IndiBloggers Take Pledge to Ring The Bell – A Breakthrough Initiative


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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.

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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 ?”

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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 

On Being A Woman – Year End Post


It has been over a month now since I wrote anything here. I am not really in right frame of mind. Anger and pain has made me numb. Excuse me for this rambling and just ignore the errors for now.

kuch alfaz ab bhi seene me hain uljhe

kuch girahen abhi bhi khulni hain baki

hain sawal kuch jinke dhoondhne hain jawab

hain jawab jinhe ab bhi hai sawalon ki latash

Sometimes I feel my life is like an exquisitely embroidered shawl. Richly embroidered in vibrant hues which people see and appreciate but it is I who feels the inconvenient knots and tangled threads of its inside.  When anyone says “I understand how you feel” I say “No you don’t”, you possibly can’t imagine how tough it is to be a woman in this country, to struggle each day, to fight for survival. To live here is an act of bravery and then you see what ultimately happens to the brave hearts who dare to dream of living a life on their terms. What are these terms? you will ask.

 

The terms are – Dignity, honor , equality in all spheres of life, a right to LIVE as a fellow human being.

 

” Ha!, you say, don’t talk about these philosophical  terms that feminists quote. You have all that you need –  security, food, shelter, money, a husband to” look after” you, what else do you want? What is this about dignity and crap? Your dignity is within the four walls of this house. It is in your hand to preserve and protect it. Don’t listen to these so-called “committed/progressive women” these “feminists from women’s Organisations” they will try to lead you astray, they will break your home and fill your head with shitty ideas that will only take wrong decisions.  Dress”modestly” . It is because of these “dented, painted disco going women” that all these cases of rape and molestation happen.Stay within your boundaries, follow traditions and norms set by society for their women, know your duties and follow the moral code. If you do all this then only you can give good values to your children. God has been kind to you and given you two boys. Thank God for not burdening you with a daughter. Don’t talk to the neighbors, make only a few friends (although we don’t see the need of it) and mind you they should not be men. You are a married woman and your commitment is only towards your husband, children and in-laws. Your parents? Their son will look after them, it is his job not yours. Now you are part of this family and nothing else matters. Remember that silence and patience, tolerance and abiding to the wishes of your husband is the utmost priority in your life even above your own self for that self is also now His and not yours anymore.

Do you get what I am saying ?”

 

“Well,  yes I do see it. I followed it like an idiot for a major part of my life and screwed it. Now I intend to trash your “Codes for an Indian Woman” and chart my path make my own rules, take my own decisions, Live My Life.”

 

“What? Then you are not a good wife, daughter, DIL, and mother, you are not even a good woman. See, this is what happens when women are let loose. When they gain access to public spaces and get exposed to things like Internet. This is what corrupted you. Now your head is filled with all those lofty notions of independent living and all the crap about women’s rights. Mark my words, you will suffer, realize your mistake within no time and come back on your knees.”

 

***

“If that is what you think, Shame On You.  I do not wish to be labelled as a “Good woman” by Your Standards. I will sell myself if I have to and live under the open sky if push comes to shove but I will not give in now and will not come back to this prison with invisible bars and barbed web of rules designed to keep me in hold all through my life, that’s a promise.”

2011 saw emergence of a new Me.

Many women are not living their dreams because they are living their fears.

 

