Engaging Men and Boys in Fight against Violence – Sessions 1 and 2
The Centre for Social Research initiated an institutionalized action towards all-inclusive gender approach for eliminating violence against women and making India, a gender-just society. “Engaging Men and Boys in Fight against Violence” (henceforth referred to as #AllGenders), was a conference which resonated the social reality of empowered men making way for women to empower themselves. The inaugural session of the conference set the tone for the discourse. It was articulated that women empowerment should be in tandem with iconoclastic actions for redefining masculinity. There were discussions on areas of patriarchal powerhouses and how indoctrinated socio-cultural values and normalized violence are, leading to fertile grounds for creating gender stereotypes. The session that followed, highlighted the need of making men realize how indispensable they are, for furthering the cause of a gender-just society. It was discussed how men should make the transition from being perpetrators of violence against women to protectors of the dignity of women’s lives, which in turn will raise the dignity of theirs. A speaker in the first session rightly said, “Don’t only tell the men what’s wrong; also tell them what is right.” Much to the surprise of the workshop attendees, another speaker revealed how gender inequitable matriarchal North-Eastern societies can be. The session concluded with the speaker referring to the culture of silence around violence against women and how it is high time and beyond, to change that. The second panel of the #AllGenders conference were youth who spoke on perceptions around gender movement.
The first speaker Mr. Manak Matiyani, stated that our society shapes men to be natural leaders. Mr. Matiyani is the Executive Director of New Delhi based The Young People (YP) Foundation. Prior to his stint at the YP Foundation, Mr. Matiyani had been a trainer and consultant for organizations like the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council, CREA, Breakthrough, Oram International, Pravah and Community – The Youth Collective (CYC).At the #AllGenders conference, Mr. Matiyani explained how training of men into masculinity is their training into violence because the former is synonymous with display of physical bravado. Having said that, he also made an ingenious suggestion of harnessing this social reality for women empowerment. If we can get the men to support and facilitate women as they venture into leadership roles; we can make the best with what we have.
Mr. Harish Iyer was the second speaker who brought in a unique perspective of how men are indeed the victims of patriarchy. Mr. Iyer is “an equal rights activist, known for his campaigns for the rights of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community, children, women, animals as well as survivors of child sexual abuse. The Pink Pages named him one of India’s seven most influential gay and lesbian people and he is one of the ten individuals to be awarded the Zindagi Live Awards for his work in creating awareness on child sexual abuse.” At the #AllGenders conference, Mr. Iyer made a powerful statement, “Unless you undress, you cannot address” (the situation). He went on to explain how violence is normalized within the family system; something that Mr. Rajeev Gowda had also spoken about, earlier the same day. Harish asserted that hate begets hatred and does nothing to destroy the hated act. He justifiably lamented how the society has no reformatory systems. It only has penalizing ones. It is not only a commendable approach but also a gracious one, considering that Harish has been trolled on social media for his identity and the fact that he is also open about his experience of being a sexually abused child. Harish made an empathetic plea as a concluding note, “Violence is always against the defenseless. Let’s not have a personal agenda with which we look at this social reality; instead, let’s have an agenda against violence.”
Mr. Ashish Beergi took on the podium after Mr. Harish Iyer and spoke about the importance of citizen journalism in the Indian gender movement. Mr. Beergi is the co-founder of the New Delhi based MASH project which builds innovative digital platforms for young people to engage in social development. In the year 2009, Mr. Beergi represented India for the British Council as the Global Changemaker and later into the same year, he attended the fourth Global Youth Summit in London. In the year 2011, Mr. Beergi was selected as a member of the Indian delegation to the International Youth Forum held in Russia.At the #AllGenders conference, Mr. Beergi stated that colleges are the best platforms to mobilize youth and sensitize them on gender issues; provided the platforms are strategized by efficient mentors who can channelize the youth energy for social change. A great believer of the Law of Attraction, Mr. Beergi concluded his speech by saying, “If we talk about more problems, we will end up generatingeven more of those by the sheer virtue of having thought so. Instead, let’s talk more about solutions and we shall find ourselves creating exponential opportunities.”
The first day of the #AllGenders conference concluded with two representatives – Mr. Anil Kumar and Mr. Nikhil Kumar from Centre for Social Research’s own intervention, “Parivartan Purush Swavalamban Samiti’ (PPSS-Committee of self-reliant, progressive men). The representatives highlighted the existing social circumstances that restrict women and become deterrents for the advancement of the gender movement. The issues highlighted by them, brought to light, certain age-old regressive norms around women’s dignity being linked to their chastity; and how the society, in a cold-blooded manner, culls out the woman’s spirit and soul, thus rendering her without a healthy sense of self. The representatives of PPSS were of the rightful opinion that lack of independent thinking is the foundation of patriarchy; and it is that thinking which needs a fresh lease of life, in order to demolish the aforementioned degenerative institution.The talk was tied up with the panelists and the attendees being unanimous in their opinion,about arriving at a holistic, all-inclusive approach which takes into consideration, several social realities. It is only upon doing so, can we have the active participation of #AllGenders on advancing the movement of women’s empowerment.
The next blog would be a continuation of the Day 2 conference proceedings and would also summarize the key points from Day 1.
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