Evolution of the programme

Yaari Dosti and Sakhi Saheli

Yaari Dosti (meaning bonding between men) and Sakhi Saheli (meaning women friends) are intervention research programmes that were carried out between 2000 and 2007 in partnership with the Population Council New Delhi. This research addressed unequal gender norms in order to reduce sexual risks and violence against women. The Institute of Promundo (Brazil) was also partner to this research to assess the relevance of the interventions in other cultures.

The research focused on understanding the construction of masculinities (Yaari Dosti) and femininities (Sakhi Saheli) amongst young men and women from low-income communities in north-east Mumbai. Teams of young men and women from CORO communities were trained in qualitative research techniques and they also explored gender and violence issues in detail to gain a deeper understanding of them. These team members were integral partners in every phase of the research programme from the formative research, intervention design and implementation through to scale-up. This in-depth involvement resulted in the ownership of the programme by the community members. The intervention consisted of 22 group exercises for small groups of participants and a community-wide campaign on issues of gender and sexuality.

A team of eight men and six women researchers in CORO worked with 850 young men (16-28 years) and 550 young women (16-24 years) for this research.

Yaari Dosti and Sakhi Saheli demonstrated that it is possible to change young men’s and women’s attitude towards gender and violence through intervention. The programme also underlined that to achieve gender equality we need to change attitudes towards gender across all sections of society as well as closely study masculinities, femininities and cultures of violence.

The research also recommended the need for early age intervention with boys and girls when their gender and violence related attitudes are being formed. This recommendation inspired the GEMS intervention research that followed.

GEMS (Gender Equity Movement in Schools)

Gender attitudes and norms, such as those concerning the roles and responsibilities of women and men, are learned at a young age. Through the GEMS programme, in collaboration with ICRW and TISS, CORO has been exploring the potential for school-based curriculums to help adolescents form more gender-equitable norms.

In partnership with the ICRW and the TISS, CORO has developed and implemented a curriculum to engage young girls and boys aged 12-14 years to discuss and critically reflect on issues related to unequal gender norms and violence.

CORO began its works in 100 public schools schools in Mumbai M-East and M-West wards of Mumbai. Using extracurricular activities, role-playing and games, GEMS started working with children in the sixth grade and continued for two years with boys and girls aged 12-14.

CORO’s involvement in GEMS stems from its collaborative intervention research titled Yaari Dosti and Sakhi Saheli in collaboration with Population Council New Delhi.