by Girl Arise | May 12, 2022 | Blog, Girl Arise
Together, we are an ocean. “Individually, we are a drop.”- Ryunosuke Satoro
An old farmer, while settling a dispute among his children, picked up a stick from the ground and said, “One stick can be broken, but a group of sticks cannot be broken.” It is the same with us, women. There is nothing stronger than a woman shouldering other women. Togetherness is the glue that can strengthen, encourage, and heal women from all walks of life.
The National Girl Me Too day is different from the #metoo movement. In the US, Symonia Montgomery, the creator of the National Girl Me Too movement, and many others celebrate the National Girl Me Too day with a vision to heal the past, empower the future and encourage relationships among women. The phrase, “Girl, me too,” is used when women mutually relate to each other’s experiences and challenges.
If you told me as a young girl you struggled to accept your body, or you felt unheard among a group of men, or as a grown woman you are uncomfortable to travel at night, I would say, “Girl, me too,” to all of the above.
In India, we can celebrate the national “Girl me too” movement by recognizing the struggles of our sisters from rural India. I heard someone say, “rural India and urban India are almost like two different countries.” I couldn’t agree more. The struggles overcome by an urban woman are the present struggles of a rural woman. For example, access to higher education or toilets inside the home. This year, let us try to learn about their struggles, come up with positive solutions, and encourage discussions about issues faced by rural women. Secondly, we must uplift and not step on someone’s shoulders. The concept of pulling another down to win a race for success benefits only for a short term. Along the way, someone with the same mentality will pull you down, thus the cycle continues.
Gone are the days where mother-in-law and daughter-in-law banters were laughed at, the mistress controlled the maid, and female friendships meant sudden backstabs. We can change the narratives our screens portray by encouraging and cherishing relationships with our mothers, mother-in-laws, sisters, friends, female co-workers, and maids. One might ask, how would building female-centred relationships help me?
According to Forbes, “Study after study shows women who support women are more successful in business.” Build a sorority, a support system of women who can understand you, empathise with you, and give good advice. One common misconception that everyone feels is that “my struggle is my own, and nobody can understand it.” It just takes one look around to see several women who have felt, faced, and experienced the same. Women unknowingly create a safe space to express themselves freely to other women. For ages, washroom chit chats, book clubs, and tea parties created a safe space for women to freely express their challenges, opportunities, and struggles.
Rukmini Rao, was one of those women who supported other women during the emergency period in 1981 with “Saheli,” she helped women facing domestic violence with social, legal, and economic support.
The “Padwoman of India,”Maya Vishwakarma, born in rural India, talks about her own struggle to access sanitary pad later facing several complications due to the lack of awareness. Her struggle inspired her to go on a mission to change the stigma around menstruation. A unique bank, created by Chetna Sinha, loans money to rural women in a small town in Maharashtra. Chetna has provided financial aid to women by giving them flexible pay on a day-to-day basis and the freedom to pick loans that range from 15 to 5,000 rupees. Her vision is to raise female entrepreneurs from this small town and towns across India. Several women, like Rukmini, Chetna, and Maya, believed in the power of togetherness, a bond that can heal our past and empower our future.
How can we celebrate Girl Me Too Day in India?
Here are a few small but creative ways you can celebrate Girl Me Too Day in India.
The girls get-to-gather
Gather your friends, co-workers, sisters, and take some time to reflect on each other’s challenges and how each one overcame them over the last year. This is a great way to learn from other women and to positively reflect on the past.
The cheesy bowl
If you’re on a tight schedule, take 20 minutes to gather your girls and play the cheesy bowl of writing unnamed positive, uplifting notes. Scatter them in a bowl. Everyone gets to pick one note and feel encouraged for the day.
Positive affirmation gifts
Nobody hates gifts, especially when they are unexpected. You could create posters, or buy mugs, that celebrate the relationship between your girl group. A printed t-shirt works its magic every time.
There is a power in togetherness, friendships, and real life stories. To quote a proverb from the book of Ecclesiastes, “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.” Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough! ’ I say this in response to a song by Andra Day.
And we’ll rise up, we’ll rise up
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up
And we’ll do it a thousand times again.
This blog was contributed by our intern Ruth Anugraha, a II MA Communication student from Chennai. Inspired by our work in fighting colourism, and creating awareness on child abuse, online literacy and mental health, Ruth has chosen to work with us and add value wherever she can.
by Dolphy Biswas | Aug 15, 2021 | Blog, Girl Arise
As we celebrate 75 years of Independence, we think of the many sacrifices that have been made to help us be free. Sometimes, we appreciate the importance of this freedom only once in a year, failing to realize its true meaning. Is our nation and every person in this nation really free? Have we considered how many people–men, women and children are still craving for freedom today in our nation and around the world? What does being denied this basic human right look like for them?
