Women support ECF in Bhim Nagar

When ECF mobilises in a community to deliver Action for Equality our first task is to conduct a baseline survey to gather data on the community, and both men and women’s perceived levels of violence. We started working in Bhim Nagar in January 2011 and our approach in this low-income slum community was no different to the other 23 communities we work in.

During the baseline in Bhim Nagar, we observed that women were reluctant to talk about gender discrimination issues. Issues including inequality in household decision-


making and the prevalence of violence against women perpetrated by men were considered taboo and were difficult to discuss. However after regular activity from ECF staff and AfE graduates, including community based advocacy events and a series of monthly meetings with women in the community, we gained their trust and their behaviour has changed. Now they have started co-operating with ECF and even actively supporting our activities. They tell us that they want to help because our work with men is actually benefiting them.

Anjali Thorat is the sister of Atish, a graduate from AfE’s Bhim Nagar branch. Anjali tells us she believes that AfE is essential in their community because both her and her female friends face regular abuse and harassment on the streets in their community. They often hear and see incidences of domestic violence.

Women in Bhim Nagar not only support us in principle, but they have begun to support it with action too. Recently, the local politician denied ECF access to the community venue that we use to deliver training events. Three local mothers who have benefitted from behaviour change in our graduates went to meet the politician themselves, to convince him to let us use the community hall. They have not succeeded yet, but with their support, and concerted efforts from our field staff, we will regain access to the center.

Action for Equality engages women through design. We build a relationship with women because they give us a license to operate at a local level. They help us solve operational problems in the community, and they help us increase men’s enrolment and attendance. We also work with women in the communities during our Action Events, a series of community based training events where women are empowered by men who impart education and skills training. Finally we engage women to understand how our programme is working. We poll them to understand if they observe and benefit from more equitable behaviour from men in the community.