Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 1 -- Community Cafe

We kicked off the 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence with a community cafe at a residential complex in Alwarpet, Chennai on November 25. Residents in the complex gathered in the community hall to discuss the theme of bystander intervention and violence. How does one respond when one becomes aware that a friend, a relative, a colleague, a neighbour or even a stranger on the street is a victim of violence of some kind? Should one intervene? What kind of steps can one take? 
The discussion kicked off with the question, “What brought you here?” One resident narrated that her maid came in with bruises on her face that morning and she was unsure how to help her. “How do we empower them?.... They don't have financial security and they need protection from other men as well..... A husband in name is needed to at least ward off unwanted attention is the sentiment of some of these women...even if we try to help, the next day, they go back to their husband and you feel so stupid...” -- these were some of the thoughts that were voiced.

A young resident noted that it happens in every strata of society and it is easy to remove ourselves and pretend. The moderator , Anupama (of Prajnya), noted that taking small steps such as indicating that you are willing to listen, giving a helpline number, ringing the door bell ( are also bystander intervention. Residents also narrated incidents where they did intervene in various ways on someone's behalf. During the discussion, residents also were very frank on why many hesitate to intervene – fear of personal safety, doubt on whether we can help, crossing personal spaces. 

Residents were given helpline numbers of organizations within the city, as well as the police helpline number.  The discussion concluded with one of the residents' comment, "we can take small steps to help even if we are unsure of how it turn out in the long run." 

Residents found the discussion very compelling and continued to voice their thoughts in small groups. We hope this conversation continues!

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