“People are so involved in their own lives. There is a prevalent apathy and un-mindfulness that is a part of our society and sometimes this is very hard to break…but ECF has made an in-road in our community,” says Mahadevi Jangle, the mother of a graduate of the ECF Action for Equality Programme, Akshay.

She is employed in the oncology ward of a renowned hospital in the city of Pune. They live in the Tadiwala Road community and have been associated with ECF since Akshay enrolled for the 7th cycle of the Programme.

Mahadevi has a very straightforward and simple way about her – something which draws you to her sincerity immediately. “I have been an active supporter of the Action for Equality Programme since I noticed the way it has impacted my son’s perspectives and behaviour. This is something that I can visibly testify to and is the best way for me to quantify the impact of the programme,” she looks at her son fondly. “Akshay always likes to discuss the details of the AfE session with me and even if I sometimes don’t pay attention when I am busy with something else, he always comes back later and almost forces me to listen to him,” she smiles.

 “There are so many reasons why we remain quiet in the face of adverse things we see happening around us – but I always believe that if we don’t speak up, then who will? Change starts with one person and I am willing to be the one with whom it starts.”

Mahadevi becomes thoughtful as she speaks about events and incidences where she has witnessed the effects of violence and discrimination against women. She is passionate when she praises the work of ECF – “Your work focusses on the most mouldable parts of our communities, these 14-17 year old boys. If we can train them to respect women and treat them with care, there is hope yet.”

Akshay has demonstrated gradual and noticeable differences in both attitude and behaviour at home and in the community. His uncle and older brother nod vigorously when his mother Mahadevi says, “Akshay seems suddenly so grown up in the way he looks at everything. He really enjoys the weekly AfE meetings and sessions and holds the ECF-bhaiyyas in very high regard. I am happy with this as well, because I can be rest assured that he has good role-models to follow and emulate.”

This validates another important aspect of ECF’s work, which is to build a rapport with the boys and create that “safe space” which enables them to speak up and learn by questioning and discovery.

As a strong and active supporter of ECF and the Action for Equality Programme, Mahadevi often comes up against passive and lukewarm responses from other women in the community, but she is unfazed. She goes right back to using her son’s maturing behaviour and attitude as the strongest alibi she can present for the women in the community to be convinced. In her opinion, every young boy in the community should have a chance to study and practice gender equitable behaviour to end violence and discrimination against women in India – This is exactly the mission that ECF has elucidated! With the active buy-in of strong supporters like Mahadevi, we are all set to take on the journey of the next 5 years of raising men and young boys to respect women.