Like every year, Swayam, a women’s rights organisation committed to ending violence against women and advancing women’s rights, conducted an active campaign to stop physical, sexual, emotional and economic abuse and raise public awareness on this issue.
A 16-day campaign to “Stop Violence against Women and Girls” took place from 25 November to 10 December 2016 to raise mass awareness and stir individuals to act against hostility on women. The main focus of this campaign was on ‘Domestic Violence’ that affects almost every family and violates women’s rights to dignity, equality, freedom, security, bodily integrity, education and livelihood.
On 21 November, Swayam’s Mobile Campaign Van was inaugurated by by Dr. Shashi Panja, Minister of Women Development, Social Welfare, Child Development, Minister of State, Health and Family Welfare at Mukta Mancha, Kolkata. The van was a part of their aim to create awareness about women's rights and mobilise public action against aggression against women.
The campaign began with a rally on 25 November, observed as International Day against Violence that was preceded by a brief cultural programme to spread mass awareness. Placards with slogans and information on domestic violence were carried by participants and leaflets were also distributed. Around 650-700 people participated in the rally showing their solidarity towards the cause.
Up next was a programme against the practice of dowry on 26 November at Metiabruz. Every year Swayam identifies people from the local community to acknowledge their initiative and to spread awareness on stopping the practice of dowry, by awarding them the ‘Anti Dowry Social Responsibility Award’ named ‘Jehj -e-Nafi’.
This year three young people from the community were recognised who had married without taking or giving dowry. Along with this, a short documentary film was screened to educate the public on the different aspects of dowry, followed by an interactive session with the audience.
On 29 November a public awareness programme ‘Ekata Anbe Samata – Eso Kheli, Samatar Katha Boli’ took place at a football ground in Diamond Harbour.
The programme began with 200 women participating in a rally raising awareness about domestic violence. The community members played different games on social issues and interacted with the Swayam team. Over 600 people watched the cultural programme in the evening where there were performances by the theatre and music group, Yuva group and a ‘Baul’ performance.
Next, a kiosk was set up in Shyambazar on 3 December for awareness on Mental Health and Domestic Violence. This was primarily to generate awareness on issues around domestic violence and its mental health implications.
Posters and ribbons were displayed to impart information on these issues, while Swayam staff and volunteers distributed leaflets among the general masses in order to reach out to a larger number of people. The response was overwhelming and while some people actually shared their opinion on and experiences with domestic violence, others came up with queries they wanted answers to.
On 4 December ‘Ek Saath with Men and Boys’, encouraged the male members of Mashat and Kamarpole Gram Panchayat, Diamond Harbour to participate in Swayam’s campaign. Games challenging gender norms were played.
‘Roadside Romeo’ resulted in discussions about street sexual harassment and ways they could stop it, and singing and dancing followed it. To keep up the spirit, the next day also saw similar activities and games.
The following event was on 8 December for the release of Echoes – a compilation of selected Bengali poems published in ‘Prayas’ between 2006 and 2015 and ably translated into English by Ms. Madhuchhanda Karlekar, writer and activist.
Since 1998, Prayas (meaning ‘endeavour’)- a quarterly published by Swayam then. Prayas has provided women with a space for self-expression, encouraged them to showcase their latent talents and helped them regain their self-confidence. The event organised at Rotary Sadan consisted of a speech by the Editorial Board members of Swayam, recitation by Madhumanti Maitra, elocutionist and a monologue by Suranjana Dasgupta, theatre personality.
A final feather to its cap, Swayam, in collaboration with Cyan International, conducted a Gender Equality Mela on 9 December, at the Bishop’s College grounds. A number of schools from Kolkata were invited to participate in different games on social issues, extempore and quizzes.
Students also showcased a 10-minute performance through skits on the issue of gender equality. Throughout the day, there were film screening, poster exhibition and food stall which motivated everyone to attend and participate.
The 16-day campaign came to an end with maximised impact of all the efforts, adding more voices to stir individuals and to raise mass awareness to ‘Stop Violence against Women and Girls’.