Lighted to Lighten: Gender Champions at WCC and a new partnership!

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The occasion was International Youth Day 2017 but observed a day in advance, 12th August 2017. A new Gender Champions Club was inaugurated at the campus of the prestigious Women Christian College, under the aegis of the new UGC Centre for Women’s Studies, also inaugurated at the same time.

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This is significant for Prajnya as Women’s Christian College (WCC) and Prajnya have created an institutional partnership for programmes and research with a view to promoting  gender equality.  A gender equality club was envisioned as an opportunity for students to learn about gender issues and a platform where gender equality concerns could be discussed and debated. In the long run, the Club will create a growing community of alumnae citizens sensitised to gender issues and ready to be equality advocates in society.

WCC will establish a student-led club (now named the Gender Champions Club) and support through student participation any specially planned Prajnya activities. Prajnya will engage WCC students in the 16 Days Campaign against Gender Violence; bring programmes to WCC as appropriate; offer volunteer and internship opportunities and be a resource to the WCC community.

For Prajnya, this is a very exciting moment because it takes our work with students further into the planting and processing mode we like, and away from one-off events.

Art Attack! (Playing Gender Hide-n-Seek)

Following the inaugural session, Club members adjourned for Art Attack!,  a three-hour art activity on the theme of Gender Hide and Seek–that is, what is gender, and where is it found? Groups of students created posters and collages, explicated how gendered ideas are pervasive, showing the many places they can be found: language, stereotypes, roles in relationships, work, space use for instances. The posters illustrated how the opportunities are unequal as just climbing up the staircase for the men, but the mountain for the women; right to reclaim the night; breaking the gender roles; and claiming the right to control one’s own body.

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Let this new thinking vibrate, spread and create a space where, in the words of one poster, they can “make right what has gone wrong.”

 

Knowing our rights, claiming our rights

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NAMATHU NAGARAM, NAMATHU URIMAI (OUR CITY, OUR RIGHTS)

by Sudaroli Ramasamy

SAFETY is a major concern in the life of the women, in all walks of life, at any point in time. But beyond safety, it is important for them to understand that they have every right to build, rebuild and make their locality safe and habitable.  With almost all the cities of India becoming terribly unsafe, it is important for women and girls know that they have the right to feel safe without restraining their mobility at any time.

We would start with the importance of understanding of basic rights as a citizen in a broader perspective. Then we would involve community women and girls in the process of Safety Audit either by the use of an app (Safetipin, with which we have partnered earlier) or through a safety audit questionnaire template.  This awareness of their rights over their city  inculcate them to take ownership of their cities and rights “Our City, Our Rights”.

This is how the “Our City, Our Rights” was born with the objectives:

  • Creating general awareness on the Civic rights  and take ownership “Our City, Our Rights” among girls and women
  • Getting them access to the information about the authorities whom they can approach to claim their basic rights towards the Safer and Habitable city.
  • Undergoing the exercise of learning how to gather, organise and present information in order to claim their rights. and practical experiences expands the scope of processing their civil rights to civil governance.

We propose to start with safety but take on other important community issues in many stages over 8-10 months.

Once the idea shape itself into the execution, we planned to take this forward with the women and girls throughout Chennai on a larger scale.  We are piloting the process with two local partners, both of whom have decades of grassroots experience working with women and girls. 

Training 1, June 7, 2017:

Training 2, June 18, 2017:

Training 3, July 28, 2017:

#stopvawip Bear witness through your writing

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16d16-vawip

As part of this year’s 16 Days Campaign, we are inviting you to bear witness to the work and struggle of Women Human Rights Defenders. These are people who put their lives on the line, facing violence and persecution because they choose to visibly and vocally defend our rights. Recognising their effort and calling society and governments out on their persecution is a small way to thank and to support them.

On November 29, which is Women Human Rights Defenders Day, we will post your contributions here through the day as our salute to them and countless, nameless, faceless others around the world.

How can you identify women to write about? There are lots of resources out there. Use those as a point of departure but go beyond–and list your sources. Each time we repeat their story we bolster their efforts–and we join them.

