New Delhi: 16 September 2014: The capital, which is playing host to a global symposium titled the ‘2nd MenEngage Global Symposium 2014 – Men and Boys for Gender Justice’ from November 10-13, bringing together 900 delegates from across 70 countries, is doing its bit to raise consciousness about male responsibility and accountability. Spearheaded by young people from across campuses and bastis, the city witnessed a unique event that demonstrated Delhi’s readiness to host the Global Symposium for involving men and boys in achieving gender equality.
Drawing inspiration from and led by brave-hearted Rupa, who is spearheading the Stop Acid Attack Campaign and Ashish, who is quietly and undauntedly supporting it, both young and old, men and women who were present expressed their solidarity on the theme of engaging with men.
Exhorting everyone to counter the trauma experienced by victims in the aftermath of an acid attack, Rupa emphasized that to get due justice we must be prepared to fight back. “Hence, we prefer to be known as fighters and not just survivors.”
“We are not just tending to the many crippling after-effects of the burns we experience day after day but rebuilding our lives so that we tell all these perpetrators that we will not be cowed down by their cowardly and inhuman acts.” Supporting firmly the victims of these attacks, Ashish urged all men to find different ways of standing up and being counted. “We cannot just feel bad or stay away from all that we abhor or hate. We need to speak up and walk the talk and do everything in our power to enable them to fight back” he added.
This sentiment was affirmed by other men of similar grit and strength. Mr Onler Kom, spouse of the boxing champion Mary Kom describes himself proudly as, “the life-partner of five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion, ranked No. 4 in International Boxing Association (Amateur) AIBA World Women's Ranking Flyweight Category and Olympic medalist MC Mary Kom.”
He urged “Every man to reach out to your life-partner in ways that enrich both” and added, “Women for centuries have helped us grow strong, efficient and progress further. It is time we stop reducing women to just being a wife or spouse, demonstrate support and do our duty in assisting our life-partners to realize their full potential, encouraging them to be persons of their own standing and ability with dignity.”
Mr.Valerian Santos, who lost his son, Keenan Santos, to an ugly brawl while trying to protect his girl friend, said that “every young man must step in to stop violence especially those inflicted on minorities and women. Some people say my son Keenan should have run away from there but I ask what about the girls, would they be able to escape? If Keenan would have run away and if any harm would have come to the girl I would have not been able to look at Keenan’s face forever.”
The ever-ready advocate on gender equality, Mr. Rahul Bose emphasized that, “Men need to practice a new masculinity if you will - that which rejects the notion of power and patriarchy, that which walks side by side with women in the quest for a more peaceful, more meaningful existence.”
Messages captioned, ‘Making Sense’ have come from many well known advocates such as Gautam Bhan, representing Voices against Section 377, who called upon men to first understand the power and privilege they command and voluntarily relinquish these so that they do not raise generations that inherit their fights. Others who messaged were feminists such as Ms. Nandita Shah, Akshara, Mumbai and from Vimochana, in Bangalore.
As the Secretariat of the Global Symposium, Dr. Abhijit Das, Director, Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ), stated that the Symposium, organized by the MenEngage Global Alliance comprising over 400 partners, CHSJ, UNFPA, UN Women and Beijing + 20, had expanded to become a movement for involving men and boys in gender equality. “I agree that today more than ever before there is both an urgency as well as an imperative for men to not just engage quietly, in small ways as and when a crisis occurs but all the time, as publicly and as collectively as possible to bring a critical shift in the public perception of men; particularly to change the view that the archetypal Delhi male not only revels in machismo but is often its face. Time has come for a more caring male persona to assert itself.” He added the intention now was to mainstream men’s role in gender issues through specific planning and policy initiatives.
Taking the appeal forward more candidly, Ms. Kamla Bhasin, the pioneer and doyen of the women’s movement, urged the boys and men to understand how patriarchy was also destroying them. “Like girls and women, you too are being stereotyped, and your choices are being restricted. And since you are not expected to cry or be emotional it is not surprising that men and boys erupt into violence for any and every small reason.”
Several young men, who are in many ways becoming champions of change, also shared their insights about the city. Navdeep Sharma, a budding documentary filmmaker, said that he revelled in both the anonymity of the city as well as in discovering the many young people who are in search of alternatives. “Looking back at the not-so-happy moments what gave me the courage to stay on were the scores of young people from all walks of life who wanted to strike out differently and listen to all that was being said in an inclusive way; sans the usual shouting or male tantrums.”
Bharat, a 15-year-old class 10 student living in Joshi Colony, wanted to know whether people knew how young boys were equally traumatized and brutalized by incessant violence from every possible quarter. Shaman and Avik Roy, budding professionals and theatre activists, responded that setting right the wrongs done to many young boys was the need of the hour and urged that, “we listen to them.” While doing so they queried, “Can we first ask of ourselves- many of whom are privileged by class and power- as to why young people commit crimes in the first place?”
This unusual launch event brought together people from all parts of the city, following different trajectories and professions. A former Chief Secretary of Delhi, Ms. Shailaja Chandra, made it clear that men need to understand that now is the time for “business as unusual”
Lauding the decision to hold the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium and One Billion Rising Campaign, she said that focusing on men to promote gender equality is a “novel beginning.” “Women have for long been lectured to on protecting and defending their womanhood; what is now essential is for men to recognize that they are equally capable of both promoting and benefitting from gender equality.”
Responding to the many of the predicaments that was voiced by the young, Mr. A.R. Nanda, former Union Secretary, Health and Director, Population Foundation of India, said that young people have to be empowered and facilitated to bring out their positive vision and aspirations.“Our education system and pedagogy have to be re-organized.”
Representing the uniformed services, Mr. Robin Hibu, Joint Commissioner of Police, felt that time bound strategies and programs must be initiated at all levels to change gender norms and attitudes. “Even while we undertake gender sensitization training we need to realize that such processes will only succeed if we simultaneously address issues of early socialization and education and take ameliorative measures and affirmative action to reduce the gender gap,” he added.
Partner Organizations such as Jamia Milia Islamia, CEQUIN, Jagori, Yuva Ekta Foundation and Manas Foundation also participated in the event.
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