How to sustain the momentum of the One Billion Rising movement? Jagori's secretary and Director Suneeta Dhar shared her perspective on this matter with IBNLive readers.
Q. I was out there in Delhi yesterday but somehow had a feeling that many people were using the event for fun, frolic (like a picnic) rather than pondering over why the gathering was organised in the first place. Don't you think that is going to dilute the movement for equality? Asked by: Jyoti
A. There was seriousness and deep reflections in many amid the gathering. The movement for gender equality and gender justice is one that has now engaged a lot of young people from diverse backgrounds. in the wake of the recent Delhi incident and other such. The poetry reading, plays and music also led to questioning misogynist attitudes, and entrenched beliefs and the need for a huge shift on consciousness in taking forward the struggle for women's rights.
Q. Would it not have been better if the OBR programme was spread out throughout the year rather than concentrating on one particular day? Asked by: Avnish
A. The OBR is a historic moment in the ongoing struggles for women's rights and justice, taking place worldwide since the last 30 years. Women's movement have galvanised changes at all levels - legal, policy , services for survivors and putting in place prevention strategies. You are right that this ending violence against women and girls must become part of our everyday consciousness and we must transform ourselves to advance relationships based on trust, mutual consent and respect and without any form of gender bias and discrimination.
Q. OBR has certainly galvanised women all over the world. But what can we do to make sure the flame does not die down? Asked by: Prakriti
A. You are right, women from 200 countries have come out in large numbers to raise their voice and affirm their collective strength, so that we can live in a world free from violence against women and girls. This flame can only be kept alive when all join efforts to protest any form of violence, raise consciousness - beginning with the self, and to advocate for enabling gender just laws, policies and programmes. Most importantly, we need to make sure that survivors of violence get access to justice and to regain their lives of dignity and autonomy. We need to talk about gender and sexuality as part of everyday education. And most importantly, we need to reach and work with young boys and men so they challenge the notion of violent masculinities, that are being defined as the norm. And each one counts, and I am sure you will do much to keep the flame alive!
Q. What do you think has collectivized the strength and energy of young men to be a part of this campaign, in spite of all the ambiguities and anxiety associated with the role of men in eliminating violence against women? Asked by: Shruti
A. Many young men, students, workers, activists and others have been challenging the mainstream gender roles defined for them. They are making a difference in the ways they share the gender division of labour at home, caring for children, being gentle and respectful and supportive. They are learning to build relationships of trust, equality, respect and self reflection. They have demonstrated that they will not tolerate any form of violence against girls and women, support equal access to education, work opportunities, mobility for their duaghters. When such new norms are established and practiced, it paves the way for other men too to reflect and join processes where they can revisit traditional constructions of masculinities and seek another pathway of empowering themselves. Many men have now formed collectives and they should play a role in reaching out those that are opposed to gender equality.
Q. Most of yesterday's campaigners engaged in male bashing. Is that's what equality of women tantamount to? Asked by: Rajeev Varma
A. I do not think so. Focusing on perpetrators of violence against women and girls is not bashing. The messages that I got from many campaigners is that men and boys should learn to engage on principles of equality and respect. That there is no excuse for any form of violence against women and girls within the family, public space and community. Women have a right to their bodily integrity, dignity and autonomy, which cannot be violated under any circumstances. True equality begins with each one of us, and it is time that we commit to change.
Q. What do you think are the challenges faced by the Indian women's movement in the current era? Do you think the movement will accept OBR campaign in its full form? Asked by: Praveena
A. The women's movement struggles will be kept alive through its protest politics, vision of change and large numbers that join in across all movements. Younger women need to lead the way, as they have - through the last two months - and engage deeply with the politics of the older generation of feminists, who continue to struggle for rights and justice for all. The OBR is a moment, a process, that has knitted across the countries several activists and women from dalit, tribal, working class, students, teachers, workers from the unorganised sector and many others in diverse locations to unite and celebrate their power in solidarity.
Q. According to me the only solution could be "Every man should think every woman as his mother/sister accept his spouse" Asked by: Deepak Krishnamurthy
A. One of the most important changes in mindsets that we need to make is that - we need to see women as women in their own right! Seeing them in their gendered roles is not the way that change comes, as it will only advance gender biases and promote protectionist policies. While it is crucial that as sisters, mother, spouses, partners, friends they find equality of spaces, equal access to opportunity, voice in decision making, and property rights, etc. we must ensure that as women they enjoy their freedoms and autonomy. And as men, we believe this shift in power relations will only enrich all our lives. We need to shift patriarchal mindsets and structures.