A few places to start the search:

http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org 
https://www.awid.org/priority-areas/women-human-rights-defenders 
https://www.globalfundforwomen.org/category/whrd-campaign 
http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/whrd.html
http://nazra.org/en/terms/whrd 

Please note, we are asking you to email us a pitch first. This is to ensure that everyone does not write about the same person.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Why the State Women’s Commission matters

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Normally, when asked about whether the government should do this or that to respond to an incident of violence or a gender equality violation, we are given to talking about the three fingers that point back. This is not because we think governments act perfectly all the time (no one does) but because we believe in the importance of proactive citizenship and in the role of civil society. Governments cannot do everything on their own; even when we delegate authority, a good part of the burden of social change remains with us–we are the ‘social’ in social change, after all.

Having said that, we created this petition for a strong Women’s Commission in Tamil Nadu along with several civil society colleagues because such a body can be important to our work.

The Commissions for Women at the National and State level occupy something of a hybrid and therefore, link, position between government and civil society. The Commission Chair and members are usually from civil society but appointed by the government of the day. They have the authorisation of government officials, giving them better access than most civil society advocates have. The Commission is a platform from which they can speak to contemporary issues and also the crisis of a given day. The secretariat and the resources of the Commission derive directly from government, giving them the advantage of both institutional memory and better resources.

A strong, dynamic Commission is an asset to civil society because its members can draw on their old networks to anchor their work, and because Commissioners afford civil society quick access to government. So, if there is an incident in the districts, and local NGOs cannot get help, the Commission potentially can intervene to facilitate and make help available. A pro-active Chair and Commission could fashion an important role for itself in the journey towards social change. A retrogressive Chair and Commission could drag us down just as well.

This is why it is important to us and to our colleagues to see that when the newly re-elected Tamil Nadu Chief Minister makes that appointment, she appoints the right person, someone we defined in our petition as “sensitive to gender issues, and has concretely contributed towards women’s empowerment.” Those engaged in the work of social change–and gender equality–in civil society need an institutional ally who will bring together the resources of government and the reach of civil society.

This is why we urge you to sign our petition today:

https://www.change.org/p/chief-minister-dr-j-jayalalithaa-a-strong-state-women-s-commission-for-tamil-nadu

If you care about gender equality, this should be important to you as well.

 

 

 

 

செய்தி வெளியீடு: பாலின சமத்துவம் தேர்தல் சரிபார்ப்பு பட்டியல்

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செய்தி வெளியீடு

பாலின சமத்துவத்திற்காக வாக்களியுங்கள்கட்சிகள் மற்றும் வாக்காளர்களுக்கான தேர்தல் சரிபார்ப்பு பட்டியல் வெளியீடு :

சென்னை:

அடுத்த இரண்டு வாரங்களில், மே 16, 2016 அன்று நடைபெறவுள்ள மாநில சட்டமன்ற தேர்தலில் போட்டியிடவிருக்கும் ஒவ்வொரு அரசியல் கட்சியின் வேட்பாளர்கள் யார் என்று தமிழ்நாட்டு மக்கள் அறிவார்கள்.

வெளியேறிய சட்டமன்றத்தில், பெண் உறுப்பினர்களின் பங்கு அதிகபட்சம் வெறும் ஏழு (7%) சதவிகிதமாக இருந்திருக்கிறது. வரவிருக்கும் தேர்தலில், அனைத்திந்திய அண்ணா திராவிட முன்னேற்றக் கழகம் வெளியிட்ட முதல் வேட்பாளர் பட்டியலில் 227 வேட்பாளர்கள் உள்ளனர். இவர்களில் 31 மட்டுமே பெண்கள் – பதினான்கு சதவிகிதம் (14%) மட்டுமே. வெளிவரவிருக்கும் மற்ற கட்சிகளின் பட்டியல்கள் பாலினச் சமநிலையில் இதைவிட சிறப்பாக இருக்கும் என்பதை நம்புவதற்கு எந்தக் காரணமும் இல்லை.

பாலின சமத்துவம் என்பது ஒரு சமூக நிலை, ஒரு அரசியல் நிலை. இந்த சமத்துவம் இல்லாத ஜனநாயகம் முழுமையற்ற, நிறைவற்ற ஒன்றாகும். ஆனால் பாலினம் சம்பந்தமான பிரச்சினைகள் இந்திய தேர்தலின் சொல்லாட்சியில் அரிதாகவே இடம்பெறுகின்றன. அப்படி இடம்பெரும்போழுது, நம் பேச்சும் விவாதங்களும் பாதுகாப்பு குறித்த அம்சங்களை பற்றி மட்டும் இருக்கின்றன. இந்தியாவின் பழமைவாய்ந்த முற்போக்கான மற்றும் பகுத்தறிவு இயக்கங்களில் ஒன்றாக தமிழ்நாடு மாநில அரசியல் திகழ்கின்றது. தர்க்கரீதியாக, ஆண்-பெண் சமத்துவம் இந்த மரபின் ஒரு முக்கிய பகுதியாக இருக்க வேண்டும்.

