It was indeed one of the highlights of the month to be part of the launch of Edex’s campaign THE REST IS HER STORY, (#safenotsorry). The panelists and guests namely Madhumitha(filmmaker), Rema Rajeshwari (IPS), Dr.Geeta Madhavan (advocate), Kirthi Jeyakumar (founder, The Red Elephant) and Leena Manimekalai (filmmaker) made the evening matter in more than one way. What will really make women feel safer? Does sexism in films encourage abuse? Do we need revised laws with more stringent consequences to crimes against women? etc., were some of the questions in focus?
I was pleased to hear all the panelists single-mindedly assert and reiterate that what we need is education and awareness. The power and influence of awareness is often underestimated. As a result, much of our work as non-profits revolves around the areas of rehabilitation and trauma recovery. While that is critical and should be happening in increasing measures, we should be simultaneously investing our time and skill in bringing awareness through education to men and women, boys and girls on issues pertaining to safety and equality, which in turn brings attitudinal and behavioral changes.
Safety for women at the workplace continues to be one of the major areas of concern. WOW conducted workshops titled WOMAN UNINTERRUPTED (WU) throughout the month of March. At these workshops, I met a wide range of interesting people, from those who say that there is absolutely no gender bias or inequality at the workplace to those who feel no progress has been made for women in general. I think the real answer to this lies somewhere in the middle. The bias we feel, or experience today at the workplace can be termed as ‘second generation bias – often very subtle and at times ‘unconscious’ or even ‘unintentional’ and is usually guided by gender stereotypes of the past. This type of bias is hard to identify but is very prevalent in general at the workplace.
We have certainly made positive strides towards change with the swift manner in which laws are being enacted to protect women at the workplace. For example, the mandatory Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) has ensured that Corporates seriously take action against all complaints that women face at the workplace. But as rightly pointed out by IPS officer Rema Rajeshwari, laws alone don’t bring about change. What we really need is change of attitude towards women, as well as a concerted collective response by society to enforce these laws to protect women.
Silence is no longer golden. Every woman must be heard, not just seen. Safety violations need to be reported. What will give women the courage they need to step out boldly and claim their right to safety at the workplace? Platforms provided by such campaigns are part of a public collective force to give back to women their voice and their rightful place in society. Safety is not the privilege of a few but the fundamental human right of all people irrespective of their gender, race, colour or faith.
So, what will make women feel safe and be safe? My answer to this question is simply this: It is when the world fully recognizes the inborn dignity, intrinsic value and worth of a woman, then she will feel safe and be safe. As WOW, therefore we have a lot of work to do.
Join us on May 11th, at the Novotel-Ibis hotel, OMR, Chennai for a workshop and networking platform titled: Barriers to Progress, to explore the effects of unconscious bias and its impact on women’s safety at the workplace. And do tell us YOUR STORY, stories of pain, of courage, or hope, and by doing so, you give a voice to those who feel alone and need that initial push to speak up.