The Stories Of Three Men Fighting For Gender Equality In Their Circles
“It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up as men.” – Desmond Tutu.
In my experience working with youth, I hear them talk about how gender barriers have worsened over the last few years. Young people today want to collectively become active agents in achieving gender equality in their respective communities.
We often hear about women change-makers bringing an equal world. Still, today on #InternationalWomensDay, I want to talk about men in the Young Leaders’ Journey who contribute to getting a world with equal opportunity for all.
Last year on the same day, we conducted Young Leaders’ Conclave – Shifting the Gaze, where we witnessed inspiring stories of women and men working towards bridging the gender gap for their fellow alumni/network.
Tackling Gender Roles
Starting with our first male leader in the event, Shivraj. For him, change began at home when he broke away from strict gender roles and shared the immense workload he saw his mother, a homemaker, deal with. Shivraj currently works with Equal Community Foundation in Pune as a leader and facilitator for a gender equality program.
Shivraj shared, “When I joined ECF, I understood the concept of gender, how movies and other daily activities increased the gender gap in our society. I realized whatever was happening in our community against women, which we have normalized in some sense, was very wrong.”
Shivraj currently works in ECF with young boys to enhance their understanding of gender and learn how to do so through games and activities.
He talks about #GharMeinEquality, and how small tasks like sharing work at home can lay the foundation for achieving this significant change.
Building Toilets For Women
Moving to another leader from Maharasthra, Karan. He presently works at Apna, which provides networking and job opportunities.
Karan’s understanding of gender equality developed during his fellowship days at PUKAR. Talking about the initial days of his journey of becoming a strong advocate of feminism, Karan said, “I believe that one should have a friend of the opposite gender. I used to be a timid person and wasn’t part of any, what you say, cool gang.
“I met a girl who became my friend at that time, and things started changing then. I’m not afraid to talk to girls anymore because of her.”
During his fellowship days he added, “While identifying community issues to work on, I learned that safe toilets are one of the major problems for women in my area. When I spoke to my mother, she told me how women like her faced abuse, violence and health issues due to the issue.
“My five friends and I bought people in the community together to contribute funds and build ten toilets on their own.”
Gender Justice Through Theater
Our third and last male leader in the panel was Rohit from MAVA. For him, the fight for gender justice began with a personal transformation and is going on with theatre and writing as tools to effect change.
Rohit is presently a theatre artist in Mumbai. Remembering his college days, he said, “When you get admitted to college, you always think of becoming a part of the so-called super dude group. The same happened to me too. I often used to pass sexual comments to girls, but I used to feel bad inside when I did, so I realized I was doing wrong and decided not to hang around with that group.
“This was my first interaction with the gender gap issue. I registered in NSS and learned about Nukkad Natak. I love the freedom of voicing your opinion. I decided to raise awareness of gender among the masses through these street plays. I met MAVA in the process, which supported me in the journey.
“I wrote a play called ‘Bachpan Ek Udaan’ highlighting how gender roles are defined at a very young age and affect both men and women. I believe through theatre and writing we can not only sensitize people but also turn them towards active agents of change.”
Apart from working for an equal society, what connects these leaders so firmly is their spirit of bringing change in the community they saw within themselves.
If you want to watch these excellent young leaders and know their work in detail, watch the second edition of Young Leaders’ Conclave: Shifting the Gaze.