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May 2016 was the month of collective action for us at ECF. Our participants took conversations around gender equality out of their classrooms and right into their communities.Armed with powerful slogans and posters over 150 young men across 19 communities in Pune set forth on a journey to create a platform for dialogue with their near and dear ones. As their neighbours, parents and friends stepped outside their homes and stared in wonder , slogans of ‘Band Kara, Band Kara, Chhed Chhad Band Kara!’ (Stop Sexual Harassment!) and ‘Ghar Doghanche, tar Kaam Doghanche!’ (If the house is both of ours, Work is also both of ours) rent the air. In communities where the fear of street sexual harassment is real and constant, young men standing up against it sent a compelling message- that men are much-needed allies in the fight to prevent violence against women.

The boys had a frank dialogue with their audiences about working for gender equality. They questioned the uneven division of household chores and challenged unjust gender norms which deny women their rights. The young men faced varied reactions- from curious to uncertain to enthusiastic agreement. Largely, the community members agreed that violence and discrimination against women was indeed a pressing problem in the community.

Our boys concluded by explaining Human Rights to their friends, families and neighbours. To mark the beginning of a new dialogue, members of the audience signed posters as a symbol of solidarity in the fight to end violence and discrimination against women.

The success of the Action Events and the enthusiastic participation of both male and female community members is a milestone in the young men’s journey as proponents of gender equality. By inviting the communities to join the dialogue, our participants have paved the way for more men to become allies in the fight to end violence and discrimination against women.