தேர்தல் வேட்பாளர்களை தேர்ந்தெடுப்பதில் பாலின சமத்துவத்துவத்தை ஒரு வழிகாட்டும் கொள்கையாக ஏற்க வேண்டும் என்று பிரக்ஞா தமிழ்நாட்டிலுள்ள அரசியல் கட்சிகளிடம் வலியுறுத்துகின்றது. இதை நோக்கி, ‘பிரக்ஞா பாலின சமத்துவம் தேர்தல் சரிபார்ப்பு பட்டியல்’, என்ற பட்டியலை அரசியல் கட்சிகளுக்காகவும் வாக்காளர்களுக்காகவும் வெளியிடுகிறோம். இந்த சரிபார்ப்பு பட்டியல், கட்சிகள் தங்கள் வேட்பாளர்களை தேர்ந்தெடுக்கும்பொழுது எளிதாக பயன்படுத்தகூடிய ஒரு வழிகாட்டியாகவும், வாக்காளர்கள் தங்கள் பிரதிநிதியை தேர்ந்தெடுக்க செயல்படும் ஒரு வழிகாட்டியாகவும் இருக்கும் என்று நம்புகிறோம்.

மீண்டும் வலியுறுத்துகின்றோம்: பாலின சமத்துவம் இல்லாத ஜனநாயகம் வெறும் பொருளற்ற நிழல் ஆகும். இந்த தேர்தலில், உண்மையான ஜனநாயகத்தை வலியுறுத்துங்கள். பாலின சமத்துவத்திற்காக வாக்களியுங்கள்.

மேலும் விவரங்களுக்கு, தொடர்பு கொள்ளவும்:

பிரக்ஞா அறக்கட்டளை

http://www.prajnya.in, media.prajnya@gmail.com

Press Release: Gender Equality Election Checklist

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Press Release

Vote for Gender Equality: Launch of Election Checklist for Parties and Voters

Chennai: In the coming two weeks, Tamil Nadu will learn who its political parties are nominating to contest the State Assembly elections on May 16, 2016.

In the outgoing Assembly, women have been barely seven percent of the membership. The first list released for the upcoming elections by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam lists 227 candidates of whom only 31 are women, about 14% of their list. There is no reason to believe other party lists will perform better on the criterion of gender parity.

Gender equality is the social and political condition without which democracy is incomplete and imperfect. But gender-related issues rarely feature in the rhetoric of Indian elections, and when they do, our talk centres on protection and safety issues. Tamil Nadu state politics follows the legacy of one of India’s oldest progressive and rationalist movements. Gender equality should logically be a part of this legacy.

Prajnya strongly urges political parties in Tamil Nadu to adopt gender parity as a guiding principle in selecting election candidates. To this end, we are launching the ‘PRAJNYA GENDER EQUALITY ELECTION CHECKLIST’, for both political parties and voters. We hope that the checklist acts as an easy to use guide for parties while deciding on their candidates, and for voters while deciding who to elect as their representative.

We reiterate: Democracy without gender equality is just shadow, not substance. This election, make true democracy non-negotiable. Vote for gender equality.

For more details, contact:
The Prajnya Trust
http://www.prajnya.in
media.prajnya@gmail.com

Media training on gender and disasters, November 14-15, 2014

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On November 14-15, 2014, in partnership with Oxfam India and the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, Prajnya organised a training programme for mediapersons on gender sensitive reporting of disasters. Here is a report posted today by Oxfam India on the same. The authors highlight some of the tips shared at the training:

“So how does one ensure that coverage of gender issues is reasonably good during disasters? There are no exhaustive, steadfast rules but ticking some of the checkboxes below can surely help:

  • Before disasters
    • –Establish contacts with key public-private players
    • –Become familiar with disaster prone areas and gender issues
    • –Don’t wait until disaster strikes – investigate levels of preparedness and vulnerability of women
    • –Keep the memories of past disaster alive
    • –Cover positive actions and stories on women’s vulnerability to disasters
  • After disasters
    • –Investigate causes of disasters with data
    • –Demand and look for gender desegregated data
    • –Cover stories of socio-economic and cultural impact of disaster on women
    • –Cover stories that establish leadership role of women in recovery
    • –Keep the topic alive; recovery is a long process.”

