26th of Feb, 2017: The journey between being passive spectators of violence and taking concrete action to actually stop it is an arduous one. How do you then motivate young men to take concrete actions when they witness violence and discrimination against women in their own surrounding? We believe peer support could be the strongest motivator for a young man to transcend this journey.
With this objective in mind, we invited our Action for Equality participants for the Big Meet and Greet (BMG) from 20 communities in Pune, to assemble in the one space. Typically, to challenge gender norms that exist around him, a young man from our programme works either in isolation or only with a few fellow participants from his own community. The BMG aimed to motivate the participants to meet their peers who also challenge gender norms and demonstrate support for women’s rights in their own communities and learn from each other. The morning was inspirational with 203 boys gathering, determined to realize the dream of a gender equitable future.
A part-celebratory, part-informative event, the BMG celebrated the graduation of 154 Action Programme participants and applauded the gender equality advocacy initiatives of our 165 community leaders. The event was a product of the hard work of Action for Equality’s Leadership Programme participants who led, facilitated and conducted the whole event.
The first and most conflicting step to be a gender equitable person is to reflect on your own beliefs, biases and prejudices. With this in mind, the young boys reflected on what violence and discrimination against women means to them. They also imagined what a gender equitable future looks like.
These young men also led a quiz where the participants had to identify gender norms and devise ways to challenge them. Human-rights based answers earned them a token of appreciation.
The crux of the whole morning were the team-building activities which aimed to boost team spirit and collective brainstorming among these young men.
Through a flash mob, young men raised awareness about how being a bystander when one witnesses violence is never an option. The performance was a cry for the community as a whole to unite and stand up against violence. The boys urged their peer leaders to adopt the flash mob as a tool to create awareness and call for action in their own communities.
In India, there’s a rich and diverse struggle for women’s rights. In order to acquaint our participants to other initiatives which also work for gender justice, we invited organizers from the ‘Why Loiter? Pune‘ initiative to address our boys. They discussed how young men can contribute to make public spaces safe, accessible and inclusive for women. Representatives of our partner organizations Cotiviti, Deep Griha Society and Manavi Yuva Vikas were present to encourage the participants and appreciate their efforts.
We concluded the morning with the graduation of 154 Action Programme participants who will now be transitioning to the Leadership Programme. The current leaders welcomed their new peers and promised solidarity in all their initiatives. Motivated by the knowledge that there they are a part of a larger struggle for an equal and just world, 203 young men walked out of the event inspired to take action for a gender just and equitable world.