By Anjali Menon
Are we celebrating Women’s Day or commemorating it? Is it a colourful upholding of the feminine or is it a reminder about an endangered species? I say “endangered” because women are mutating every day. From individuals who have destinies to achieve and energies to nurture, aren’t we each shrinking daily to be less and less consequential to the world? While others throw their heads back and laugh, women are withholding expression lest we attract any “unwanted” attention. Today, fear is a thumbtack pressed deep into our conscience – puncturing it and deflating any sense of self -worth. Is this what we are celebrating?
People who think dangers are what lurk outside their homes after dark hours, please excuse me. Let me clarify. The real dangers are within our minds that accept unacceptable behaviour. From strangers, from family members, from employers, from teachers, from anyone. A culture of such acceptance is crippling one half of our population now and damaging the rest as well. An eve teaser is just degrees away from an assaulter. Isn’t this what they call a social epidemic? It takes courage for women and men to really look into the mirror. Even if one is not a perpetrator, by condoning wrong doings, we are becoming accomplices. We need to look at ourselves and recognise if we are part of the problem or the solution. Choose only one. For there is NO in-between. The fact is, most of us are part of the problem. But we can choose to shift and become part of the solution within our own tiny circle. Some of us started thinking on these lines and what came together is now called “Parasparam” – a gender sensitization program initiated through Compassionate Kozhikode. These are not moral science lectures. They comprise of fun activities for school children that make them aware of their own gender perceptions. Research proves that children are most influenced by their environments at home, in school, the public space and the media space. You and I inhabit those spaces so we can do our bit to make them better influences.
We have inspiration in countries like Kenya, where alarming sexual assault statistics were pulled down gender sensitization classes for school children conducted throughout the country. As one of our team members summarized it – “guiding boys to empathy & girls to empowerment” so that they can learn to co-exist in harmony with positivity and no fear. Now that would be reason to celebrate. Individuals, schools and parents who want to be part of an initiative that seeks to make a difference in guiding boys to empathy and girls to empower are welcome to join Parasparam and can write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anjali Menon, the author of the article, is an Indian film-maker with a Masters in the Art & Technique of Film-making (Direction) from the London International Film School.