Engaging Young Women and Men towards a Gender-just Society
Wednesday 23rd September 2020
12:30 (BST) / 17:00 (IST)
Hearing from activists and women’s rights organisations in India working with young women and men on finding ways to dismantle patriarchy.
About the Event...
Activists and women’s rights organisations continue to challenge gender inequality and discriminatory gender norms, in spite of pushback from the patriarchal State. How best to work with young women and engage men and boys in this process will be discussed by practitioners from different parts of India.
Daily, we hear of incidences of violence against women and girls in India. And now with the COVID-19 lockdown we see two aspects of women’s lives exaggerated – unpaid care work and domestic abuse. While women and girls remain on the margins, the slightest socioeconomic shock propels them into multi-dimensional poverty and discrimination. This is despite the fact that the country has some of the most progressive policies and civic movements, a large proportion of elected women representatives and millions of women actively participating in self-help groups.
At the same, India has one of the largest cohorts of young men between the ages of 13 to 26. Many of them are under-educated, under-employed, lack positive role models and struggle with perceptions of masculinity. To see real change, we need to focus on the eco-system around power and offer innovative strategies for young men to face issues of patriarchy and masculinity head on and become their best selves.
Founder, Ekta Resource Centre for Women
Bimla is the founder of Ekta. She was born in a small town in Odisha and grew up in a large joint family with her five sisters and one brother. Her father was an educationist and was part of the freedom struggle in his student life. Bimla was greatly influenced by her father. The gender discriminatory rituals and practices in families disturbed her mind as a child. She often wondered why it was happening, was it only her family’s problem or a common problem? The quest for answers motivated her to keenly observe and work on gender issues with specific focus on women and girls. She holds the view that the widespread discrimination and violence against women and girls can be addressed if women are empowered not to succumb to the gender stereotypes and assert their rights and men and boys are trained to accept empowered women. Therefore , engaging men and boys alongside women and girls in discourses and actions that challenges patriarchy is very crucial in the journey towards a gender just society.
EKTA (meaning unity) was initiated in 1990 in Madurai as a Resource Centre for women and girls in the state of Tamil Nadu. EKTA works with diverse groups; the students, elected women representatives and policy makers and implementers by adopting multiple strategies. With the founding team’s strong roots in the women’s movement, it adopted a gender and development approach to women’s issues; with a particular focus on violence against women. The organization has continued to meet the important challenges of keeping momentum at the grassroots level and, at the same time, creating leverage with advocacy initiatives at the State and National levels.
Founder & Managing Trustee, EquiDiversity Foundation and Ashoka Fellow
Anindita grew up with a sister, and no male siblings. She never experienced any direct discrimination from her parents – but whenever she and her sister did something that made them proud – their mother would tell them that she was pleased because they’d done something as wonderfully as boys would. She watched her sister conforming to pre-set gender roles, that sparked the rebel in her. The aspiring and eager child that she was, encouraged her to be more like a boy, associating her growing physical and emotional strength to that of a boy’s. However, much to her disappointment, in the longer run no matter how hard she tried, she realised that she simply wasn’t being a good enough boy. She decided that she would explore her strength not from an external direction – that of society’s and her family’s, but from her own self. She directed her understanding internally, and she got increasingly comfortable and stronger in her own skin – that of a woman.
She initially worked as a case worker and offered legal aid for inmates in correction homes and then in Ashoka Fellow Anuradha Kapoor’s organisation, Swayam. Having worked there for 12 years, she realised the futility in legal aid – offering help that would silence the symptoms but failed to keep the problem from repeating, or actually being solved. Also, at her time in Swayam, she found that there were groups within the community, that were powerful within themselves – but didn’t know where to proceed beyond that. Anindita was of the understanding that all the work around the gender space, wouldn’t actually amount to anything for the long term unless the core issue itself were to be addressed. She understood this core issue to be how decision making for society took place – governance. Hence she found herself engrossed in the newly emerging conversation around the country at that time, of gender-based reservation quotas – and down the line, working towards creating a gender equitable society through gender-equitable governance.
