One Billion Rising
A staggering statistic from a UN report indicates that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten up or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS.
This amounts to 33% women population. An American playwright and activist EVE ENSLER gave a call in 2012 for One Billion people to rise against violence and demanded a stop to violence against women. 14 February 2013 was chosen as the symbolic day to spread the message of love and create peaceful homes, and to make all public spaces free of violence. Since then, nearly 200 countries have risen and joined the OBR movement.
ONE BILLION RISING is a global call to women and men to raise a stand up against violence
It is a call to action for women and those who love them to gather safely in community outside places where they are entitled to justice or simply public gathering places where women deserve to feel safe but too often do not. It is a call to everyone to break the silence and release their stories – politically, spiritually, outrageously – through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right.
This year as well, 207 countries rose, danced and used creative mediums of expression to demand an end to violence against women and girls.
However in order to achieve gender justice and bring about an end to violence it is imperative to engage with men and boys , therefore OBR South Asia this year focused on Men and Masculinity as a theme for the movement
As part of the OBR , CHSJ’s MenEngage Delhi Initiative took to the communities to actively engage Men and Boys in the struggle for Gender Justice, we partnered with various organizations to work on the same.
In partnership with Azad Foundation and Asmita Theatre Group, CHSJ organized Film screenings; street plays and discussions groups in almost 10 communities and reached out to over two thousand individuals
MenEngage Delhi in partnership with Delhi Rising also took this dialogue to the Indian School, where MenEngage Delhi and CHSJ engaged with 200 children from the 8th Grade.
This campaign helped spread awareness and create space for open and healthy dialogue on issues such as sexual harassment, father care, aggressive masculinities and regressive stereotypes, the creative mediums of expressions used, enabled individuals to reflect , lose their inhibitions, speak fearlessly and actively engage in deconstructing and understanding masculinities, patriarchy and Gender Injustice. Most importantly it gave further momentum to mobilization activities and engagement with Men and boys and brought their voices to the fore. Through this campaign MenEngage Delhi has also been able to make new and meaningful alliances that will prove beneficial for further activities.
An agenda that stands unique of this year’s OBR campaign that was significantly different from the past two year is that of engaging with men and masculinity. OBR’s main motto is to enable women from across the world to rise and stand up against any oppression that is subjected towards them. As such the event itself and the range of mobilization activities spun around OBR is targeted towards women of all walk of life. This year’s OBR, along with reaching out to girls and women, sought to reach out to boys and men to reflect on popular beliefs and practice that they identify and uphold as essential element towards identifying and being a man.
Azad Foundation along with Asmita Theatre Group and MenEngage Delhi conducted a series of events in JJ colonies across the city facilitating discussion upon how certain aspect such as controlling women, eve teasing, being indifferent to household work etc comes from an age old archaic understanding of gender roles that is necessarily related to oppressing women and that which certifies violence on women in the backdrop of the epidemic of gender based violence. Through these events Azad foundation and Asmita theatre group sought to identify young men and boys who will volunteer to start community actions in their own respective areas to uproot violent and sexist masculinity and facilitate discussion and practice that will lead towards a redefinition of masculinity that has in its core care and respect towards all gender. The series of events concluded with a workshop cum facilitation event by Azad foundation, Asmita and MenEngage Delhi towards what kind of initiative can the young boys and men adopt as part of their individual and collective pursuit towards debunking hegemonic masculinity.
All together the initiative reached out to eight JJ colonies namely Nathupura, Bhalaswa, Wazirpur, New Sanjay Amar Colony, Anand Vihar, Gautampuri, Srinivaspuri and Govindpuri. The day’s engagement was conducted through two session – street play and film screening.
The streetplay session was moderated by Azad foundation and Asmita. Arvind Gaur of Asmita in close consultation with Srinivas Rao from Azad Foundation had developed a street play called ‘mard’. The streetplay addresses the way men and boys are often teased or ridiculed for not acting and behaving in a particular way that is not considered ‘masculine’ such as playing with dolls, crying in movies, or get beaten by others specially by girls, etc., How these acts of the family and society members urges the boys to cater to a culture of essentialising aggression and emotional rigidity as the essential characteristics of being a man. Further the play also stressed upon how these kind of socializing deliberately leads a boy to a life of violence and how as an adult the boy inflict violence upon each other and to other as a way of affirming their gender identity. The play also showed how many boys and men engage in violent and sexist activities such as eve teasing, aggressively pursuing girls that they desire and to an extent throwing acid on girls and also inflicting other violence upon rejection. Furthermore, the play also addressed how many men end up engaging in such activities due to peer pressure and instigation by the society ridiculing him as a lesser man or labelling him as ‘effiminate’ because he doesn’t engage in such behaviours. The play to an extent also brings in the communal angle in which violent masculinity is also constructed such as the community honour killing against intercaste and ethnic marriages. Finally the play also addressed how a man is made to feel less of a man and denied masculinity when they take part in household activities attributed as women’s job. The street play was interjected with commentaries by Shilpi, the moderator from Asmita group who questioned the public on whether they cater to such beliefs and thoughts and take active participation in perpetrating such beliefs and practices.
