Who is a ‘Real Man’?

Abhishek Misal


A real man does not impose social customs and rituals on women.
I, Abhishek, am a real man.

Abhishek lives in Prem Nagar, Pune. He has been involved with ECF’s Action for Equality Programme for the past year and half.

What changes does he see in himself after joining ECF’s AfE Programme?

“I have learnt, most importantly, about equality. We are wrong to say that women should be ‘given’ something – choice, freedom, or resources. It is their right to have the choice and freedom, and as many resources as we do! We should make sure we are not denying or holding back what women rightly deserve.”

As a result, he has stopped associating with social and political groups that he thinks are discriminatory.  

How has his definition of masculinity changed?

“Earlier, I was the worst behaved boy in my neighbourhood. I swore at and insulted everyone, answered back to my mother, beat my sister and fought with other boys. ECF helped me stop this behaviour and develop confidence in myself. Now, I am in charge of the Abhyasika and teach 9th and 10th std. students. Even there, earlier the girls would clean the space. But I involved the boys and now they do the cleaning work.”

He feels strongly against the social and cultural norms – rituals, customs, beliefs – that restrict or discriminate against women. Currently interning at ECF, he goes to various communities to spread awareness about such restrictive customs and practices and encourages men and women to step out of them.

Somnath Raste


A real man is not afraid to express his feelings and understands the feelings of others.
I, Somnath, am a real man.

Somnath lives in Depotline area, a community in Khadki. He has been involved with ECF’s AfE Programme for the past year and half. After he started going to the Graduate Programme’s weekly classes, his first realization was the ways in which his own mother and sister were being discriminated within his home.  

“My sister was the one helping my mother with the cooking, nobody ever asked me to help. During mealtimes, they would eat after everyone else in the family had finished. My mother and sister ate whatever was left.”

In his personal action plan, he resolved to help at home and make sure everyone ate together.

“Earlier, it was difficult for my family, especially my mother, to accept that she would eat with the rest of the family, but I made sure it happened. Now, we all eat together.”

When his family selected a groom for his older sister, he asked his mother for her opinion in the selection process. Later, he asked his sister if she approved of the choice her parents had made.

“My mother knows all of us the best as she has raised us. More than my father and other relatives, she should have a say in choosing a life-partner for my sister. Also, since it is about my sister’s life, no decision can be made without her consent.”

Through the weekly inputs by Ramesh, ECF mentor in Kasarwadi, Somnath developed confidence that helped him make interventions like these in his family and peer group.

“I also began talking to my friends about women’s rights. Once, when my friend said, ‘I want to have two sons but no daughter.’ I proceeded to lecture him for over 2 hours about the importance of daughters. In the end, he told me he was convinced just to stop me. Even now, whenever he sees me, he runs away!”

What changes does he see in himself after joining ECF’s Action for Equality Programme?

 “The session on violence was an eye-opener for me. I realized that violence did not just leave physical scars but also emotional hurt. I remembered the times I had behaved aggressively with my mother or sister and resolved never to do that again. I am in control of my feelings and behaviour now. There have been rare times when I have lost my temper and shouted at my mother, but now, I say sorry to her. That makes my mother happy, and I feel better as well.”

How has his understanding of masculinity changed through his engagement with ECF? Somnath now believes that a real man is not afraid to express his emotions, and understand the emotions of others. He has become more expressive: in his class, his peer-group and in the community.

Vishwas Khare


A real man does housework.
I, Vishwas, am a real man.

 Vishwas graduated from AFE – Gradaute Programme in September 2011. He used to be a very quiet person. After volunteering in the Alumni Programme, he has built confidence and the skills to act upon things that he has learnt from the programme.

“I had no focus or goal earlier. I would not do any work at home, behaved insolently with everyone, especially women. Since I took part in the Alumni Programme, I developed a focus and volunteered regularly in my community. It showed; I was made a volunteer leader in the programme.”

How has his outlook towards women changed after engaging with ECF?

“Ever since I started helping with the chores at home, my respect for women, and the work they do, has grown. My mother, too, was surprised by the ‘sudden’ change in me. I have taken up the responsibility of cleaning the house; I sweep, mop and do the washing. Sometimes I cook as well. I am still learning, though. When my mother cooks, I stand next to her and watch, ask her the method sometimes.”

Vishwas used to face flak from his friends when he started helping at home.

“My friends would say, ‘Why are you behaving like a girl? You do all the things girls do.’ Earlier, I would’ve been angry had someone accused me of acting like a girl, but ECF has taught me that there is nothing shameful about the work women do. Instead of getting angry, I encouraged them to join the Action for Equality programme. Now, most of these friends have completed the Graduate Programme and are helping in their own homes as well!”

Vishwas has joined ECF as an intern, where he is getting an opportunity to become a leader who promotes his changed understanding of masculinity amongst other men in his community.