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Me Too -- Dalit Women Break the SilenceInternational Campaign on Eradicating the Violence on Women

Violence on women in various forms and everywhere --- at home, on the streets, at work place -- has been continuous and unabated. This cannot be allowed to continue with impunity. It is necessary to fight against this unabated violence on women whenever and wherever it occurs and DSS has been focussing on breaking this impunity through its RTCs, Public Hearings, other modes of Campaign and pursuit of legal cases against the perpetrators until logical end.In this context DSS carries out the special call of UN Women to conduct focussed campaign on violence against women during November. UN Women calls for a 16 Day Activism each year starting from 25th November and culminating on the Human Rights Day i.e. 10th December. UN calls for all activists and organizations to vigorously campaign on the theme and sensitize public opinion on the plight of women.

This year, the theme of UN campaign is "Orange the World: Hear MeToo." The idea of the theme is to bring to the forefront the voices of women and girls who have survived violence. While calling the world to campaign on violence against women on this theme, the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 25th November 2018 observed: “We still do not know the true extent of violence against women, as the fear of reprisals, impact of not being believed, and the stigma borne by the survivor—not the perpetrator—have silenced the voices of millions of survivors of violence and masked the true extent of women’s continued horrific experiences”. She emphasized the need to change the focus, “from questioning the credibility of the victim, to pursuing the accountability of the perpetrator”.

Though these words were spoken by the UN Women chief on November 24th 2018, DSS has been pursuing those very goals all through. DSS broke the silence on domestic violence among the dalit women by organizing a Round Table Conference of the victims along with officials, representatives of various organizations. In the recent ‘Me Too’ campaign in India and elsewhere, it was mostly the celebrities that came out to narrate how they were harassed long back. When these celebrities spoke up there was lot of media coverage for their voices and in India one central minister had to resign as he was focussed target of a few high-profile women who spoke in the ‘Me Too’ campaign. But what about the ‘Me Too’ of ordinary dalit women who are facing violence and harassment all through their life, that too brutal violence? For many of them, the MeToo moment hasn’t come yet, because speaking out can attract more violence and can be even fatal. It is necessary that their voices and stories must be heard. DSS recognized this gap and has facilitated the ‘Me Too’ moment for these ordinary, voiceless dalit women by providing a platform for them and ensuring moral and legal support to them. This was done through the RTC on Domestic Violence on 20th November 2017, Legal Clinic on 25th August 2018. Ordinary dalit women were able to ventilate their suffering through these events. In addition to these regular activities of gender campaign, DSS specially conducted vigorous campaign during the 16-day activism from November 24th to December 10th, 2018.

During the 16 days, DSS conducted District General Body meetings on the agenda of gender equity, violence and harassment of women and campaign in the target villages. Separate and distinct campaign was carried out in schools and colleges educating the young minds about gender issues.

Adilabad:District headquarters of Adilabad was chosen for the inauguration of the campaign in a big way.A mammoth public meeting was conducted on 24th November 2018 in coordination with Sakhi/One Stop Centre, at STU Bhavan, Adilabad.DSS National Convener/Sakhi Chief Jhansi Geddam, Sakhi State Project Manager Sri. Girija, Additional

Police Sri. Mohan Reddy, District Medical and Health Officer Sri. Rajiv Rao, DSS National Programme Manager Sri. Daniel Vijay Prakash spoke on the occasion highlighting various gender issues.

Representatives of various organizations also participated.Women from villages of the district and college girls attended the meeting in large numbers.

Hyderabad: The next event of the campaign was at Ravindra Bharati Conference Hall, at Hyderabad on 26th November 2018.Renowned intellectual and former Secretary to the Prime

Minister’s Office, Retired IAS Officer, Sri. Venugopal was the Chief Guest at the meeting.Other dignitaries were: Prof.Sudha Rani, Prof. Pushpa Chakrapani from Ambedkar University,

, Sri. Siddoji Rao, Convener, SC/ST IAS & IPS Officers Forum, Sri. Jhansi Geddam, National Convener of DSS, National Programme Manager Sri. Daniel Vijay Prakash, representatives of various organizations,Sri. Vinod, Sri. Neeraja, Sri. Ratnam, Sri. Kalavathi and Sri. Vijayalakshmi.

West Godavari District:Next campaign meeting was conducted at Eluru, the district headquarters of West Godavari district at the Manya Grand conference Hall, on 4th December

2018. The Chief Guest for the meeting was Sri. Sailaja, District Senior Civil Judge. Other speakers were: Sri. Vijaya Kumari, District Women and Child Welfare, Project Director, Sri. Pydeswara Rao, Deputy Superintendent of Police of Women Cell, representatives of various organizations, Sri. Nikola, Sri. Sudarshan, DSS National Convener Sri. Jhansi Geddam, National Programme Manager of DSS Sri. Daniel Vijay Prakash and District Coordinator of DSS Sri. Jyotsna.

Guntur District:Gender campaign as part of the 16 Day Activism was continued with the next meeting at Guntur on 5th December 2018.The meeting was held at J.D. Seelam Conference

Hall of A.C. College, Guntur. The Chief Guest was Sri. Krishna Kumari, Writer and former Law Officer at GMR at the Hyderabad International Airport. Other guests were: Police Officers of Women Cell, DSS National Convener Sri. Jhansi Geddam, National Programme Manager of DSS Sri. Daniel Vijay Prakash, Sri. Hemalatha, Guntur district Coordinator of DSS, Sri. Amulyamma, Sri. Padmalatha, State Women Collective leaders.

