As the 21 day nationwide lockdown in India gets extended, we share with you what the situation has been like in the communities where we implement our gender-transformative programmes with boys. Our Programme Mentors have been following up with our Action for Equality (AfE) boys and speaking to their families to find out how they have been coping with the crisis caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. Our Mentors used this as an opportunity to create awareness about Covid prevention and waylay the rumours, fears and panic generated because of the pandemic.

While some of the communities reported positive cases, most were worried by the spread of misinformation related to Covid 19 that resulted in unprecedented panic, and also the heavy loss of livelihoods since many of the community members are daily wage earners and domestic workers.

What was most heart warming in the midst of this crisis was to hear how our AfE Alumni  had risen to the challenge and begun to take both individual and collective actions in their communities. One such incident is that of Pratik who convinced his aunt to support him in ensuring that the needs of those in his community were met. Together, they approached power holders in their community and initiated an action plan that resulted in the provision of food grains to 250 community members. In another community, Harshal got 10 of his friends together and raised money to purchase food grains, cooked these, and distributed it to those in need. In yet another community, Shreyas took the support of his father and his friends to raise funds and purchase food grains for his community members.

Stories also emerged from 4 other communities where Alumni Amol, Rushikesh, Mahesh and Shivraj formed volunteer groups to ensure that the procurement of essential goods could be done for those who were most in need.

Not to be left behind were our present AfE participants who have actively taken on responsibilities at home ensuring that the women of the household do not have to face the burden of increased housework and care work with all family members staying home. During calls, parents proudly reported increased engagement of boys in activities like cleaning the house, cooking, chopping vegetables and filling water.

Every crisis brings with it an opportunity, to begin anew. As conversations grow around the need to reform spaces within families that are gender inequitable, that are violent, where work loads are unevenly balanced on the shoulders of women and girls, we move towards realising the need for transforming masculinities, of dismantling patriarchy through a culture of care that engages men and boys as equal partners, as allies. 

As we continue to pray for the resurgence of normalcy on the other side of this pandemic, let us think about what we take with us into our new world and what we leave behind. It’s time to make that gender equitable world a reality.

Appeal: Our Alumni mentioned in this article are working in the communities of Chandan Nagar, Lohiyanagar, Superindira Nagar and Prem Nagar in Pune. Supplies are hard to come by and they are still in need of funds. Do reach out to us if you would like to collaborate with them. We would be happy to put you in touch with them directly.