After the performance, representatives of Azad foundation and Asmita engaged in conversations with the audience on whether the audience agreed with the message imparted through the play or if they have a different opinion on it. A few men did speak against the street play thereby affirming the patriarchal logic of how women need to be controlled. However, a very interesting dynamic that could be seen was that when such voices arose the public as a whole ridiculed them. The audience also sometimes brings to the discussion their own personal problems. In the engagement event in Govindpuri, a widow stepped up and questioned the locality about the prejudices and derision that they have been subjecting to her because of the fact that she goes out of her home to work after her husband died.
Another type of engagement event was through film screenings conducted by Azad foundation along with MenEngage Delhi. Short films by Must Bol initiatives and by Akshara were shown to introduce the community member to the various groups of young boys and girls from across the country taking up their stand and collaborating towards a collective action to spread awareness and initiate cultures that seek to intervene on instances and perpetration of gender based violence in their respective locality. The films mostly contained testimonies from earlier sex offenders such as boys who used to eve tease habitually and why they stopped doing it. While some of the films seek to compare the differential logic behind why girls act and behave in certain ways and how boys interpret them. Through such juxtapositioning, it is visibly evident how the assumptions made by boys completely differ from how women feels or think and what’s more is that the boys perspective only stems from a unconscious and deliberate attempt to misinterpret the women as compared to the logical and practical reasoning of girls about why they act or dress in a particular way. Most of the films contain opinions from various people across gender, age and ethnicity about what they feel is the right way to be a man and what is not.
The screenings were followed by discussions. A significant observation of the audience was that there were hardly any girls and women present during the film screening and the discussion as it was conducted in the evening by the time sun has set. In the screening in Govindpuri, two or three girls were present until their mother came and scolded them and told them to go back home as it was dark already. The gender sensitive attitude of the audience in the day time when Asmita was performing seems to have been lost in the evening session. More and more obnoxious behavior and comments from typically aggressive and disrespectful boys could be seen as other men stood there in silence. However, as the discussion continued and as the moderators from Azad foundation and MenEngage Delhi constantly articulated a dislike and disgust about such practices, the silent men felt the urge to speak. One such instance was the film screening at Srinivaspuri whereby some young boys started commenting on the films negatively and the team of Azad foundation and MenEngage Delhi responded saying such attitude is a passe and that nowadays the general mass is determined to change the hegemony of such propaganda upon the sensitive and passive men. Also supported by other men who were there, the boys finally left and a healthy discussion carried on afterwards with the men and boys from Srinivaspuri.
As mentioned above, the agenda of the engagement was not just to engage in discussion and provide awareness but to identify young volunteers who would then take up initiatives to further engage with the members of their society towards debunking hegemonic masculinity and seeding new ways of identifying men that has in its core, care and respect for all. As part of the engagement events, announcements were made about this and invitations were distributed to those young men who enthusiastically expressed their desire and dedication towards such an initiative. A gathering was held on the eve of One Billion Rising that is 14th February 2015 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm at the office of Asmita Theatre Group. The gathering was attended by about 100 new young men volunteers from these communities. They were joined by girls and boys who were initially associated with Azad foundation in gender sensitization and women empowerment activities that are currently being undertaken by Azad foundation in their respective localities. The gathering marked a workshop cum facilitation program which comprised of addresses by experts such as Satish Singh – convener of Forum to Engage Men and Men and Gender Equality team of CHSJ and Srinivas Rao of Azad foundation; and screening of more films by the Must Bol initiative and Chupi Todo – a CHSJ Production to give awareness of many other initiatives in various villages of UP by MASVAW – men against Sexual violence against women, UP.
A short exercise was facilitated through which the boys were made to form groups according to their respective areas and then brainstorm over what behavioral action will they initiate and what they will do as a group in their own community to stop GBV in their areas. Many groups observed how they would start the dialogue within their own family and start supporting and helping the women folk of their family in their endeavours. All the groups also pledged to stand up and not be silent when they encounter any sort of harassment whether it be street, home or locality no matter who is perpetrating the violence and towards whom. They also expressed their desire to come up with advocacy related street plays that they would develop and perform in their own locality. The gathering ended with an address by Arvind Gaur of Asmita on his intent to provide free theatre workshops and training to interested groups. He was supported by Azad foundations’ Srinivas Rao who also expressed Azad foundations’ intent to stay in touch with the group and provide various skill building workshops such as theater and film making alongside gender awareness for the next one year to come. The team of young boys were then lead towards Jantar Mantar to join in the mass celebrating one billion rising.