This article is part of a special series: Safety of women in Indian cities
From gender discrimination to sexual harassment and violence, the threats faced by women as they go about their lives are daunting. The roots of many of these critical issues lie in the social conditioning that has been in place for generations and it would be futile to try to address concerns over women’s safety or issues faced by women in general without involving one of the most critical stakeholders in this entire piece: men.
Non-profit organisations and community groups working in the domain are, therefore, increasingly emphasising the importance of taking men along on the journey towards gender safety and equality and have designed programmes that specifically look at sensitising men. These initiatives pave the way for the much-needed dialogues and interventions, and provide resources that help participants — predominantly men and young boys — understand and avoid gender bias and make them aware of the true social cost of gender inequality.
Here are a few notable organisations and groups in the country that have been campaigning and working towards preparing men and boys to lead the movement towards a more equal and safe society for women:
MAVA – Men against Violence & Abuse
MAVA, based out of Mumbai, has been working with men for over 25 years to promote gender-sensitivity and break the shackles of toxic masculinity that degrades the quality of life of men and women alike. MAVA aims to improve the involvement of men as “partners” and active stakeholders by promoting positive male role models for young men and children.
Their activities focus on:
- interrogating existing concepts around masculinity
- open conversations and sexuality and sexual health
- educating and mentoring youth in schools and colleges on violence perpetuated in the name of rigid gender roles established by society.
“Most interventions on VAW have been focused on women, with attempts to make them financially independent, training in self-defence etc.,” says Pravin Thote, a coordinator, “Our idea is that this violence stems from patriarchy. Therefore, we must involve men in the solution and not just perceive them as the problem. At MAVA, we work with college-going youth. We sensitise them on gender equality and encourage them to start dialogue with the women in their lives on these issues.”
Praveen told Citizen Matters that they work with 10 colleges in Mumbai and organise lectures and discussion on gender. “We discuss gender as a social construct and make participants understand that the power men hold over women is socially constructed. We show them the impact that fixed gender roles have and how they play out in society. We have been having dialogues on toxic masculinity as well,” he said.
Through workshops, lectures, exercises, street-theater, story-telling sessions, film festivals and youth blogs, MAVA hopes to bring about changes in perspective on gender roles and engage boys and men from a young age to address problems that affect both men and women.
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MARD – Men against Rape and discrimination
MARD was started as a social campaign against sexual violence and discrimination by acclaimed director, actor and singer Farhan Akhtar in 2013. MARD aims to raise social awareness around these issues through various campaigns and through the participation of celebrities in the cause. Priyanka Chopra, Arjun Rampal, Hrithik Roshan and Shahrukh Khan have spoken up against discrimination based on gender and the responsibility of men to step up to fix the imbalance.
MARD urges participants to take a pledge to “live with values of gender equality and instill and promote these values among family, friends and the local community.” MARD also promoted gender equality with music for change, an anthem sung by Farhan Akhtar.
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Centre for Social Research (CSR)
The Delhi-based Centre for Social Research is engaged in providing crucial gender-sensitivity training to those engaged in the public sector and in corporate offices. The trainings are imparted in the form of one-hour sessions or even those that span over days and use AV materials, activities and discussions among the participants. The training modules have been designed to provide context to the discourse around gender among participants and open their eyes to the changing dynamics in gender discourse.
The sessions can be tailored to the requirement of the organisations and is delivered by Dr Ranjana Kumari, a pioneer of the gender movement in India.
Read about CSR’s views on gender sensitisation of the police here.
Equal Community Foundation (ECF)
Equal Community Foundation (ECF) was started in Pune with the aim of “raising every boy in India to be gender equitable”. ECF identified that gender-based violence is at the root cause of various social issues across the country and works with boys and men to actively address it. They aim to do this by working with boys, their peers, their families and the community and integrate the oft-neglected voice of girls and women in the mix.
They promote human rights and engage with marginalised groups through a variety of interventions.They run a community-led behavioural change programme for adolescent boys with a focus on changes in attitude and behaviour to enhance gender sensitivity and achieve gender equity.
They are also part of a nation-wide network of organisations which work in this space and engage in regular knowledge-sharing.
The Chennai-based NGO works with men and women to advocate for equal rights and end gender based-violence and discrimination. The organisation works with young boys and girls in various communities in the city. Through workshops, skilling sessions and lectures, they educate the youth on various subjects related to gender, sexual health, reproductive health, human rights and issues around gender.
“We work on gender sensitivity with kids and adults in schools, colleges and communities, and conduct different trainings for different settings,” says Sandhiyan Thilgavathy, the founder, “The aim of the conversation is to bring men along in the movement. We run a programme called GEMS – gender equity movement in schools – where we reach out to kids. Since kids mimic behaviour of adults, we also ensure the involvement of their teachers and parents. We talk about toxic masculinity, we teach men consent and make sure that men part of the conversation.”
The NGO promotes healthy discussions among children in safe spaces on various subjects and builds community-watch initiatives so as to help them reach out to members of their own community for guidance. They also help the participants identify and report abusive behaviour.
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