On Woman’s Day I attended an event organised by Breakthrough a global human right organisation and IndiBlogger, the largest community of Indian bloggers. Breakthrough launched the #RingTheBell (Bell bajao) campaign in 2008 .
The event for this year which was formally launched at British Council urges men to intervene and take a pledge to end violence against women with their Global campaign of ‘One Million Men and One Million promises to end all forms of violence against women’.
Artists, NGOs, bloggers, entrepreneurs and people from all walks of life gathered to end #VAW in whatever possible. Around 150 indibloggers participated as part of #indichange and renewed their pledge. I always thought we should have a “Bloggers writing for change” group and this initiative gives us a platform to join our voices against any kind of violence against women and children.
I asked someone ” Were the men ever “gentle” ?” I have a problem with this poster. I think men are more sensitive to women’s issues now than ever before and yes, exceptions are always there and have been in the past too. The lady told me it is about extending hands towards men who have that “gentle” side but just need a little nudge. Sonali rightly said that we should teach the girls not to laugh at the boys who cry. It is just about being sensitive to each other as humans beyond gender or anything else.
“We need to tell our boys that they CAN cry.”
That brings me to other controversial statement. “Hang the rapists.” I am against capital punishment but do believe in strict law enforcement, sensitization, severe punishments even reforming the accused serving the sentences but taking a life whatever the case is something i do not agree with.The system need overhauling including the prisons. It is easier said than done but in any case my vote will always be against capital punishment. Sometime you need to forgive to stop the cycle. This is the sign of a civilized society. Why do we lose that humane touch and not give a chance to those perpetrators serving the sentences in jails of redeeming and actually doing something good with the rest of their lives if they have deep remorse and bring the change within. Is it not we want? A change from within in every man and woman in our society? Many won’t agree and have counter points so we can discuss it later.
Violence is not just physical, the other kinds – emotional and mental is more deep-rooted and seldom talked about for the lack of “evidence”. I have been there and know how difficult it is to take that one step in direction of finding yourself and reclaiming your dignity by stepping out of relationship or a situation. The price sometimes is extremely high. Most of the time for many women it is not even possible. A deeper dialogue and engaging men to find new solutions and making them take the ownership of doing their bit to act against any kind of #VAW is a step I appreciate. I hope the campaign does not stay to the cities and reaches our villages and small towns too.
It was a thought-provoking evening with panel discussions based on two themes
1 Forms of responses & encouragement – social , legal and leadership taken by women
2 Portrayal of women in films, TV and advertising
It was an enthralling experience to listen to listen to some of the women I admire Indira Jaisingh, Advaita Kala, Sonali Khan, , Priya Paul. Some of the other women panelists came from rural areas where they are doing groundbreaking work. They included Rahima Khatun and Pushpa Balmiki.
The men included Ryan Mendonca, Rajan Anandan who promised to who promises to invest in startups led by women, Rahul Bose and our very own Anoop Johnson from indiBlogger.
Topics like Objectification. Commodification. Hypersexuality, redefining ‘macho”, stereotyping in media, harassment of women on internet and many other important issues were discussed.
Some quotes from the speakers:
“People always say, we bring up our daughters like our sons.’ Why not bring up your sons like your daughters?” Advaita Kala
“There can be no gender justice without the involvement of men,” he said. “The challenge is, how do we get men to stop seeing this as a ‘women’s issue’? We’ve completely ignored a ready constituency of men – every victim of rape, molestation and abuse has an angry father, a confused husband, a shamed brother. We can reach out to these men, counsel them, and turn them into the greatest gender warriors in this battle.” Rahul Bose
“Boys don’t need to play with guns, there’s no need for guns in our lives. Patriarchy in staunchly patriarchal cultures reflects in the push for capital punishment, in an eye for an eye. Cultures that have moved past patriarchy have given up capital punishment, like some of the Scandinavian countries. So we must teach our men to give power, secede power, not assume it. Boys should be accustomed to telling their sisters, you stay out till 2am, I’ll come home at 1. This will form the basis of a unconditional change that can make the world a safer place for everybody.” Rahul Bose
“Women are not getting 33%reservation in parliament because there they will not be able to put us down.” Rahima
We had some brilliant video streaming of people working hard to bring the change at grassroot levels. I loved this quote from a woman activist.
Manzilen unko milti hain
jinke sapno main jaan hoti hai
Sirf pankh hone se kuch nahin hota
hoslon se udaan hoti hai
Performances by Swarathma , a folk- rock band from Bangalore. Sensitivity about the burning issues of our time and the power of good music can go a long way in touching human psyche. Do we hear the sounds of change? I wish I had recorded some part of the electrifying performance. Do listen to their music on You Tube. Their song on child sexual abuse ‘Ghum’ was heart wrenching.
Listening to Mahabanoo-Modi-Kotwal was something very close to heart and as a writer, as a woman it touched some deep chord inside. It was really a privilege. I would love to connect with her sometime. I loved the poem by Eve Ensler that she read out. Her readings from Vagina Monologue was thought provoking.
“Main Aazad hun. Aazad hun aur behad sexy . Koi problem hai ?”
Thank you for letting me use this brilliant Photograph IHM . Do visit her awesome blog.
As more and more people pledged their support by ringing the bell the time came for the special guest to bewitch the gathering with her music. Watching Anoushka Shankar live on stage brought back fond memories of listening to her father. She has the same heartwarming smile and way of communicating with her team of musicians , same brilliance as she magically moves her fingers to produce the finest of Indian classical music. The raagas she chose to play were excellent. The evening air was filled with the gorgeous music and her presence. It was simply breathtaking. She too extended her support to the cause. Some people question the role of celebrities at such events but here was a woman who has been there done that just like me, you and many of us trying t make a difference and it takes courage to speak.. immense courage.
It is a feeling of pride to be associated with IndiBlogger‘s initiative #IndiChange and I thank each member of the IndiBlogger team for their unconditional support to me as woman, as a blogger. When you are rebelling against a system, defying age-old norms and breaking barriers every support counts. It made my struggle easier. I think we as invited bloggers did not get time to express our point of views which would have been excellent because we are the voice of the internet and every voice counts. The new initiative IndiChange is about “Harnessing the collective power of blogging to fight the evil.”
I hope more and more people Ring The Bell and there comes a time when we are able to completely wipe out VAW from the roots.
Let us aim to get 1 million men to pledge support through ‘Breakthough’ from 8th March 2013 to 8th March 2014. Spread the word and join the action.
Here are some photographs of the event.
You can read some of my other related posts HERE