What one billion women want

On Tuesday afternoon, the doors of Akshara Centre’s Dadaroffice are wide open; understandably so, given the number of people coming in with paperwork and what seem like elaborate plans later laid out on a long table.

The organisation, which works on gender issues, is gearing up to kickstart the Mumbai leg of One Billion Rising (OBR), a movement launched in more than 176 countries to oppose violence against women. OBR has been launched by American playwright and feminist, Eve Ensler, best known for her play, The Vagina Monologues.

(Left) Nandita Gandhi and Nandita Shah, co-directors of Akshara Centre will launch the One Billion Rising campaign in Mumbai on November 28. File Photo

Nandita Shah and Nandita Gandhi, co-directors of Akshara Centre, say they were shocked at the statistics which led to the launch of OBR. “A recent survey showed that one in three women around the world will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at seven billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls. Ensler decided to do something about it and launched OBR, where activists, writers, thinkers, celebrities, and the layperson — men and women — can come together to speak against violence perpetrated on women,” says Gandhi.

It surprises Shah that the issue of violence against women never really attracts the kind of attention it should from people. “We hope to change that with OBR. It will be launched by different institutions and organisations all across India — in Pune, Delhi, Trivandrum, Bhopal, Haryana and other cities.”

As part of the campaign, which starts on November 28 and ends on February 14, Akshara Centre will launch a film festival between December 7 and 9 at RR Theatre, Films Division at Peddar Road. The festival will premiere with the film, Gulabi Gang, and screen films such as Sarabah, Kaveri and A Day In The Life Of Rahela. The festival will also include group discussions with the audience.

Akshara also plans to felicitate 10 women achievers, mostly activists who have worked against gender violence. Akshara has tied up with 21 colleges, including Kirti, MD, Jhunjhunwala, Ambedkar and Sathye colleges, for OBR. “Over the past two years, we have set up clubs in colleges to sensitise them toward gender issues. They will design and execute activities, street plays and the film festival at their colleges,” says Shah.

Gandhi adds that the centre will also organise a mela for women from the communities they have worked with in the past. “The melas are attended by mothers and their daughters. We encourage candid dialogue among them and they speak abut everything under the sun — squabbles, stories of support, their expectations from one another and so on. At the end of the mela, many mothers realise that they need to support their daughters and the choices they make. This time, we plan to speak about gender violence in the mela,” says Gandhi.

Though the OBR officially ends on February 14, Shah says their work toward the movement will continue. “We are working out the details for an event which will end the movement with a bang, but the idea will not die there. We have to take the cause further to a deeper impact.”

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