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ECF’s community leaders have been hard at work for 3 months – to conceptualise and plan a gathering with their fellow leaders and new volunteers.

The Big Meet and Greet is an event for the young men and by the young men. Traveling from distant corners of Pune, our community leaders met weekly for Leader Training Workshops where they brainstormed ideas to inspire future leaders.

On D-Day, 52 community leaders and 148 Action Programme graduates assembled from 19 communities at the Old Railway Hall, Pune. The plan was to meet peers who were also working for gender equality and share learnings and experiences. Community Leaders are young men between the age groups of 14 to 19 years who graduate from the Action for Equality Programme and continue to steer the movement for gender equality in their own communities. Peer support and solidarity prove vital in their mission to end gender based violence and discrimination.

The day kicked off with relay races that were designed to make the participants engage with household tasks. To progress in the race, one had to gather waste, clean vegetables and fold clothes- tasks that were not only fun, but also symbolic of a clear message- housework is a shared responsibility.

As the day advanced, our young participants presented performances on social issues like child marriage, superstitions and inequitable gender norms; issues that plagued their own communities. Simple language, relatable situations and humor helped their peers connect with the performances. Every presentation offered innovative solutions to end these deep-rooted gender inequitable social evils.

The highlight of the day Action Programme participants was the Action Programme participant’s graduation. The objective of the programme is to enable boys to identify discrimination and intervent. Whether it was helping mothers with household chores or organizing public events- participants learnt to take action. ‘We have learnt to leave behind the role of passive spectators,’ says 15 year old Pawan Ramgire from Lohianagar, Pune. ‘I’ve started discussing unjust gender norms with my friends and family now.’

For some others, it was a day to test the skills they’d learnt in the programme- ‘‘This was the first time I got a chance to host an event,’ says 16 year old Yash Parmar, ECF’s Community Leader from Lohianagar and the host for the morning. ‘As leaders, learning to confidently engage with our audience has helped me on-stage today.’

The Big Meet and Greet concluded with the young men receiving t-shirts and certificates as mementos for their journey of self-reflection and action. They went home doubly inspired from their peers, mentors and Leaders to strive to make gender equality a reality in their communities.