Equidiversity Foundation is committed to create an environment that promotes gender equality through political, social and financial empowerment with active informed participation of individuals, the community and the state. They mobilise community women, elected women representatives and young people, to work on development and gender issues, alongside raising awareness at the individual, community and state levels around governance, gender equality, individual rights and entitlements, addressing gender based violence-discrimination. They also build capacity at all levels for active participation in political processes, gender responsive budgeting, community development, fighting gender injustices and inequalities, social awareness and support women to develop life, livelihoods and leadership skills.
Dr Nandita Shah
Women’s rights activist and researcher, co-founder of Akshara
A women’s rights activist and researcher, Dr Nandita Shah is a co-founder of Akshara, a not for profit women’s rights organization based in Mumbai. She has over 30 years of experience working in the women’s movements locally, nationally and internationally both through her activism and writing.
Dr. Shah has completed her Phd from University of Amsterdam in Social Science and her Masters from Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. Her co-authored book on women’s movement - Issues at
Stake and Contingent Workers is an important contribution to the Women’s movement and Women’s studies. She is a member of the civil society advisory group of UNWomen and on the Board of various civil society organisations.
AKSHARA, a non-profit women’s rights organisation based in Mumbai, works towards empowering women and girls to articulate, demand and access their rights by enhancing women’s leadership and focusing on issues of gender justice and social justice. Akshara believes in involving men in this struggle for gender justice and has advocated with various systems of police, municipality and transport authorities. They have a three-dimensional vision for change: changing hearts and minds of young women and men, impacting public attitudes, and reforming systems that deny gender justice.
AKSHARA works with both young women and men to achieve the common end of transforming them into gender champions who believe in gender equality and would like to propagate it towards the objective of gender justice.
Akshara adopts a dual approach and two programmes for working with youth: working with young women from communities- helping marginalised, underprivileged young women to access higher college education, learn new skills and take social actions through the Empowering Dreams programme; and engaging with both young women and young men from different colleges affiliated to Mumbai University and other Universities through the Youth for Change program
Co-founder Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM)
Manisha Gupte has been part of the Indian women's movement since the mid 1970s. She co-founded Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM), a rural feminist organisation after living in a drought prone village for five years. MASUM works with an intersectional perspective to strengthen human and constitutional rights of women and other genders. Manisha works at the national and international levels as an advisor, board member and resource person.
MASUM was co-founded by Dr. Manisha Gupte and Dr. Ramesh Awasthi in 1987 during their five year stay in the drought-prone Purandar block of Pune district. It evolved out of a commitment to women’s rights within and outside the home, working with a feminist perspective and a human rights approach. MASUM’s primary belief is that people can resolve their own problems collectively with some amount of external support; thus, rather than create dependence on itself, MASUM focused on strengthening people’s perspectives on democracy, equality, secularism and social justice. In order to emphasise people’s participation in decision-making at every level, the staff is mostly local, especially women from marginalised sections of rural society. Leadership building from subordinated groups since its inception helped to build a strong second line leadership; thereby MASUM meticulously avoided the pitfall of founders handing over the organisation to their children or family members.
MASUM’s community level involvement is primarily with rural women in perennially drought- prone areas of Pune and Ahmednagar districts of Maharashtra state. Acknowledging that women are not a homogenous category and that multiple systems of domination - such as caste, class, religion and patriarchy operate in an intersectional manner, MASUM predominantly works with subordinated and minority-groups.
Some of MASUM’s on-going activities include women's right to health and savings and credit programme (SHGs), addressing gender based violence, building a progressive perspective among young people, and enhancing their rights in all areas of life. Political participation of women, both as elected representatives and as empowered citizens, strengthening of child rights through village-based children’s councils (Bal Panchayats), and enhancing women’s right to property ownership are ongoing interventions too. Men are encouraged to participate in MASUM’s work, with women taking on leadership roles. Every programme of MASUM is interconnected with another, so that people’s human rights are realised in multiple ways.
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