This article was published in The Dialogue on 18/04/2017 Original Article can be accessed at http://www.thedialogue.co/campaign-seeks-men-boys-partners-gender-justice/
Thousands of passengers who travelled by Delhi Metro from 27th March to 10th April witnessed banners with motivational slogans and standees depicting statement and pictures of famous activists encouraging men and boys to reflect the attitude of being masculine and understand the impact of their thought on the lives of women and girls. Students were also seen distributing brochures and mobile stickers and interacting with visitors curious to know about the campaign rolled out across ten metro stations. Interaction, banner, standees, canopies and volunteer engagement with metro travelers were all part of the collaborative effort of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and National Campaign EK Saath led by Forum to Engage Men, India Alliance for Gender Justice and One Billion Rising in across ten states in India to encourage men for achieving gender.
Through this collaborative initiative, the metro authorities intended to create a safe environment for women while commuting and Ek Saath desired to have a pool of men interested to change social norms rendering women into subordination. The mutual effort resulted in the form of commitment and pledge of over hundreds of men desired to be referred as advocates of equality to be more equitable for gender equality. Delhi metro as part of its commitment has been active to ensure the safety of women while commuting. This time metro authorities adopted men engage approach for making metro safer for women passengers by focusing on changing mindset of men folk in addition to setting up of cameras and imposing fine to deter men and boys from travelling in women’s coach. The idea resulted in a form of launching promotional event of Ek Saath campaign. The main objective of the campaign is to promote men and boys active partnership to change gender discriminatory social norms in the family and community. In this collaborative effort for encouraging men, of thousands of people who travelled by metro throughout period of the campaign, over two thousand men and boys showed their interest to be a part of Ek Saath campaign for changing themselves and their fellows for achieving equality and working for gender justice.
The promotional and interactive engagement gained by volunteerism thought of students of Shivaji College of Delhi University. The personal experiences of students mostly of boys already claim themselves as advocates of equality in the national capital thought of metro stations for encouraging men to challenge gender discriminatory social norms and making safe space for women. Experiences perceived after the informal interaction with metro visitors, self-motivated students realized that there is a lack of sensitization among metro visitors. They have inequitable attitudes towards women who happen to be their fellow travellers.
As perceived, men reinforce social norms discriminatory for women together boast their masculinity by sharing anecdotes of their life. India, however, has been progressing on the economic front, gender discriminatory social norms remain unchanged and women continue to have subordinate status compared to men. Because of this conversation usually happen in daily lives, the situation of boys and girls in society is very clear and simple to understand. While the son is given a better share of care and supports this creates a sense of entitlement and privilege. The life circumstance and opportunities of girls in India are different from that of boys, much of it due different social norms and expectations from boys and girls, daughters and sons, women and men. The son is taught to control his wife, take all decisions, to compete and work hard, to succeed, and to win at all costs. The messages are clear: ‘do not to cry like a girl’, ‘do not play with dolls like a sissy, take the gun’, ‘do not come into the kitchen, its women’s work’. The society creates ‘sons’ who not only have an overwhelming sense of self-importance and privilege but have been trained to be strong, tolerate pain, to be angry, to be violent. Silently and efficiently society remains engaged in reproducing patriarchy which results in the form of gender-based violence and discrimination. With a view of changing this kind of thought burgeoning in men of being masculine by way of encouraging them to reverse tasks assigned to them being men, the campaign has been very successful to reach a good number of men and boys in ten states.
This time in Delhi, campaign was launched with Delhi Metro for creating a pool of men and boys travelling in metro to be referred later as Gender Equality Advocates or Samanta Saathi as a change strategy is about men and boys advocating for and acting to advance gender equality. This strategy of change mobilises and encourages men to work together and influence their peers to question and understand gender discriminatory practices and to lead action to accelerate social change. These men would be encouraged to experiment with shedding their gender privileges and bringing about change in their own lives and relationships and promote these among others. The strategy of identifying these men is approaching them in the community, educational institutions, workplaces or public places by conducting innovatively designed activities and events like film shows, gender equality fairs, discussions, street plays etc. Several interactions, audio and videos were recorded at the metro stations of men and boys who came forward for knowing more about the campaign and working as advocates of equality. The encouraging and motivational statement and pictures of Kamla Bhasin and Rahul Bose and K Onler Kom depicting on standees were placed at stations to encourage men to change their thoughts of masculinity and become partners for gender justice.