Raising India’s Boys to Demand Girls’ Rights

By Elise Derstine | October 20, 2017 | Asia | Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

Equal Community Foundation uses a groundbreaking approach to combat violence against women and girls. What’s different about ECF? Take this virtual tour to find out …

In recent years, reports of brutal attacks against women and girls in India have made headlines, bringing attention to an issue that has deep roots in Indian society.

Most violence occurs within families: husbands, fathers, and brothers feel legitimized by India’s traditional culture of gender discrimination.

Equal Community Foundation is creating a paradigm shift through a unique approach—starting with boys. While many organizations in India are working to protect women and girls, most focus on women’s empowerment. By working with boys and young men, ECF tackles gender-based violence at its root cause.

© Equal Community Foundation / Photo by Alex Sunshine

Above: Shubham, an ECF program participant, pictured near his home. 

© Equal Community Foundation

Above: Boys lead a community action event in the Ambedkar Nagar neighborhood. 

ECF teaches boys that they can take personal action to prevent discrimination and violence against women and girls. Not only that: ECF nurtures their skills to become leaders for gender equality in their communities, standing up for girls’ rights and teaching other boys to do the same.

© Equal Community Foundation

Above: Program mentor Ramesh talks with boys in the Super Indira Nagar community. 

Here’s how it works: through its innovative, flagship program—Action for Equality—ECF trains male professionals with a background in social work and places them as program mentors in low-income communities.

Each mentor leads weekly, interactive training sessions for adolescent boys, usually in the evening when they are done with school. The first stage of the curriculum focuses on helping boys to think critically and reflect on their own prejudices and harmful behavior.

© Equal Community Foundation

Above: Program mentor Yogesh leads a session from the AfE program curriculum with boys from the Kashewadi community. 

© Equal Community Foundation

As the program progresses, the curriculum shifts from personal to community action. Participants are trained in leading community awareness and action events, learning the skills to mobilize and influence their families, peers, and communities.

Working together, the boys then launch events, rallies, and campaigns with the goal of reducing violence and discrimination in their own neighborhoods.

© Equal Community Foundation

Parental and community support a key to the program’s success. Mentors conduct extensive outreach, working closely with parents, youth groups, local government, and other stakeholders to discuss the program’s progress, as well as any challenges. Local NGOs often help the mentors by mobilizing community support for the program and by providing venues for the training sessions.

© Equal Community Foundation / Photo by Alex Sunshine

Above: Sahil participated in the Action for Equality program with his mother’s approval and support. 

Graduates of the Action for Equality program make a pledge to become allies with girls and women and to take gender-equitable actions in their daily lives. As young leaders, they go on to influence their family members, peers, and others in their communities. And when they become adults, they are prepared to raise their own children to be champions of gender equality.

© Equal Community Foundation / Photo by Rucha Satoor

Above: Siddesh shares his idea of gender equality: ”Equal rights for both, equal treatment for both, and equality in business.” 

A key part of ECF’s effectiveness is its scalable model—an attribute that GFC looks for when selecting new partners. To date, a total of 4788 boys across 19 communities in Pune have been directly reached through the AfE program.

© Equal Community Foundation / Photo by Alex Sunshine

Above: The Vikas Nagar community in Pune where ECF’s implements its Action for Equality program. 

Global Fund for Children was one of ECF’s first major funders based in the US, and has been supporting the AfE program since 2013.

ECF’s first scale up of this model was in West Bengal, where the organization partnered with 12 community-based organizations committed to empowering boys to become gender equitable.

This year, in addition to helping fund the Action for Equality program, we’ve provided ECF with a strategic grant to support its organizational development, with the goal of strengthening its fundraising, financial management, and board engagement practices. At Global Fund for Children, we believe these investments are a critical part of our mission to help our partners succeed long-term.

© Equal Community Foundation / Photo by Aravind Hari
© Equal Community Foundation / Photo by Aravind Hari

Above: Through Project Raise, a partnership with a dozen community-based organizations, ECF has successfully replicated its Action for Equality program in West Bengal. 

We’re proud to partner with ECF—helping this groundbreaking organization to grow, expand, and make India a safer and more equitable place for women and girls.


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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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