyut Borgaonkar from Tathapi and Vandana Poria from Get Through Guides. The alliance aimed to address the need to engage men as a part of the solution to end gender inequality. 

All speakers presented about their work. In addition, ECF shared their innovative approach and experiences from their ongoing programme – Action for Equality. 

Speakers underlined the vital role of men in achieving gender equality. They emphasised that we cannot address this issue by blaming men, we need to engage them by helping them understand their role. Also, working with men in isolation is not a solution. “The work done by organisations engaging men must compliment the work done by organisations working with women”, said Rujuta Teredesai, Programme Manager, ECF.  Achyut Borgaonkar stated, “We must acknowledge that it is difficult to work with men because we are asking them to give up something; whereas working with women is slightly easier as they are gaining something and hence their participation is higher. It would be unrealistic to expect this change in men to happen as an immediate effect. We must understand that it is gradual process”.

During the panel discussion various topics were discussed: Integration of the values and norms of gender equality in school curriculum, identifying why organisations shy away from engaging men and ways in which we can make this approach more popular. The panel also addressed the fact that the issue of gender inequality is not restricted to the low income groups but it is rampant across all sections of society. So, as NGOs we must build our own capacity and resources to be able to tackle the problem across different sections of society.

ECF will be conducting seminars over the next 12 months to address questions raised at the seminar and provide support to other organisations to build their capacity in order to engage men in their area of work.