Community dream-building to advance gender equality

By Global Fund for Children | May 23, 2022 | Asia | Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity

This blog post was written by GFC Marketing and Communications Intern Anna Kessler and by Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Specialist Rituu Nanda.

Avani, a local partner in India, is involving whole communities in dream-building events around gender equality – and this new approach is already showing exciting results.

Led by a former child laborer, GFC partner and 2020 Courage Award winner Avani offers a range of programs and services to support children and youth who are at risk of being trafficked for labor or sexual exploitation. One of the ways Avani provides support is through gender equality training for communities in the Kolhapur, Satara, and Sangli districts of Maharashtra, India.

Anuradha Bhosale, center, was forced into domestic labor at age 6. Now she dedicates her life to eradicating child labor and gender inequality through her work at Avani. © Scott Kafora / Avani

This training was previously offered exclusively through programs at local schools. However, Avani determined that while the school-based training did make a positive impact on the thoughts and actions of the students, this approach did not lead to transformative change in their communities. After observing that the students needed community support to challenge the patriarchal norms of their villages, Avani decided to change its tactics to stimulate a community response to achieving gender equality.

The Avani team began using the SALT method, an acronym meaning Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn, and Transfer, to foster community engagement and transformative conversations within local communities to help them realize their strengths. This was followed by inviting the community to compile a common dream.

Avani’s dream-building process creates a supportive environment where local people can express their hopes for gender equality in their communities. In one village where a dream-building meeting was held, around 60 people attended. They all gathered in the village hall and broke up into groups to draw their ideal future that reflects gender equality. Those in attendance included people of all ages and genders. Open dialogues were held as the groups took turns sharing their desires.

Three girls sit laughing.

In Kolhapur, India, Avani provides a range of programs that support community-wide change promoting gender equality. © Scott Kafora / Avani

“No one had asked us our dreams,” said one participant at the end of the meeting. “We all had individual dreams, but the opportunity to listen to each other and develop a common dream was very powerful.”

Through working together as a community, transformative changes are beginning to occur. One young woman who participated in a dream-building meeting was able to visit her family without being escorted by her husband for the first time. Previously, her husband didn’t allow her to go into the city alone, but after gaining confidence through the dream-building exercise, she stood up to him and made the journey. Another woman who attended the dream-building event was inspired to continue her education despite the stigma around married women furthering their studies.

In another case, a young boy had a conversation with his grandfather about continuously asking his grandmother to go to the kitchen and get him things to eat and drink. He reminded his grandfather of what they learned in the dream-building event they attended. His grandfather agreed that what he was asking went against what was discussed in the meeting and he went into the kitchen to get himself a drink instead.

By building trust-based relationships with community members, Avani is able to garner support for participation in dream-building events. Interested members of the community are coming of their own accord, and they are bringing their friends and family with them. Through this new approach that targets the community as a whole, Avani is positioned to make even greater transformative changes in the villages in which it works.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2022 Courage Award winners on June 1, 2022!

Header photo: Avani works to end child exploitation in Kolhapur, India and provides education to children in brickyards and other sites where child labor is common. © Scott Kafora / Avani

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