GLOBAL FUND FOR CHILDREN: Raising India’s Boys to Demand Girls’ Rights

Two boys and a girl look at the camera.
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.