When you see an 11 year old child, what comes to your mind generally? For me, I see the innocence of their lives through their laughter, the joy of dreams that need to be fulfilled and the hope and the desire to change the world. Children have unwavering faith and trust which makes them unique.
What happens when that same trust is broken? When their innocence is taken advantage of? When they are no longer allowed to dream the big dreams that they have and their hopes are crushed? That’s what trafficking does to them.
Trafficking restricts the basic freedom of a human being. It creates a bondage that may not be seen with chains but surely chains a person down. Freedom for a trafficked victim is being able to come out of the bondage and to be able to experience the world without someone dictating the terms of their lives. In India every 8 minutes a child goes missing. That’s not freedom! We have a long way to go before we can bring freedom to these lives.
Rescued to Freedom
In a recent rescue operation that I was a part of, the team rescued about 42 young women from a place of extreme abuse. What was overwhelming to see was the living conditions of these young children and women– they didn’t even have basic hygiene in the rooms they were being kept in.
In that moment, standing in the middle of the red light area, looking at that 11 year old fighting against the freedom that awaited her, I realized that trafficking and abuse is not just a distant concept, but a reality that rips a person apart and changes the definition of who a child is.
Four to six young girls were cramped in a room with a hole in the ground which constituted a urinal for them. They didn’t have the freedom of movement or the right to express their opinion. Yet, when help was rendered to them to come out of that space, they were hostile and resistant. The idea of freedom was nonexistent for them.
When the team went to a quiet 11 year old sitting on a bed, visibly abused and tortured by a middle aged man, she resisted even a gentle loving gesture to help her out of the room. She started screaming and crying.
Time stopped for me at that moment, and I realized how bondage works. This child was literally made into a ‘slave’ to the madams and pimps who ‘owned’ her. She couldn’t see the hope and the dreams that lay ahead of her. I realized that freedom is something I have taken for granted in my life.
I saw that the innocence of these children was crushed and they were manipulated into believing that what they are experiencing is good for them. In spite of all that is being done to end the trafficking and the abuse of children, there is still so much more that needs to be done. The evil of sex trafficking permeates every part of society without exception– every child in this world is vulnerable to it.
Two days after our rescue operation, this entire red light area was shut down by the District Magistrate. Every single brothel, every single shop was sealed and the entire area was shut off and all commercial sex workers were removed from the area. This is historic.
Statistics tell us that 60% of the people who are trafficked are children. In that moment, standing in the middle of the red light area, looking at that 11 year old fighting against the freedom that awaited her, it dawned on me that trafficking and abuse is not just a distant concept, but a reality that rips a person apart and changes the definition of who a child is.
Freedom Is A Process
Eventually, bringing these 42 young women out of that place of abuse and while speaking with them, I realized that freedom is not something that happens overnight. It is a process. It is a fight, but that fight is worth it because it changes the course of history. These 42 young women will never again have to worry about being abused by multiple men every night and day.
Two days after our rescue operation, this entire red light area was shut down by the District Magistrate. Every single brothel, every single shop was sealed and the entire area was shut off and all commercial sex workers were removed from the area. This is historic. We had only read about this in law books, but to experience the shut down of a whole red light area was a first time experience!
As a team, we are so thankful for the police officers and the government social and rehabilitation teams who are committed to putting a stop to this, no matter the dangers and complications involved.
Every citizen has the right to live with human dignity and all other aspects which make life meaningful, complete and worth living.
To help a fellow human being get the freedom they deserve is one of the most rewarding experiences one can ever have. Over 75 years ago the fight that our freedom fighters fought and the pain that they and their families experienced, helps us to live today in a country where every citizen has the right to live with human dignity and all other aspects which make life meaningful, complete and worth living.
May I encourage you dear reader, to look for ways in which you could engage in your community and partner with people or organizations in bringing freedom to the countless men, women and children being held in bondage and trafficked for sex, bonded labour, the organ trade, the skin trade and more.
Let us allow our hearts to be stirred by the pain of our fellow Indians, and may we never stop fighting till each life is meaningful, complete and worth living.
