We will all agree that safety of women and children is a huge concern in our country today. We agonize over the safety of our children and even of ourselves. Fear does have a crippling effect on life and the decisions we take every day. Yet, we seldom stop to consider how to eliminate these fears so we can live free. When we happen to switch on the television and hear about a horrible incident of rape or child abuse in an institution we fill ourselves with more fear. Have you stopped to think if this fear is healthy or rational? If fear is our only response to issues of safety we are to be pitied.
Fear as a response to safety issues can have damaging consequences. Fear will cause us to live in a constant state of anxiousness or paranoia. I remember the time in 2012 when the horror of the rape incident in Delhi shook us all. The immediate response was to shut ourselves in and tell our daughters to not go out late. Some daughters and wives had their parents and husbands pull them out of jobs with late night shifts. If we all locked ourselves in would the world become a safe place? Is this the kind of safety we want? Or do we want to change the meaning of the word ‘safe’ by working towards ensuring safety of our women and children in public spaces, campuses, at work and at home without curtailing their everyday normal movements?
Again, we tend to assume that abusers are often strangers not known to us. But statistics all over the world say otherwise. Abusers of women and children are usually people known to them at work, at school, in our campuses and at home. We teach our children not to talk to strangers but have we talked to them about saying No to unsafe advances of family members or neighbours? Abuse can scar a person for life. And fear is not the answer to safety.
Recently while talking to a few college going students, I was stunned to hear them say that safety is one of the biggest hindrances to them pursuing their dreams. I am not here condoning lack of caution in any way. We need to be wise and take precautions that will ensure our safety. But not at the cost of fear that cripples us from living life to the fullest.
Safety is my right. When I feel safe I don’t want anyone to think that they are doing me a favour. My safety does not depend just on me doing the right thing. It also depends on how the environment I am in responds to my need for safety. In other words, the community of people I live with, mingle with and interact with on a daily basis are as responsible as I am for my safety and the safety of my fellow humans.
WOW’s Girl Arise campaign was launched to raise the bar on women’s safety in campuses, work places, at home and in public spaces. Again, one cannot ensure the safety of women and children by just empowering and bringing awareness to women. If men stand aloof and pretend like this is of no concern of theirs, we will never have a safe world. Men and women together need to work on making this world a safer place for women and children.
Statistics says that 53% of children in India have faced some form of sexual abuse. Another myth to dispel is that abuse happens only to girl children. Boys face abuse too. There is a huge population of children in our country who are sold into brothels or exploited by the porn industry. We need to buck up and respond if we believe that children are our future.
The Fearless project is an attempt to equip student campuses and learning centers to be safe places of learning. By equipping teachers, trainers, management staff and more, we hope to contribute towards ensuring safety for students. Our training courses will not only equip campuses to ensure safety of students but will also help educators identify signs of abuse in a child and reach out for appropriate help.
Fear may be our immediate reaction to unsafe situations. But let not fear be the only solution to safety. #LiveFearless!