In this series, we will share with you some excerpts of the conversation our team had with the participants of the Action for Equality Programme. During these interactions, we also spoke to some of their family members. They spoke about what lessons they have learnt, challenges they face and their overall experience of being on the programme.

 

“Women need to be treated like human beings.”

MayurMayur has been part of the Graduate Program (GP) for the last year and is now part of the Alumni program(AP). He is 15 years old and lives in the Shastri Nagar community with his parents and elder sister.

“After joining the programme my perspective of looking at women has changed. I help my mother and sister at home, I have started studying better and if I see any injustice happening towards women I have become confident in trying to stop it.”

Mayur feels that the meaning of equality is in giving women the same rights as the men. “People admit boys in good schools and not the girls. They feel it is of no use. But this should not happen.” “Women need to be treated like human beings. I do not want my sister to get married in a household that demands dowry. Giving dowry is like selling the woman.”

What motivates Mayur to attend the programme? He says, “Everyone in the community knows about ECF. Women encourage us to have these programs. Once there was a group of naughty boys that came to one of the events. They started whistling and disturbing the participants in the event. Suddenly, all the women got together and told the boys to leave. This is the kind of positive response we get and it feels very good.”

“The women from the community now recognise me as a good boy,” he adds. “They appreciate what we are trying to do and look up to us. I have spoken with my friends from school about the programme. And they are going to join it as well.”

 

“There’s nothing wrong with men doing chores that women usually do.”

Kishor 17 year old Kishor studies in the 1st year of college and has been with the Alumni Program (AP) for the last 2 years. He lives in the Shastri Nagar community with his parents and three sisters.

Kishor has been attending programme events regularly. “I liked knowing that ECF is conducting these programmes in the community.  The leaders are very understanding and motivate us to keep coming to the events. I enjoy coming to the programme because I can interact with the other boys from the community.”

As a participant of the programme, Kishor helps with conducting events related to women’s rights, in and around the community.  “I have learnt a lot about women’s issues in the programme. Earlier women were supposed to be bound inside the house. But now it isn’t so anymore. Society needs to accept this.”

“I feel bad when I see girls being teased. It is very wrong. People blame girls for wearing ‘wrong’ clothes. A girl has the freedom to chose what to wear.  I feel that people should change themselves first. ” – He says, when asked about his observations on violence and discrimination against women.

Kishor’s mother and sister have felt the change in him after his participation in the programme. “Earlier I was embarrassed about helping my mother and sister at home. I thought the other boys would laugh at me. Now I don’t feel that any more. I am proud to help my sisters and my mother. There’s nothing wrong with men doing chores that women usually do.”

 

“…My sister and I must be treated equally.”

Kasim

Kasim is a young 13 year old who lives with his parents and elder sister in the Kasarwadi community in Pune. He has been a part of Action for Equality (AfE) programme for two years now.

Kasim’s mother, a housewife says that she is very proud of him. “I have learnt from Kasim that girls should not be bound and should be left free. I thought about it and I agree.” She adds, “I have started sending my daughter to go shopping for vegetables now. I never did that earlier.”

Kasim says he likes attending the AfE programme because it informs him about what’s happening in society. “I feel that girls should not be bound. They should be given freedom. Even they like going out to play or to do other things. My sister and I must be treated equally.”

On asked what challenges he faces in the community Kasim smiles, “There are a lot of naughty boys in the neighbourhood. I ignore them but I want to get them to join the class and to meet Sir (mentor). I want to tell them to stop teasing girls but they are older than me. They ask me to keep quiet. I’m also little scared of talking with girls.” In spite of this fear, Kasim enjoys going into the community and organising programmes for the community. He adds, “I explain how the (Action for Equality) programme works to new comers. I enjoy doing this. It has made me more confident and less shy in front of crowds.”

 

“I think we should treat women with respect and they should have the same position in society like the men”.

Akash - Graduate of Action for Equality Programme Akash, who is 15 years old lives in the Bhimnagar community in a huge joint family that include his parents and elder sister. Akash has been with ECF’s Action for Equality (Action for Equality) programme for the last year and half.

On asked what his motivations to go be part of the programme are he says, “I learn how to respect women and treat them equally. For me it is interesting to know about patriarchy, non-violence and dowry.” Akash’s 16 year old sister adds, “He was not like this earlier. He used to hit me. He has become very understanding now. He speaks well with all the girls in our community. He explains what he learns at the programme to the boys in the community. He has also started helping my mother.”

On asked how he applies teachings from the programme to his life Akash responds, “People in the community discriminate against each other. I tell them to stop. I think we should treat women with respect and they should have the same position in society like the men.” He adds, “We should not accept dowry. There are lots of fights in the community because of dowry. I refuse to accept dowry at my sister’s marriage. That’s why I want her to study further…”

When asked what he feels about the Action for Equality programme he says, “I think the programme has changed me. I respect Sir very much. I have started helping my mother and I don’t hit my sister anymore. I feel that I should make more boys part of the programme.”

 

“Being a bystander is like supporting the problem”.

Harshad - Action for Equality Graduate Meet Harshad, a young man who is graduate of Action for Equality Programme. Harshad comes across as a confident boy. He is 16 years old and lives in the Chaitraban community with his parents and elder sister. He has been part of the Action for Equality (AfE) Graduate Programme and has now moved on to become a leader in the Alumni Programme.

When asked about his role in the AfE programme he speaks enthusiastically, “When I was part of the Graduate Programme I learnt about how I should change my behaviour. I stopped swearing and hanging about aimlessly. As part of the Alumni Programme I tell other boys in the community about what I learnt and encourage them to join the programme.”

When asked what change he would like to see in the community he says, “The government claims that women have 50% reservation but we can’t see that in society. I feel everyone needs to have the same rights. It’s not only the men who need to rise to the top (…women to need equal access to opportunities).”

Harshad would like his sister to study further and educate herself. “I do not want her to feel guilty about dowry during her marriage. Dowry is illegal. It should not be given or taken. My parents have attended the
(Alumni Programme) events on dowry and now refuse to give or take dowry during my sister’s marriage.”

Harshad feels proud to be part of the programme. “I want to grow up and become a police inspector and I think this programme will help me.”