#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

Notes from a roundtable on gender and disasters, December 23, 2014

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Gender and Disaster Reconstruction: Insights and Lessons

December 23rd, 2014

Rapporteur: Archana Venkatesh

This roundtable session on how gender awareness has the potential to play a role in disaster management took place in the offices of the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission. It centered around presentations by speakers from The Prajnya Trust, the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, Swayam Shikshan Prayog, and the State Planning Commission. The other participants came from related state government departments. The focus of this session was primarily on formulation of policy on disaster management, based on the assumption that gender influences how people experience disasters as well as relief.

The session opened with a brief statement of purpose by Mr Sugato Dutt, Member-Secretary of the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission (TNSPC). It proceeded with a round of introductions, and a statement of welcome by the Vice Chairperson TNSPC, Ms Santha Sheela Nair.

Dr Swarna Rajagopalan, Managing Trustee of The Prajnya Trust, made the first presentation. She gave the audience a comprehensive overview of the topic, and also pointed out that while we talk about gender awareness in policy making at length, we also need to consider the everyday impact of gender on the ground in a disaster situation. We need to examine the gendered consequences of disasters, and look for a way to address them. She added that there are varying guises of gender politics at play in disasters, including labour, safety, and the case of marginalized groups.

Dr Rajagopalan drew attention to the shortcomings of a generalized policy of reconstruction rather than a context-specific one that takes advantages of existing systems of economic/political activity to create policies for relief. The main problem with generalized policies is the important observations they miss in their one-size-fits-all type of solution. For example, they often reinforce normative gender roles and ignore any possible existing subversion of them – women often engage in economic activity that promotes reconstruction, but this work is not recognized by relief organizations, let alone co-opted into their policy. Above all, there is a failure to recognize that there needs to be equal representation at all levels of reconstruction, from policy planning to the fieldwork. Gender awareness is not a little box on a checklist that needs to be checked, but a fuller understanding of any situation.

Dr Rajagopalan stressed the need to look beyond the axioms of gender and disaster (such as the idea that women are always the most victimized class of people in a disaster; or even the idea that gender is only about women). In order to do this, she suggested we re-examine individual needs and contexts through three lenses: vulnerability, visibility and voice. The most important question to ask ourselves while going into a disaster situation is this: whose voice is seen as the default one? Whose is the most visible perspective? Very often, the answer to this question leaves us in no doubt that individuals experience a gendered reality. Thus, we need to reconsider assumptions about who are the most vulnerable populations in a disaster, and turn this around to reveal their potential for action and reconstruction.

photo 39Mr Mihir Bhatt, Director of the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, gave the second presentation. Speaking about Women in the Emergency Response Phase, Mr Bhatt looked at the results of a comprehensive study undertaken in 2014 to examine the impact of the response to tsunami relief in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, with a specific focus on Tamil Nadu. The study used various methodologies, including appreciative inquiry, group interviews, and some quantitative methods. Data was collected in 15 locations along the coast from Chennai to Kanyakumari, from over 1500 families. The focus of the study was to study the impact of two main measures of relief: shelter and livelihood. Mr Bhatt shared a few observations about the positive impact of relief measures in these two, and other (allied), areas. Firstly, he noted that the number of families that were counted as being below the poverty line (BPL) had decreased in the past ten years. Secondly, all children of school-going age were enrolled in and attended school regularly. Thirdly, the overall investment in houses (built by the government as part of the relief measures) had increased, improving the asset by addition of rooms, etc. Finally, though income from coastal fisheries had decreased, an increase was observed in inland fishing. Mr Bhatt suggested that these observations demonstrated that tsunami relief work has created social and economic opportunity in the affected regions. He also noted that there was a rising awareness of green energy at all levels, and this would have to be studied further.

A question was raised about the role of Self Help Groups (SHG) in the affected regions. Mr Bhatt responded that the history of SHGs in the region meant that there was some familiarity with concepts like financial discipline and financial literacy, which was helpful for the recovery process. Another commenter shared a number of stories about women taking on leadership roles in situations arising from relief work, and the challenged these women face.