Krishna District:Gender Campaign ended with the last programme at the Press Club, Vijayawada on 10th December 2018. The Chief Guest was Sri. Rajakumari, IPS, DCP Crimes. Other dignitaries were: Sri. Devatoti Nagaraju, Member, Scheduled Castes Development Council, Sri. B. Koteswara Rao, Director of Prosecutions, Dr. Siddoji Rao, Convener, S.C.& S.T. IAS/IPS Officers Forum, Prof. Raja Rajeswari, Syamsundar, Resident Editor, The Hans India, Sri. Sarala Vandanam, Additional Commissioner, APSEB, Prof. Samuel John, Sri. Kiran, D.E., APSEB, Sri. Vijayalakshmi, DSS National Convener Sri. Jhansi Geddam, National Programme Manager of DSS Sri. Daniel Vijay Prakash.

Gender Campaign in the villages:

In the villages, dalit women face lot of violence at home and harassment outside from dalit and non-dalit males alike. Dalit girls experience similar harassment at the village, at home at

fieldsand at school.It has become so much part of their lives that the minds of dalit women and girls got conditioned to the fact and acceptance of it as part of their natural life. The conditioning got so much deep-rooted that no woman protests it or prefer to complain excepting serious atrocity.Further, there is total legitimacy for domestic violence. The legitimacy is so ingrained in their consciousness that the harassed women and the family members and neighbours take it as natural and routine.Without a continued and vigorous campaign on gender roles, concept of gender equity and the relevant human rights laws, the women and

girl children cannot be made to stand up against domestic and other forms of violence.DSS activities throughout the year address gender issues and during this special campaign DSS conducted meetings on gender equity and equality in the light of human rights and Ambedkar ideology.

On 28th November 2018, DSS campaigned in the villages of Venigandla, Namburu, Kopalle, Pedaravuru, Angalakuduru of Guntur district on gender issues by conducting meetings. Women enthusiastically participated in the meetings.

Gender Campaign in the Schools:

As part of the campaign, DSS held seminars for the school children of Guntur at Prabhudas Municipal High School, Sanjeevaiah Nagar, Lurdhu High School, Zilla Parishad High School, Namburu and KoppuravuruHigh School. Similarly, education campaign on gender issues was conducted at the High Schools of Potuluru, Kovvali, Madepalli, Sriparru villages of West Godavari district.

The entire 16-day campaign was carried out successfully and the dalit women participated with lot of enthusiasm.The grand success of the campaign could be achieved due to the ground work done by DSS much before the start of the campaign.DSS contacted dignitaries of high stature like State level officials, judges, professors, doctors and representatives of various organizations much before the start of the campaign and obtained their consent to be resource persons.Since most of them are high profile dignitaries they have to adjust their work schedule and keep the time and date for the programme.Happily, given the importance of the campaign and credibility of DSS, these dignitaries consented to be the resource

persons and delivered wonderful messages to the dalit women and inspired them.

The points that emerged from the messages of the resource persons may be summed up as follows:

  • There are lot of international human rights covenants and national laws prohibiting all forms of violence against women, but the reality continues to the opposite and violence on women in all forms is going on in the society.

  • Outmoded and oppressive concepts like women are symbols of only beauty, women’s bodies are meant to be enjoyed by men; women are like hare while men are like lion; women are weak, women should be confined to house hold work etc are still ingrained in the collective consciousness of the society.

  • All political parties should imbibe Ambedkar ideology expressed in Hindu Code Bill

  • Looking at the house hold work as low should be changed and there should be equal pay for equal work for men and women.

  • It should be borne in mind that genetically women are stronger and intelligent than men.

  • Mental torture is much more painful than physical torture.

  • The notion that the enemies of women are women only, is wrong and should be changed.

  • Women and girl children should be empowered.

  • Women should be economically independent.

  • There should be internal grievances committees at every work place.

  • Patriarchal ideology of superiority and domination lies at the root of violence against women.

  • Human rights discourse should give priority to education and in the curriculum, it is important to include gender equality, the significance of house hold work, responsibility to share the house hold work by men and women equally, about the violence against women and other gender issues, so that children’s mind is not spoiled by backward, patriarchal ideology.

  • The curriculum at all levels should have lessons on society without gender discrimination.

  • Violence has economic angle.

  • Women’s contribution to the country’s development is significant but the rulers are always men. Wherever women are rulers there is less violence.

  • Women should shed their role of passive acceptance and cultivate the habit of questioning.

  • All warnings and cautioning to be careful is always preached to only girls. This culture of cautioning only girls should go.

  • The first step in eradicating violence on women should begin at home.

  • Treating and looking down another human being is anti-human, immoral and unethical.

  • The violence at home is much more degrading and cruel than the violence occurring in the society.

  • Education boost self- confidence and it is essential for all women to get educated.

  • We should dream and work for such a society where women can move alone freely and it is necessary that women should shine in all arenas and avocations.

  • Government should review and see proper implementation of all special enactments.

  • It is necessary to identify the root causes of violence and address them to eradicate violence on women.

  • Women should march ahead towards education, employment and enlightenment.

  • Women should come out of addiction of watching TV serials.

  • In the socialization process of the family boys and girls should be treated equally in food, nutrition, household work, education and in all other aspects.

  • Boys and girls should be treated equally from the stage of child hood so that they develop the perspective of treating women equally.

  • Men should be sensitized on domestic violence so that he may come out of the patriarchal perspective ingrained in him unconsciously.

  • Anti-women practices, traditions, customs and beliefs that are passed on from generation to generation since ages are the reason for violence on women.

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