The fourth cycle of ECF’s Action for Equality (AfE) Graduate Programme ended in mid-June with 113 young men graduating from 17 communities across Pune. The fifteen-week programme cycle, which began on February 16th earlier this year, was facilitated by ECF mentors to empower young men from the ages of 14-17 to become change-makers towards women’s empowerment in their communities.

Grad3

In the two weeks from June 11th to 21st, the graduates organised ‘Action Events’ in their communities to mark their graduation and take collective action to reduce violence and discrimination against women. The theme for the events was to address the issue of street sexual harassment in the graduates’ communities. The first week was for preparation and the second one for the actual events. In the first week, the graduates did a survey on women’s experiences of harassment. The aim of this survey was to analyse the number of harassment cases in their communities, and to establish the enormity and gravity of this problem in the minds of the graduates and through them, to the community. Unfortunately, the survey was not successful. (Find out more about it in the failure report)

Even then, the graduates and mentors decided to take up this issue. In the next week, they organised an event on street sexual harassment, which was divided into 2 parts:       

  • Graduates, with support from the mentors, explained what qualifies as harassment to the women. They clearly emphasised that acts like staring, wolf-whistling and passing comments to indecent gestures, pinching and grabbing qualify as harassment and are not normal. Graduates shared the nation-wide statistics on harassment, the reasons men harassed women (and other men), and simple steps women can take to deal with the harassers, an important one being not to blame oneself for it.
  • All graduates took a pledge in front of the women not to harass a woman ever again and oppose any incidence of harassment they came across.
    Pledge

After the presentation, the graduates were given certificates for completing the AfE programme.

The women who attended the event shared their approval of the presentation. They were more willing to share their experiences of harassment after the presentation and agreed to be more vocal about this issue, especially with members of their family. As one woman from Bibwewadi Ota put it, “Harassment is the grim reality that we cope with everyday. But women alone cannot put an end to it as the men who harass need to stop. ECF is doing good work to that end.”