Dolphy Biswas is Partnerships Director at Women Of Worth. She has about 10 years of experience in rescue operations to free young children from the sex trade and is passionate about bringing freedom to children who are trapped into commercial sexual exploitation. She regularly rescues girls from trafficking and dreams of a day when there won’t be anymore children who are exploited.
by Pallavi Jhunjhunwala | Mar 19, 2019 | Blog, Fearless Project, Girl Arise
Every day, we hear stories of women being victimised, raped, assaulted. The number of crimes against women has experienced an 83 % increase from 2007 till date. With a rising number of crimes committed against women day by day, it has become inherently crucial that women learn a self-defense technique to be able to stand up and protect themselves.
Here are 5 reasons every woman should consider learning a self-defense technique:
1: USEFUL FOR SAFETY AND PROTECTION
Perhaps the most obvious reason for having a few self defence techniques at the back of your hand is for the purpose of safety and protection. Every day, we hear one story or another, of a woman being victimised, raped, assaulted.
Although it can be rightfully claimed that the the concept of every woman learning self defence is similar to the concept of victim blaming and not punishing the perpetrators instead; we also need to understand that as stringency, regulations and support grow to reach to the point in society where a woman can walk out of her house at 11 PM in the night with no second thoughts in her head, there needs to be some form of protection that women can depend upon. Imagine a world where every woman was empowered to fight back?!
2: TO AID PROGRESS IN SOCIETY
With female talent rapidly blossoming globally across all professional sectors and industries, for women to continue to expand their reach and potential around the world, one of the major factors that plays an irrefutable role and which is of paramount importance is safety. Women’s safety should not become a burden and more importantly an excuse for companies and businesses to downsize recruitment of women employees and staff. Through knowledge about safety, safety techniques and laws, every woman can progress without being held back.
An inherent feature of being equipped with self defence techniques is the enormous change in level of confidence that a woman experiences along with a concomitant rise in self esteem, self worth and self respect.
4: WOMEN CAN BE PHYSICALLY STRONG TOO
Biologically, it is said that on an average, a man is physically stronger than a woman(not to say that women can’t be stronger than men!). Most attackers are not likely to be equipped with any martial art skills. They naturally tend to use their size and gender as an advantage. This is why most self defence forms primarily aim at performing a temporary defensive move or one that pains the perpetrator, giving enough time to the victim to run away and call for help. The results can mean a matter of life and death for the woman.
5: BREAK STEREOTYPES
Gone are those days when society would force us to imagine a husband, brother or a son to come and save a woman who is almost always portrayed as helpless, desperate, scared and vulnerable. In addition, more women learning self defence could indeed instigate fear in the minds of the perpetrators, and could actually lead to facilitate a positive change towards alleviating the issue of crime committed against women!
Gone are those days when women depended on husbands, brothers, sons and boyfriends to protect and save them. Gone are also the days when women are portrayed as helpless, desperate, scared and vulnerable.
More women learning self defence could not only instigate fear in the minds of perpetrators, but could actually facilitate a positive change towards alleviating the issue of crimes committed against women!
Have you ever learned a self-defense technique? Would you consider learning one? Tell us what you think!
Pallavi is a 16 year old student from Vaels International School and our youngest volunteer writer. She is passionate about the topics of gender bias, domestic violence against women, gender stereotypes and other societal women-related issues and eager to voice her opinions in and outside her school. She loves to be active through playing basketball and badminton or swimming. She holds a black belt in Karate as well.
by Kavitha Emmanuel | Mar 8, 2019 | Blog, Fearless Project, Girl Arise
Welcome to women’s history month!
It is always the highlight of every year around this time for us at WOW to celebrate who we are as women, anticipate the changes that are yet to be and be challenged to participate in being change agents who facilitate justice and equality for women and the girl child.
Throughout 2019 our focus will be directed towards emphasizing the need to create a culture of safety for women. Safety is crucial to a person’s well-being and immensely influences one’s quality of life. Lack of safety for women stands in the way of women living lives to their full potential. It is a fact that even today the most vulnerable people group in any part of the world are women and children. Women and the girl child face the brunt of all the worst forms of deprivations. It is imperative that we press on to find solutions that ensure their safety and well-being.
Issues of safety for women and the girl child begin long before they see the light of day. It begins in the womb and continues on through their life span. Women continue to face violence in the form of ‘gendercide’ (the extermination of the female foetus or infant), domestic violence, rape, molestation, human trafficking, sexual harassment, eve-teasing, neglect, abandonment and more. Also, our definition of safety is incomplete if we don’t include emotional, verbal and intellectual forms of abuse.
