Have you experienced raw fear when walking on a lonely street? You are not alone. This has been a common experience for many of us growing up, and in our adult years as well.
It was January 2020. The four of us, strangers to each other, living on different continents, connected through an online community of women with a common alma mater – the Indian Institutes of Management. We were bound by a common passion – fighting the scourge of sexual violence and rapes in India.
Two months earlier, in Nov 2019, a 27 year old veterinarian doctor, Dr Priyanka Reddy, was abducted near Hyderabad. She was gang-raped, strangled and then burnt to death. The grisly incident revived memories of the animalistic Nirbhaya gang rape and torture in a bus in New Delhi 8 years ago. The anger, helplessness and guilt felt by the country could not be contained. We were determined to convert our helplessness into a call for action. And Parivartan was born. We were joined by 2 child activists working with schools on similar causes.
Legal consequences, public shaming and strict punishments do act as a deterrent. But studies show that convicted rapists consistently show a low opinion of women, lack of remorse at their crimes and shame the victim. Also, the misguided notion of men being the ‘stronger’ gender sometimes results in suppression of emotions and hampers the development of healthy masculinity. Men and boys can also be subject to abuse and these instances are rarely talked about or reported. Often, perpetuators and society blame and shame the victims. Clearly, punishment is inadequate, and eliminating this scourge from society needs to begin with prevention.
Our research over the course of months showed that initiatives that shaped mindsets from an early age to foster healthy gender norms, help informed choice-making and engender mutual respect are more successful in preventing rape and sexual abuse to begin with.
That is the philosophy behind our initiative – ‘Parivartan – Empower Against Abuse.”
Parivartan entails a gender sensitization curriculum that provides kids with the knowledge, skill and confidence to fight abuse and develop healthy mindsets. These kids will grow up to be adults that stand up for gender equality, mutual respect and a rejection of violence.
Our vision does not stop with the pilot. Our eventual goal is to reach as many states as is possible through establishing local chapters in multiple states, partnering with additional NGOs, opening the program to volunteer facilitators and eventually working with governments to incorporate the curriculum as a regular part of school education.
We are actively fundraising for the pilot. Please contribute to our Milaap crowdfunding fundraiser here.
Funds are not the only way to contribute – your ideas and thoughts to help our program grow and scale are welcome. In the end, meaningful change comes when a critical mass of people are passionate about making a difference.