Isolation, restriction, guilt, humiliation, denial, continuous controlling and criticism and  lack of empathy, love, companionship, shattering of a dream of ” a life long relationship based on mutual respect” breaks them. Emotional, mental tortured is hard to explain due to lack of  ” solid evidence” . 
Emotional Abuse comes silently most of the times camouflaged as “love, betterment, moral duty, guilt, emotional blackmail, and marital rape. Silence helps it breed and dig its claws deeper.
In our country ‘thinking’ for oneself is not encouraged. It’s always conformity & herd mentality. The  moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed & told to shut up. If she rebels , her condition is even worse.
Does that mean we keep suffering ?
NO.
 Trust me it is better to raise your voice and make your life worthy than suffer and reinforce the fact that women can be used as objects and treated like an old newspaper.
Two years have passed since I cut those silken chains and  moved out to rediscover myself as a woman , as a person, as a human being. I had to pay the price. I had to leave my boys behind.
“What kind of mother is she? So insensitive and unconcerned, so selfish.”  I still hear it but in hushed voices.
Emergence of new woman who can defy everything that binds her and yet be happy is a painful, uphill task.
Today when I sit and look back I know I was privileged. I had friends who stood by me like a rock, I had patronage to be economically independent in some way after a gap of 22 years. I had a family to go back to though it was a halfhearted acceptance.
It is easy to say what took you so long? It is easy to say ” Hang in there, everything will be fine”, it is easy to sympathize but it takes immense courage to hold the hand of someone who is defying and rebelling against the system. I was privileged in more than one ways to have people with such strength.
I owe it to them as much as I owe it to myself .
 If anyone thinks it is selfish to think about oneself, to dream, to have desires then so be it.
I am selfish. I can’t deny the love I am supposed to give myself. It would be utterly dishonest to do so and if I am dishonest to myself how will I ever be honest to others?
I believed and hoped my boys understood. They stood by me.
They did not have a choice.
They said nothing.
It is tough to be separated in such manner. The guilt ate into the fiber of my being  day and night. It still does. But I had to make a choice – To live or to exist. I chose the first.
I have a lot to thank for, lot of people to offer my gratitude for helping me be myself but the battle is not won yet. Even after two years I   have one foot in the past and one in present. Sometimes I see myself at the periphery of a void at others I feel absolutely thrilled by what I have achieved in last one year. I have been able to break many mental barriers. It has been a productive year in many ways but still something is amiss. I have not been able to completely shake off the layers that hide the real me stirring and quivering underneath in want of  release. A lot remains entangled and knotted not just due to the rotten system we are part of but also because of my own failing to regain the confidence and courage. I am still a sucker of emotions, still vulnerable to the core, still seeking approval when I shouldn’t.
I took the step in direction of change but it seems like a move from a smaller prison to a larger one. A little more space to breathe and move about but still confined. It makes me question my decision. I lose my footing and begin to slip back. It scares me to venture into a society where every moment women are violated, sometimes so brutally.
Physical rape is just one aspect of VAW, the society we live in and are part of strips the female of their species  of a dignified life from the time she is conceived. Some live through the horror of it till they cough last and some are spared that trauma by getting  murdered in the womb itself.  There is only a small percentage that breathes the free air and lives as desire.
As we step into another year my thoughts are with all the women who are facing a challenge to free themselves of the chains that bind them, who are daring to break the silence despite of the risks involved, who are struggling to make a place for themselves  within the culture of violent subjugation and male dominated power structure around which everything revolves and in which women die many times over every day. Most of the times unheard, unsung. There voices stilled. I am thinking about the lack of a support system for those who have the spark to stand up for their rights and fight against the system.
I am not just thinking of women’s rights and gender violence but also about  gay rights, racism, casteism and coexistence which doesn’t exist in our society. I am thinking of equal opportunities, paid employment for women ( just 14.5 %paid employment as compared to men speaks volumes about the structure of our society. 2 million women lost their jobs in last five years), basic education,  basic hygiene and medical facilities. I am thinking of children and the crimes against them. Earlier too there have been catalyst who have shown harsh light on the stinking rotten interiors of our society. Earlier too there have been movements against every damn issue which is shoved under the carpet, How many more ? ? How many wake up calls, How many lives cut short before the change finally occurs?
Will there ever be one single day when a woman will feel safe in this country and breathe easy? When her security and self-respect will not be ground to dust? Will we ever be rid of our sexist culture? Unfortunately when I ask these questions the city that comes to mind is the city in which I have lived for more than forty years – the national capital Delhi.  Not a single moment of my life I have felt secure here. Fear has been a constant companion since I began to move out in public spaces. Fear of those so-called “protectors”. It started when I joined school and continues till now.
As I write this last post of this year I am wondering what lies ahead for the women of India, for me as an individual.  I know it will take a lot of effort and time to completely overhaul the mindset of people to bring some much-needed positive changes but I can begin with myself and my life. It is a rough path that I have chosen but am not giving up. Ever.
Here are two brilliant articles for you to read and ponder upon as I take your leave.
He says among other things,” Men abuse women in every society, but few males do it with as much impunity, violence and regularity as the Indian male.”
(TRUST ME IT IS TRUE)
And
The problem is us  by zigzactly
I have not been regular with my posts but I know you will understand. In a struggle to find my footing I have to sometimes give priority to other important issues that I am dealing with. Thank you for supporting me in all good and bad times and for encouraging me by reading and commenting. I appreciate it very much.
Do something constructive in the coming year.
Have the moral courage to Defy what in Unjust. Don’t be a performer.
You can view all the Previous Entries about being a woman and other social issues HERE