Before we ask ourselves what we can do to address issues of safety for women and the girl child, we should consider why they face these forms of violence and what motivates or instigates the perpetrators to exhibit such behaviour. Incidentally, we all should also acknowledge that violence against women is not just endorsed or perpetrated by men. Though the perpetrators are primarily men, women are as guilty of endorsing attitudes ,values,beliefs that perpetuate violence against women.
When it comes to the ‘why’ question about women’s issues of safety, it ultimately boils down to how we value women and the girl child. If they are considered ‘second-class’ and if our social conditioning dictates that women are not equal to men, then it directly will reflect on how we treat them. When our mindset towards women is not challenged, we will continue to experience and endorse violence against women in its various forms. In fact gender inequality in any capacity is an act of violence against women. It is high-time we evaluate our pre-conceived notions and beliefs about women, supported by our cultural practices or traditions.
This is not to say that all our cultural values and practices are all anti-women. But every culture needs to progress to be more meaningful in its expression. And every practice or belief we hold needs to be seen through the lens of our very basic fundamental and constitutional right i.e every human being to be treated with equal value and dignity. Safety is the human right of all people and not just the privilege of a few. Gender, skin colour, religion, caste, economic status or age should not be parameters that determine a person’s worth. And progress needs to be defined by how much we are willing to give room in our belief systems for the dignity and humanity of women and the girl child.
When we recognize this need for a ‘mindset change’, we will have identified one of the fundamental reasons for violence against them. Therefore, safety for women is not an issue that stands alone. On many fronts, it is one of the worst manifestations of prevailing attitudes towards women.
We need to challenge ourselves to rethink our definitions of ‘women’s empowerment’. We need empowerment that starts from within – where we educate a woman to recognize her value and worth. But this is only half the work done. The other half is with how we educate boys and men. Teaching them to respect women as equals is crucial. We don’t have real safety if our concepts of safety is defined by the restrictions we place on women. As long as we hear comments like, ‘what was she wearing when this happened?’ or “why did she go out that late?’ we are setting false or weak standards for a woman’s safety. True empowerment will take into consideration both obvious and hidden factors that shape and mould our attitude towards women. It is in accepting, endorsing and promoting the equality of women in all spheres that genuine safety is birthed. The idea that women are equal needs to span across boardrooms to public offices to schools and colleges. The idea then has to become our posture towards women and the girl child. When we truly begin to acknowledge the equality of women in our attitudes and mind-set we will rise above finding symptomatic solutions to women’s safety.
In keeping with this year’s IWD theme, #balanceforbetter, if balance has to be achieved, men need to be part of the change process. If organisations have to grow, the quickest, fastest, and smartest way is to invest in developing women, creating conducive environments and introducing equitable work place policies. Lasting change can happen only when society as a whole is transformed inside out. This means change at the individual level as well as at the systemic levels. Let not history document how even this generation failed to make a dent in the dream of an equitable world.
Kavitha Emmanuel is the founder of Women Of Worth, India. She is an advocate for women’s issues and believes that every individual is unique and intrinsically valuable.
by WOW | Oct 14, 2018 | Blog, Fearless Project
A little soul chose to incarnate in the pretty body of a Kolkata Indian. She has evolved and grown up in this belly so benevolent, so comfortable and so loving.
This soul became “Baby”, a baby pampered, warm hearted who heard the voice of her mother, who knew all her deeds, which was really one with her. And then one day in November 1977, in this huge city of Kolkata, the baby decides to live another adventure, to go see outside, that to finally see the face of the one who gave her life.
Yes because I finally could see how beautiful my mother is, and I already know that I will love it with all my heart and especially for life!
On the other hand, I did not know that in India, it was not necessary to be born girl, I did not know that the sex of the child is more important than the love, I did not know that the honour of an Indian family was more important than the life of a newborn.
So I was born in this hospital, I felt your love but as a girl, I also felt your pain and your doubts. This event, which should have been a joy, suddenly turned into mourning. You thought first with your heart, you pressed me very hard against you, you talked to me a lot and together we probably cried.
Well-meaning society did not leave you the choice, you walked through the door of this orphanage, your eyes full of tears and the heart filled with bitterness forever. In France, they say “it’s just a goodbye” and it will be the case, since I’m going to spend the rest of my life looking for you, especially to find you; to tell you simply, “Mom, no, I’m not a girl, I’m YOUR DAUGHTER…”
Angela Caillaud, French photographer, born in Kolkata and adopted by a wonderful French couple that she loves deeply.