Speak up, stand up, intervene

Starting today, for the next 16 days, the Sanginis, female volunteers from SNEHA (Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action), will be taking over the city with their activism campaign.

“But the 109 female volunteers, fighting to break the silence on violence against women and children will not be working alone,” says Bhaskar Kakar, programme officer, SNEHA.

Residents of Kumbharwada volunteer to paint messages against violence on the walls of the public toilets in Dharavi. Pics/ Suresh KK

In fact, the campaign will be kicked off today — the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women — at The Ambedkar Hall Ground at Matunga, where on White Ribbon Day, male volunteers from SNEHA will talk about how men can oppose violence against women.

“The idea is to link women’s rights to human rights. We want people to stop segregating the two and make it clear that violence against women is non-negotiable,” asserts Dr Nayreen Daruwalla, programme director, Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children (PVWC), SNEHA.

“Through this campaign we want to urge citizens to speak out when they witness violence. We tend to dismiss domestic fights as a private matter. But it can lead to death, or permanent disabilities. You must intervene when you see a fight turn ugly on the street. One way to help the woman could be to give her a number of an NGO she could contact,” advises Daruwalla.

Seventeen year-old Santushti Waghmare, a resident of Matunga east, who has been volunteering with SNEHA for four years, is excited about learning to make puppets during the campaign. “In December, we will be taught how to make giant puppets of trees, animals, body parts and so on, which we will use during later performances,” says the BMM student.

Himanshu S, Fine Arts teacher at Rachna Sansad at Prabahdevi, along with his volunteers, students Drishti Hemani, Makarand Dhotre, Himani Shah, Payal Arya, Anushree Shukla, Shraddha Parekh and Joshua Fernandes, has created large canvases that will be on display at the Carter Road Amphitheatre on December 2.

“We have also created handouts and badges which will have phrases such as ‘item’ or ‘babe’ written on them,” adds Himanshu. “We want to engage people in conversations about street harassment.”

Himanshu is also helping SNEHA organise wall-painting sessions outside the urinals in Dharavi. “Over two days, we will paint six walls. But there are close to 250 urinals in Dharavi. The volunteers are keen to continue painting even after the campaign ends,” he says.

The women in Dharavi have a tough time using the urinals, explains Daruwalla. “Every time they use the loo, they are teased. And unlike men, who have the benefit of using open urinals, women have to pay each time,” she adds.

Volunteers Subhalaxmi Nadar, Seeniamma, Jayameri, Mercy and Adilaxmi Achari have chosen the message they want to paint on their toilet at Kumbharwada. With a skimpily clad woman on one side, the message they will paint is expressive enough, “Your body is not wrong, society is.”  

What to attend
December 2 – Art exhibition – A Depiction of Shades of Violence Against Women – Carter Road Amphitheatre, opposite Café Coffee Day, Bandra
December 3 – Signature Campaign – Dadar Railway Station (Platform no 6)
December 10 – Candlelight Walk and Vigil dedicated to women who have lost their lives on account of violence – Keluskar Road North to Shivaji Park Gymkhana, Dadar  

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