Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Multiplier Effect of Individual Action: Learning from our G.E.M.s!

Yesterday, our G.E.M., Dr. Sudha Raja organised a concert by three groups of children that was dedicated to the work of Women Human Rights Defenders around the world. Later last night, as I looked at photographs, I was struck by how each of our G.E.M.s are demonstrating the impact one person's decision to act can have.

To step back, the decision to hand the campaign over to the initiative of a group of individuals invited to be our Gender Equality Mobilisers for 2014, was based on the idealistic view that each of them could take the message out to a few more people. Speaking for myself, I imagined that would extend to the people immediately around them--not much more than that.

But as we have helped them imagine and execute their chosen actions, we are realising that the impact is much larger than that.

Take yesterday's concert: We invited Dr. Sudha Raja to be a Gender Equality Mobiliser, but she enlisted three organisations as partners--her Sargam Children's Choir (with all its fellow-trainers, singers, their families); Rotary Club of Chennai Spotlight (with its members and their associates), and the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, which during our campaign is usually preoccupied with the Chennai music 'season.' More importantly, over a hundred people were crammed into that room, hearing about Women Human Rights Defenders, listening to songs about citizenship and agency, and taking back literature on gender violence.

Even where the G.E.M.'s activity is a closed Prajnya Community Cafe, the impact of that goes beyond the ten people in the room, to the people helping set up, the people in the building giving directions and then asking what the 'function' is about and to others who hear from the G.E.M., "I can't do this because I am hosting a gender violence programme that day.""Oh, what is that? Why?" And there's another conversation waiting to happen, which will have its own ripple effect.

We have initiatives and actions that are essentially solitary--a video-taped story-telling session and a commissioned piece of writing--but their reach will surpass even our largest event. Each "Men say 'NO'" video-clip and each audio-clip by Devasena will reach hundreds, and remain available long after the campaign.

The lesson reinforced here is that every single thing we do matters. You don't need institutions or organisations; you don't need hundreds of thousands of rupees; you don't need a weekend supplement feature. You just need to decide that something matters enough to you to take action. And no matter what action you take, it will definitely have an impact, and a greater reach that you can anticipate: the people we reach out to, the people who help us do that, the people who watch us, the people who sell us tea or cater our event or help us hang banners. With one decision to act, we reach so many, and get them thinking too. This was our hope and the G.E.M.s have taught me this: It works, it works!

But the first step is really to choose to act, and we've tried to facilitate that with our long list of suggested individual actions

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