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Ms Vandana Chauhan gave the third presentation of the day, speaking about Lessons from the Post-Tsunami Decade on Women’s Agency and Leadership. She examined the findings of a comparative study undertaken in India, Indonesia and Japan. The study stressed the importance of action oriented emergency plans that were concise and readable.

Ms Chauhan examined the requirements for capacity-building among women, and suggested that the following factors were most important: confidence, decision making power, setting up of a standard operating procedure in case of disasters.

In her assessment of the impact of relief measures on affected areas, Ms Chauhan noted that relief measures related to livelihood, asset creation, access to primary healthcare centres (PHCs), education, and governance have been largely positive. In terms of livelihood, measures intended to augment income generation are still in effect today and continue to promote the independence of women. Asset creation can be observed in the form of developing opportunities for housing. Education in particular shows a positive trend: the demand for women’s education. All these situations present an opportunity for leadership, especially by women.

Ms Chauhan closed with some lessons for the future. She advocated an increased awareness of the local context while enacting relief measures, as well as the use of traditional mechanisms and channels in incorporating the local community in relief programs. Ms Chauhan was of the opinion that this was important to ensure sustainable recovery.

photo 33 photo 36

A commenter demonstrated how far relief work has come in the past couple of decades by comparing work in 1990 in Orissa and current relief work. It was noted that a key aspect of this improvement was better preparation. Some concern was also expressed about the position of children in disasters, especially with the increased risk of communicable diseases. An audience member also advocated a more streamlined bureaucracy to prevent doubling up of activities in relief work.

photo 29

Ms Prema Gopalan made the fourth presentation of the day, about Engaging Women in the Post-Disaster Reconstruction Process. She drew attention to the potential of disaster relief work as an opportunity for the empowerment of women. Looking at the activities and organization of women’s groups, Ms Gopalan also noted that gender affects men and women differently – and that it is particularly important to remember this while formulating policy on relief work. It is important to ensure that women are facilitators of recovery. It is also essential to recognize women’s role in mobilizing the community. In this regard, disasters create situations in which traditional social and cultural norms are broken, allowing for the participation and leadership of non-traditional classes – such as women.

Pointing to case studies in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, Ms Gopalan demonstrated the success of local women as mobilizers and trainers in the community. Advocating for self-help, she recommended that communities should map their own vulnerabilities and capacities in planning disaster relief. Aid should be given directly to the affected communities rather than through bureaucratic channels. Investment by the government needs to be protected by community leadership, and women play a key role in monitoring this. In Ms Gopalan’s own experience, she found that infrastructure and services are protected in the long run if women are involved in the management of them. She also drew attention to the success of women-led preparedness task forces, where women wrote their own manuals for preparedness (against disasters). By viewing women as active agents in their communities, a new perspective emerges.

photo 30

The Vice-Chairperson of TNSPC asked if there was any resistance from men to the leadership of women. Ms Gopalan responded that there was some resistance at first, but in disaster sites, men did not object to women taking responsibility, and women themselves were eager to change the status quo. She reiterated the importance of disasters as an opportunity for women to change the status quo of gender relations.

A question was raised about specific ways to encourage women’s leadership in disaster management. Ms Gopalan suggested that we need to have less specialization in NGOs, and that NGOs need to work in conversation with each other and the government.

A question was raised about the increased participation of women in politics as a measure of women’s empowerment. Ms Gopalan felt that this doesn’t really promote women’s empowerment for various reasons. However, Dr Rajagopalan pointed out that the presence of women in politics is more of an intrinsic good since it represents more women in decision-making processes.

Members of the TNSPC pointed out that NGOs need to function through the year rather than only in disaster situations. A commenter also raised the importance of educating boys at the school level to ensure gender sensitization. The Vice Chairperson noted the relief work done by religious organizations in Tamil Nadu.

Ms Gopalan agreed that NGOs need to work together, with the facilitation of the government. She also reiterated the need to ensure that women are stakeholders in their own communities.

A question was raised about the possibility of community monitoring of funds, given the controversial history of this initiative. Ms Gopalan was of the opinion that the success of this would depend on the government officers to a certain extent, and how responsive they are to the idea. Mr Bhatt also pointed to an example of community responsibility in Assam. Schoolteachers took responsibility in conducting safety audits in schools. He also emphasized the role of women schoolteachers in formulating safety codes for schools.

