The Ek Saath National Campaign engages men and boys as partners for gender justice in changing gender social norms that are discriminatory. Ek Saath in Hindi means ‘together’ and here it denotes both partnership between men and women as well as that of men with other men for ending violence and discrimination against women and girls. The campaign is based on the principle of togetherness to change social norms. At present the campaign is running in more than 10 states across India – Rajasthan, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Assam.
The campaign emerged in 2016 as a collective of citizen's groups coming together on a common platform based on the recognition that even as India strides ahead on the economic front, similar social progress has not taken place in removing gender based violence and discrimination.
Vision: Ek Saath national campaign is based on the belief that if we want to change the situation for women it is time to shift the onus of change from those who are facing discrimination to those who create and uphold gender discriminatory social norms.
Gender equality is a vision for the whole of society and men must become equal champions of gender justice.
Objective: The campaign has been launched with the objective of identifying men and boys who are willing to be the vanguard of change and build communities of such men and boys across the nation to spearhead a national movement. The campaign promotes men and boys' active partnership and participation to change gender discriminatory social norms in the family, community and different institutions. Building upon existing laws and policies, the campaign focusses on the concrete actions they can take to foster equality.
Thus at the household level, the focus is on men's role as fathers, uncles and brothers with messages of sharing household work, providing support for women's education, economic empowerment, mobility, discouraging early marriage and so on. In a college the focus is on male youth as a colleague and friend with messages around prevention of sexual harassment, campus safety, encouraging women’s participation in extra-curricular activities etc.
'Samanta Saathi': At the heart of the campaign is the 'Samanta Saathi'. The campaign will create community groups of men as Samanta Saathis or gender champions who would be willing to bring change in their own lives and promote it among others. A Samanta Saathi is envisaged as a male gender and equality champion who will spearhead the change at the level of family, community and institutions through his individual and collective efforts. He will also inspire change among others in his milieu, creating networked groups of gender Samanta Saathis across the country.
The campaign aims to identify and build capacity to create at least 25,000 Samanta Saathis over the next five years. They will be networked together among themselves and with local organisations to form the basis of larger change in gender social norms across the country, creating a sustainable and replicating process.
A Samanta Saathi and groups of Samanta Saathis, linked together in organic networks based on location and interest, form the core of the Ek Saath Campaign.
Implementation: The campaign is being implemented across multiple sites – urban and rural, communities and educational institutions, public places, market places and workplaces - using a multiple hub approach. Each of the 10 states where the campaign is currently implemented is organised as an Ek Saath Campaign Hub. In every hub one or two organisations or networks coordinate campaign activities with the support of a core state level ‘coordination committee’ that is responsible for planning and monitoring implementation of the campaign in the hub. The national secretariat of the campaign is held by the Centre for Health and Social Justice in New Delhi.
Some of the country's leading women’s organisations like Jagori (Delhi), Akshara (Mumbai), Masum (Pune), Swayam (Kolkata) and Ekta (Madurai) are part of the campaign. A common campaign strategy has helped to develop a series of common messages and approaches. In the entire messaging process the emphasis is on men and boys' personal action for social change.
Partnerships: The campaign builds upon the synergy between various organisations working on gender issues that was achieved during the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium. Ek Saath is a joint campaign of three national networks – Forum to Engage Men (FEM), a national network of organisations and individuals working with men and boys on gender issues; India Alliance for Gender Justice (IAGJ), an alliance of organisations that worked together to organise the Global Symposium; and One Billion Rising (OBR), a global campaign against violence against women.
A range of civil society organisations, educational institutions, corporate bodies, UN organisations and media houses are together on a common platform.
Scope: The campaign will be implemented over at least three-five years in 10 Ek Saath State Hubs across the country reaching over 50,00,000 people in about 10,00,000 families, and many more through social media and mainstream media outreach. Each hub comprises a group of organisations working together and coordinating work with:
100 communities: villages and urban mohallas reaching out to about 3,00,000 people
20 higher educational institutions reaching out to about 20,000 youth and their families
10 public places reaching out to a stable population of 10,000 people
25 workplaces reaching out to 5,000 people and their families
This outreach across the 10 hubs will help to identify and train between 7,500 to 10,000 male gender and equality champions, the Samanta Saathis, whose stories of individual and collective action for gender social norm change will be shared.
Campaign Casts a Wide Net
Started during the 16 Days of Activism in November 2016, over 2,000 Ek Saath campaign activities were held in 100 districts across 10 states in the country by about 100 partner organisations. The events were held in 1,900 villages, 300 towns and 500 educational institutions, reaching over 12 lakh people. In Uttarakhand an interactive programme through community radio was used to reach out to several hundred villages.
Approximately 10,000 male gender champions or Samanta Saathi (Partners for Equality) are expected to be identified and trained in the first year.