On 9th and 10th August, 2016, Centre for Social Research and The Asia Foundation, hosted a 2 day conference entitled “Engaging Men and Boys in Fight Against Violence”, at the India Habitat Centre. Aimed at understanding the difference perspectives to the engagement of men in the process of women empowerment, and eradicating violence against women, the conference was an interesting confluence of academicians, politicians, activists, lawyers, students, social workers, and those from the corporate sector under one roof.
The conference began with a packed hall on Tuesday, 9th August, with the lighting of the lamp by dignitaries.
Dr. Manasi Mishra, Head of Research at CSR, welcomed the distinguished guests. This was followed by a brief organizational introduction of CSR and the collaboration with TAF, by Ms. Juthika Banerjee, Head of Development at CSR.
Now, it was time for the inaugural session of our conference. First, Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director of CSR, gave a special address, wherein she talked about the relevance of men and boys in the fight against violence against women. She spoke about the inter-relation between “satta” (within family and society), “santati” (ownership and entitlement of children) and “sampatti” (rights over property), as the key to propagating patriarchy over and over again. She elaborated on the fact that our systems are created as per patriarchical mindsets, which is the reason why there is no justice for women. She brought attention to the fact that instead of focusing on mitigation of problem, the focus should be eradication of evils.
After this stimulating beginning, Ms. Diya Nag, from The Asia Foundation, took to the mike and reiterated what Dr Kumari mentioned, along with saying that the fight for equality must continue and be the focus of all agencies. Addressing patriarchy must be the top priority for Parliament and government.
Following this, Professor Rajeev Gowda, Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha, took to the stage.
He delineated the importance of having a conference such as this. He said that generating dialogue on this issue is very essential to raise a generation of sensitized society. He spoke about how violence is embedded in our society, in popular culture, and also in the fight for human rights. He also said that it is very important for men to be feminists, a point we couldn’t agree more with! He also spoke about the India Women in Leadership program, which was a collaboration between IIM-Bangalore and CSR in 2012, when he was a part of IIM-B, and how it was a one of a kind program, aimed to train women leaders for politics.
Next, we had Ms.Sundari Nanda, who is Special Commissioner of Police, Women Safety, Airport and Modernization. She touched upon very interesting issues, like the presence of a communication gap between parents and children, which causes gender separatism. She also drew analogies from the recently released movie “Ki and Ka”, and how it reversed the gender roles and gender stereotypes, and made people think. Interestingly, she brought out the issue of genderized professions, and said that there is non acceptance of men in women dominated sectors, which should also be addressed, if men are to be involved in the gender movement.
Facebook is one of our recent partners (in our #SocialSurfing campaign) and it was a pleasure to have Ms.Ankhi Das, Director of Public Policy at Facebook India, be a part of the inaugural address. She spoke about how economic independence has boosted the status of women, and acted as a boon as well as a bane for them. She shared the shocking fact that there are 26 cases of violence against women, every hour! Moving on, she added that the urban youth is now a major driver in this fight for women empowerment, especially with the advent of social media, and talked about certain social media campaigns which are aimed at addressing violence against women. One extremely relevant point which she made, was the urgent need to stop acid attacks against women, which is prevalent not just in India, but across the world.
To end the inaugural panel, we had Ms. Vandana Gupta, Joint Secretary at National Commission for Women, reiterating what the other speakers had to say and said that violence is an intrinsic aspect of our society, and must be addressed at the root level. “Defence is dealt by Offence”, is a line she gave us, and we truly believe in it.
And with that our esteemed inaugural panel, set the stage for an interesting conference ahead. The mood was set, and the audience was looking forward to the sessions ahead, for a stimulating and engaging discussion!
Following this, some of the panelists, along with certain other esteemed guests, released a charter for men against violence, which CSR and TAF had developed together, which we propose to be put up in all offices, educational institutions and public spaces.
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