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The final presentation of the day was made by a Consultant in disaster management and training in the TN State Disaster Management Agency on behalf of the Revenue Administration and Disaster Management Department. He drew attention to the common perception that one shouldn’t raise the cry of gender in a disaster situation. This perception is problematic, since women and men experience disaster in different ways. He stressed the need to have equal respect for male and female survivors. Speaking of some of the main features of TN Disaster Management, he spoke of the presence of planning at various levels, and various time frames. He also advocated the importance of increased participation of women at decision making levels, the importance of education about disaster management in schools, and incorporating SHGs in capacity building.

The Vice Chairperson asked if women were really in a position of authority to make decisions rather than just filling up quotas on committees. The Consultant answered that they were part of committees, but lacked real power. A commenter pointed out that out of 5-6 lakh SHGs, 50% of them had real leadership by women, but not in the area of disaster management. Interestingly, a commenter pointed out that 70% of the people who attend disaster management workshops are women. Are they including in decision making processes? Not really. However, there has been a growing change in this trend in recent times, especially at the community level, where there is more participation by women. The space has been created for women to make decisions, and this is a hopeful development.

Ms Gopalan said that this needs to be taken to the higher levels od decision making too. Empowerment can be seen at the village level, but not at the Taluk and District levels.

An audience member also pointed to the need to select attendees to training programs more carefully based on their capacities. There is also a need for training about disaster management in villages. A suggestion was made to include Panchayat Level Federations in this initiative.

Mr Bhatt asked if there was a difference in the way disaster management policy was formulated in rural and urban parts of Tamil Nadu. The Vice Chairperson asked if codes were in place for Chennai City. Members of the City Corporation answered that they were. The Revenue Department representative added that the Anna Institute of Management (AIM) was consulting with the TNSPC in the creation of a State Disaster Management Plan. Members of the AIM were also present. Dr Rajagopalan suggested that members of civil society should also be consulted in the formulation of this plan, in order to conduct a gender audit of disaster management policies.

The Director of AIM pointed out that it had been useful to have AIM step in, since the formulation of this plan had been shunted from department to department earlier.

Ms Gopalan noted the cyclone shelters lying empty in Andhra Pradesh because there was no community ownership of the shelters. The Director of AIM pointed out that specialized shelters were unlikely to work effectively. Rather, the creation of multipurpose centres would be recommended.

Members of the TN Disaster Management Agency gave an overview of their plan to increase community ownership of shelters by transforming schools, community halls and training centres into shelters. The Revenue Department and the Public Works Department would maintain these shelters, with committees at the community level.

Dr Rajagopalan closed the discussion with a quick highlight of the main questions.

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Women’s History Roundtable: Responses to Sexual Assault in Chennai: Field Notes, Divya Bhat (13 April 2013)

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Rapporteur: Shakthi Manickavasagam

This month’s roundtable discussion featured Divya Bhat, Prajnya’s first Shakti Fellow, who is in Chennai to conduct fieldwork for her dissertation on responses to sexual assault, as part of her master’s in Medical Anthropology and Sociology from the University of Amsterdam. Divya presented her preliminary findings, and systematically traced the journey of a rape survivor through law enforcement, hospitals and the judiciary, outlining the challenges faced at every step.

Divya’s focus on medical professionals has meant that most of her interviews have been with doctors and forensic experts. She stressed the importance of collecting strong forensic evidence that could conclusively prove a rape in court, as the case could otIMG_3173herwise devolve into a ‘he said, she said’ battle. She observed that the system was weighted against victims of rape, noting the lack of psychological care for survivors, bureaucratic hurdles to the quick collection of forensic evidence, a lack of specialised medical equipment in hospitals, and societal attitudes that cast blame on victims.

Divya concluded that systemic change is urgently required at every stage, to combat the ‘structural and institutional inertia’ that has permeated through the system

Divya’s talk was followed by an animated discussion, which broached topics such as the need for greater gender sensitisation, including in schools, public vs. private hospital responsibility to survivors, and responses to rape in other countries.

Thank you for an engaging and informative talk, Divya, it’s been great having you on board!

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