At ECF, we believe in admitting our failures rather than hushing them up. We all make mistakes occasionally, but these mistakes make us sit up and take action, invite change, and become a little wiser than before.

Another reason for willingly sharing our problems is because we have reason to believe that if there’s something we haven’t got right as yet, there’s somebody out there who has, and we don’t hesitate to ask for help, suggestions or innovative ideas. Similarly, others working in this field might also be able to learn from our mistakes, at least, not to repeat them.

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With this premise, we present to you our Failure Report for this quarter.

SURVEY ON STREET SEXUAL HARASSMENT:

As part of the Action Events in the communities to mark the end of another AfE cycle, we decided to do a survey on the sexual harassment faced by women in public spaces. With this survey, we aimed to make the graduates aware of the extent and gravity of the problem of harassment and engage with them to address it in their communities.

We designed a survey which the graduates began conducting in their respective communities, but they were largely unsuccessful. Initially, the graduates themselves were afraid, or perhaps ashamed, of interrogating the women they knew. But even those who started the survey were soon demotivated because the women refused to answer any question, or said they had never been harassed, which made the rest of the survey pointless. In the Premnagar community, some men took away the papers and stopped the graduates from speaking to the women.

The reasons identified by our team for the format being unsuccessful are:

  • The age and gender of the graduates were not conducive for the women to share their experiences honestly. 
  • The surveyors were young men (aged 14-17) who belonged to the same peer group which teased or harassed the women in question.
  • The method was inappropriate; the survey questions were too direct and made the women feel unsafe to share.

The team is working on changing the format of collecting this kind of information. There is a value in men (graduates) gathering this data as it would help them understand the issue in a much better way. It would also initiate a dialogue between men and women. But we need to identify alternatives methods that make the women feel safe to share their experiences, and get the point across to our graduates.

If you have any suggestions or ideas, please share with us.

 

CUTTING DOWN THE STIPEND FOR LEADERS OF THE ALUMNI PROGRAMME:

In our Alumni Programme, we encourage volunteers who show leadership potential to be leaders in planning and implementing volunteer events in their communities. These leaders are given a stipend of Rs. 800 for two months as an incentive to contribute their time and effort.

Why do we want to cut stipends?

After looking at attendance, participation data and feedback from programme staff, we have identified that monetary incentive doesn’t work as a motivating factor for the leaders. Rather, it demotivates other volunteers who work equally hard but are not leaders. As a principle, we don’t want the leaders (or volunteers) to work with us only for money but because they are committed to ECF’s cause.

As our pool of volunteers is also growing, it would be expensive for ECF to provide stipends to all the volunteers and not just the leaders. Dialogues with the mentors reveal that cutting down the stipend may demotivate some of the existing leaders, and possibly to the point of quitting the alumni programme altogether.

We realise that the problem needs a two-fold approach: first, we need to dialogue with the leaders to make them understand why their stipends need to be cut down, and take into account their responses. This dialogue can also give us an idea about the leaders’ willingness to work towards empowering women in their communities. Secondly, since the Alumni volunteers are not as motivated as we expected, we need to strengthen the Alumni Programme further so that the volunteers feel a sense of ownership about it, and we don’t have to rely on money or other material benefits as incentives to retain them.

Experienced something similar; got some ideas; know a way out? We would love to hear from you. Please share your experience with us.