Tag Archives: India

Delhi Metro: GBV Conversations and Theater

In Delhi, change initiatives are going straight to the people! And what better place to start than the metro?

Photo: The Hindu, April 8, Deeksha Teri

Volunteer students from Delhi University, all men, are taking up posts at ten metro stations and talking to commuters about gender equality, patriarchy, and violence. Organised by the Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ), it’s a small but necessary start to raising awareness. Volunteers are also helping individual victims by providing a toll-free support line for help and more information.

And, near and dear to my own heart, the CHSJ is releasing a book of four plays about gender-based violence and masculinity. Thank you, theatre for social awareness and change!

Join the Ek Saath campaign, all supported by Forum to Engage Men, One Billion Rising, and the India Alliance for Gender Justice.



Nirbhaya: Three Years Later

December 16 is the 3rd anniversary of the horrific attack and rape of Jyoti Singh, later called Nirbhaya, in a neighborhood not far from where were living in Delhi. She died of her wounds shortly after, galvanizing a movement in India to speak up about the prevalence of violence against women.

The outcry garnered international attention, a critically acclaimed play (“Nirbhaya“) and a fine film, banned in India, (“India’s Daughter.)  The event was very much the backdrop for SPOILED, the play I created last year. Today, however, three years on, it is clear that meaningful change will be slow at best.


Nirbhaya The Play is still in performance, currently in Canada, and India’s Daughter is widely available on PBS. I urge you to see them.

5f979f11-d904-4e00-96a2-44c1f94ee056My friends at MAVA (Men Against Violence and Abuse) in Mumbai are organizing one of many commemorative events today as well.

In the meantime, Smita Sharma has been interviewing and photographing rape victims and their families in India since she was 18. An exhibit of her work is now on display in Delhi but, thanks to the New York Times, you can see more of her photos and learn about her work with rape survivors here.

And, on a final worthwhile update, you can read or listen to more about Equal Community Foundation’s work with teenage boys. I have featured ECF before; NPR recently broadcast a story about them. It highlights interviews with some boys that are both utterly charming – teenage boys trying to figure out how to send love notes under the teacher’s watchful eye  – and utterly dismaying – the rigid and almost humorously traditional ways that boys expect girls to behave. Take a look at Equal Community Foundation or listen to the story at NPR.


MAVA Mumbai



Based in Mumbai, Men Against Violence and Abuse – MAVA – is a group I discovered while doing research for my play SPOILED. One day I cold-called Harish Sadani, MAVA’s founder and ‘chief functionary’, from Delhi, seeking information about how boys and young men in India develop attitudes toward women and what some typical experiences were.

harish2Harish was gracious and helpful, sending me links and information. When I traveled to Mumbai last year, we had a long lunch together. He fielded all the questions I could think of and supplied both hard data and an authentic, local perspective. You could say he answered some of the questions I didn’t even know to ask.

In the process, I learned about MAVA’s work and their small, meaningful, unglamorous but incredibly important behaviour-changing interventions. The organization is not huge, it is not fancy, it is not well-funded, it is not luxuriously appointed or thickly-staffed. But little by little, the activities of groups like MAVA have a chance at changing longstanding, deeply held attitudes.


MAVA Needs Help

If you want to cut right to the chase, watch this short video. MAVA needs funding for its “ASPIRATION” project for young men and boys. Take a look at what you can do through Global Giving. I gave. I promise you it will be money well spent – the whole appeal is $5,000, so even very small amounts will help. If you want more information, keep reading. You can always come back to the video. Or just watch the video for fun.

In India, men are the perpetrators of the vast majority of acts of violence against women: beatings, sex-selective abortions, rape, routine harassment (‘eve-teasing’). Their sense of self requires dominance over women in ways large and small, filling both home and workplace with distorted relationships.

stories-of-change2Men are also victims of a sort, however, trapped in a socially created role that deprives them of opportunities for shared emotion, manifestations of vulnerability, and the satisfactions of child-rearing.

MAVA believes that changing the attitudes of men, especially young men and boys, is key to changing this harmful pattern.

So what does MAVA actually do?

MAVA initiatives focus on redefining masculinity, empowering women, and helping humanize men. They work with very accessible youth-friendly techniques and have trained hundreds of community facilitators and mentors. They make men aware of stereotypical gender norms and help them see more balanced, less confrontational alternatives.



  • provides one-on-one counseling with men and women suffering distress because of gender violence, marital discord, or harassment.
  • runs a telephone hotline for youth with questions or problems on relationships, sexuality, or violence.
  • conducts Gender Sensitization Programmes for community groups, workplaces, colleges, NGOs and residential colonies. These programs use a wide range of techniques to encourage participation and an honest exploration of gender roles.
  • organizes Yuva Matri, a sensitizing and educational program for young men which has now spread to six districts in Maharashtra and won numerous awards.*
  • provides pre-marital guidance workshops.
  • publishes Purush Spandan in Marathi, an annual magazine with factual information, short stories, and essays on topics of dowry, beauty, vices, and sexuality, all designed to introduce new ways of seeing men and women.

The Stories of Rahul, Shafique, and Aijaz

Rahul, Shafique, and Aijaz are among 45 boys from 3 communities who are being shaped and mentored by a dedicated team from MAVA. Boys 13-17 are being enabled to talk to peers in their communities on matters of gender discrimination and abuse of women. As MAVA says:

Rahul16, is studying in final year at a government-run high school. Staying in a dilapidated slum in South Mumbai with his parents, one brother and a sister, Rahul has many times witnessed violence on his mother inflicted by his alcoholic father. After joining a gender-sensitization camp, Rahul reflected on the various discriminations faced by his mother and even sister. He has started voicing his angst on this and has decided to intervene in any further instance of violence against his mother.

Shafique, 17, son of a commercial sex worker has seen how his biological father has neglected his mother and stopped supporting his educational needs. At weekly interactive sessions by a social organization, he has shared his pain while growing up as a boy. Determined to change the situation by taking a job after his studies and upholding his mother’s dignity, Shafique now aspires of a society where women are not subjected to any kind of violence or where women do not live in fear of violence.

Aijaz, 14, stays in a community where many disadvantaged Muslim boys like him are deprived of basic developmental needs like healthcare and education. After attending workshop sessions conducted by youth leaders, he has realized how girls from the neighborhood are more disadvantaged than the boys. He has expressed that for changing the conservative outlook of his brethren in the community, he should begin the change first with himself. He has stopped speaking swear words and through songs and skit guided by a youth mentor, he has started ventilating his thoughts to peers in his neighborhood, spreading messages on women’s safety.

These are the kinds of individualized but powerful interventions which will, one family at a time, bring about psychological and behavioral change.

And there’s always their FB page which, if you’re into that sort of thing, you can like. Share. FB stuff.

And for those awards that I mentioned:

*Yuva Maitri was selected as the Grand Prize Winner for providing the most innovative solution to Preventing Violence Against Women at the 2010 global Ashoka Changemakers (US) competition. See more details here.

*Yuva Maitri was also selected as a ‘Best Practice in Public Service Delivery’ by the Government of India. Read about it here.