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August 29, 2015: The Oxfam report is copied below as the link is not working any more:

Considering Gender: A Mediaperson’s Guide to Covering Disasters

Posted Dec 26, 2014 by Preeti Mangala Shekar and Ramakrishnan M

On November 14 & 15 this year, a workshop co-organized by Oxfam India, Prajnya (a Chennai-based feminist research and advocacy group) and the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) brought together over a dozen journalists, activists and community experts to discuss how the media should be covering disasters.

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, the horrific 2004 Tsunami or cyclones that have become routine along India’s eastern coasts in recent decades have been a vital focus for Indian media but how do they report on them? How are women’s voices, agency and roles portrayed through pictures, as experts, news sources and so on?

The workshop started with getting basic terms right and not using certain ones interchangeably (like hazard & disaster — a hat tip given by one speaker was that establishing the difference between the two makes it clearer for the lay reader). Next was to use data or facts such that it creates a feeling of emergency in the mind. Consider the value of adding this to any disaster report in India:

Despite being one of the top 10 disaster-prone countries (27 out of 35 states and union territories are regular victims of some form of disaster or the other), our government enacted the Disaster Management Act only in 2005, after the South-East Asian tsunami.

To take this one step further, we can actually use figures like these with devastating effect to prove the gender angle is very important during natural catastrophes. Findings in recent post-disaster scenarios have shown that women represented an estimated 61% fatalities in Myanmar’s Cyclone Nargis, 70% after the 2004 tsunami and a horrific 91% after Cyclone Gorky hit Bangladesh in 1991. On an average, they are 14 times more vulnerable than men when it comes to fending for their lives during a disaster.

On the question of why this has become a pattern — especially in the Indian subcontinent — has a lot to do with the patriarchal culture that has remained unchanged for a long, long time. Women are usually under pressure to stay at home and take care of family requirements even when the home in question dangerously borders the disaster’s strike area. Ramya Kannan of The Hindu, during the workshop, explained how another answer (in the 2004 tsunami context in Tamil Nadu) remained hidden in plain sight. Fisherfolk who sell the catch by the shores are mostly women, while the men are almost always away at sea.

With all this baggage of disadvantage, it most certainly doesn’t help women survivors when the media squarely depicts them as passive victims and not as powerful or resilient agents of change that many are. As Swarna Rajagopalan of Prajnya succinctly put it: “What we look for, we see.” Ironically, for some reason, hurricanes and typhoons are mostly designated with a female name (Katrina, Sandy & Nargis to name a few)!

Journalist and author Ammu Joseph’s talk reinforced the depressing truth around that cliched adage — the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even though most journalism schools drill some form of awareness into their students about using a gender lens while covering stories, a reality check reveals that less than one-fourth of people heard about or read are women (Global Media Monitoring Project, 2005) and the same study rightly stated that the absence of gender in “hard news” stories reflects “a blinkered approach to the definition of news and newsworthiness.”

So how does one ensure that coverage of gender issues is reasonably good during disasters? There are no exhaustive, steadfast rules but ticking some of the checkboxes below can surely help:

  • Before disasters
    • -Establish contacts with key public-private players
    • -Become familiar with disaster prone areas and gender issues
    • -Don’t wait until disaster strikes – investigate levels of preparedness and vulnerability of women
    • -Keep the memories of past disaster alive
    • -Cover positive actions and stories on women’s vulnerability to disasters
  • After disasters
    • -Investigate causes of disasters with data
    • -Demand and look for gender desegregated data
    • -Cover stories of socio-economic and cultural impact of disaster on women
    • -Cover stories that establish leadership role of women in recovery
    • -Keep the topic alive; recovery is a long process

About the authors:

Preeti Mangala Shekar is an independent journalist who is based in the US
Ramakrishnan M is part of Oxfam India’s digital communications team

Related: Read Oxfam’s new report on how timely funding from the public helped people in crisis during the 2004 tsunami