REAL MEN ARE NOT AFRAID OF CHANGE
Take a moment and ask yourself this: how often have we heard stories of men or boys harassing and sexually assaulting women or girls? Chances are it’s been recounted too many times. But, hope is never lost. Every once in awhile, a story comes along telling us of young men who dare to embrace change – young men who swear to be equality activists. Before we go on though, we must first ask: what does being an equality activist really mean?
It means that young men are proud to change
It means that young men will support women
It means that young men will prevent violence
In other words, it means that there are some men who are ashamed what their gender is doing to women. They are willing to help bring change, especially when faced with the appalling data that one crime is committed against women every 3 minutes. They want to turn this clock around to zero violence. They say, “Either you are part of the solution or you are part of the problem.”
ONE STORY. A THOUSAND TRUTHS.
At Akshara, our aim is simple: To encourage these young men: give them confidence to become staunch supporters of gender equality and motivate them to prevent violence against women through awareness on masculinity, gender equality and social actions. The following is the story of one such man. A man we encouraged – a man who stood up to society and his own notions of patriarchy to help enact change.
“I like to think of myself as a ‘cool’ guy. I attend college in the mornings and then in the evenings, I hang around with my neighbourhood friends at the street corner, watch movies on my mobile or pass the time watching girls walk by. And then one day, I saw this video in my college – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOM6M9uUYy8
I was profoundly moved. I had never imagined that girls were so upset about what I had always thought of as ‘time pass’. I joined the NSS unit which had screened the video in my college. At workshops organised by Akshara, I understood how society begins discriminating between boys and girls and how we grow up thinking we are superior and how we treat women with little respect or even violently.
I had never heard of ‘patriarchy’ but it’s true that it imposes an image of ‘mard’ on us. I thought a real man was – one with strength and muscles. My idea of a real man was – someone who has stepped out of a Talwalkar Gym – a guy who was muscled, strong and smart. Someone who does not cry or become all emotional. Something sounded not quite right. We learn how to be a man and a woman. It’s not ‘natural’.
We are taught who is a ‘real man’ or an ‘asli mard’. It’s all made up by society and poured down us. It’s called gender socialisation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GqmRkwsevg
We swear and use curse words all the time. Swearing is seen as being a ‘man’. Is it though https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKe0bWwjMBE
I understood that I had to change my beliefs and accept gender equality, treat my sister and mother better, give them support, help them in their work. I was taken to attend campaigns for the safety of women in the city. I eagerly took up social actions. I also met other boys who thought that it was okay to give up harassment and change our views on women.
If I can change, so can others and we just might have a society which is different and equal.”
1 MOLESTATION EVERY 15 MINUTES
1 DOWRY DEATH EVERY 77 MINUTES
1 RAPE EVERY 29 MINUTES
1 MURDER EVERY 16 MINUTES
1 SEXUAL HARASSMENT EVERY 53 MINUTES
YOUTH ACTIVITIES AT AKSHARA
We work with 18-25 year old socially and economically underprivileged young men in low resource colleges. We involve these youth through their National Social Service units. Every year, we select about 40 potential leaders who will in turn reach out to 400 students in their colleges through:
Youth led platforms in 10-20 colleges and Leadership Trainings
Gender Sensitization Workshops
Social Actions on the prevention of violence like Flash Mobs, Street Actions, Outreach programs in trains and buses and public spaces
The effect that Akshara’s Youth Activities have on young people is:
Personal Change: A noticeable shift in views on gender equality and gender relations. Men take a position of support for their women family members and women learn to resist violence and be self confident.
Social Change: Support for women’s issues. Hundreds of youth participate in public campaigns.
Reaching out to groups of young people and adolescents: Development of edu-entertainment tools like Yuvak and Yuvati Mela, Kishor and Kishori Mela and Ma Beti Mela.