Sunday, December 6, 2009

16 Days Campaign Voices: Prajnya

Cross-posted from the Centre for Women's Global Leadership website.

"Voices from the 2009 16 Days Campaign: Prajnya"

Over the 16 Days, we have 16 different programmes, each with a different partner (including educational institutions, other not-for-profits, civil society groups, corporates), in 16 locations across the city and in cyberspace. Each programme is tailor-made and designed for a specific group of people; the majority of them call for active participation. Our formats include workshops, symposia, a poetry reading, training programmes and an open forum, among others.

We’ve tried to maintain a balance between programmes for specific groups and those for the “general public”. In actuality, the latter have been hardest to conceptualise: what will this abstract group of the “general public” find interesting, exciting, a worthwhile activity to participate in? We’ve found some answers, or so we hope: a celebratory concert, an open mic session and a collaborative cooking exercise (adapted from to construct a giant recipe against VAW.

I must emphasise that Prajnya is not a service provider organisation; we ourselves do not offer counselling or support services for those who have experienced gender violence. Our main objective therefore is to facilitate sustained conversations between professionals in various fields, by creating a platform for debate and expression. One of our closed programmes, for instance, will bring together representatives from organisations that offer support services, to discuss the daily challenges that they face.

We’re also keen to reinforce the idea that we cannot look at gender violence in isolation, and must consider its consequences. Through the campaign, we are looking to reinforce the irrefutable linkages between gender violence and public health, through a training programme for nursing students and a symposium on mental health and gender violence.

Apart from the 16 programmes, we have planned several information initiatives as part of Prajnya’s campaign. In association with our media partners, we will disseminate information about helpline numbers, shelters, safe-houses and legal aid centres. On the penultimate day of the campaign, we intend to release an easily accessible directory of service providers.

This year, we’ve also taken our first baby steps in initiating Prajnya’s research agenda on gender violence, through the publication of a pilot study, “Gender Violence in India: a Prajnya Report”. We hope to considerably build on this in the coming years, through a sustained research agenda that can then help shape the advocacy efforts.

What impact do we hope this campaign will have? For us, making an impact means three things. One, obviously, we reach out to larger and larger numbers of people through the campaign, people who have never discussed or thought about gender violence. Two, we really hope that people who are living with abuse everyday start identifying their experience as violence and not as punishment they deserve. This is why we have public programmes as well as focused training and dialogue sessions. Three, we stop talking about gender and sexual violence through euphemisms and use the real words: we say the word rape; we say street sexual harassment and not eve-teasing.

Despite the increasing visibility of crimes against women, despite the fact that most of us know someone who knows someone who has been abused, people still ask us: why are you doing this campaign? Is this (gender violence) really a problem? And in a sense, that has become our catchphrase for the year: we do this campaign because people ask us if gender violence is really a problem.

I must admit that through the months of planning for this year’s campaign, we’ve managed to all but put together a wish-list for next year! Even 16 days doesn’t seem enough to do everything we want: I suppose we are just greedy. So, on 25th November 2009, all the very best to all of us! And don’t forget to participate in our online initiatives, wherever you are!

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