Will the New Male Hero Please Stand Up?

10947244_422563931240010_5132917642879937700_nWhen a 10 year-old girl in Haryana, India can see that her community is in need of more male heroes to protect the safety, livelihood and rights of women and girls, something must be done.

In October, “The Hero Project” – a campaign that aims to prevent gender-based violence in India by challenging harmful gender stereotypes – launched the #ChangetheStory Contest. Hundreds of rural communities in Pune and Beed and slum communities in Bombay and Delhi watched a series of three documentaries about various forms of violence against women, shared their thoughts about them in lively conversations, and were then challenged to develop their own solutions to gender-based violence. In January, four of the 190 participating communities were awarded $1000 in seed money to implement their projects. Among the winning ideas: a strategy for tackling the drug abuse that is provoking violence in boys and men, and a plan to develop a playground reserved for girls.

Now the campaign has developed an online companion contest with the goal of reaching a wider network. The digital version of #ChangetheStory asks netizens to share their ideas about what the new male hero should look like, in the form of a painting, poem, short film, short story, illustration or other form of art. To see some of the fantastically creative submissions “The Hero Project” has received, visit the Facebook page.

One of the most poignant submissions came from a ten-year-old girl, who submitted her version of the new male hero – a policeman who is committed to protecting the women in his community even when that means standing up to his superiors.

If a young girl understands that policemen need to be the catalysts for change, it is time for her vision to be brought to life. With new global initiatives such as the HeforShe movement, we are seeing more and more campaigns that bring men and women together. The movement to create a safer world for girls and women cannot be led exclusively by women. Everyone needs to help. If a 10 year-old can #ChangetheStory, why can’t you?

To submit your idea for the New Male Hero and win a mobile film projector that allows you to create your own movie theater wherever you go, please visit http://theheroproject.in/

Packed Slum Screening Provokes Reflection

The screening was scheduled for 7:30pm, but by 6:00 around 50 young girls and boys had gathered before the big white projector screen that had been set up on an expanse of dirt in the Delhi slum of Madanpur Khadar. As the start time neared, more people crowded into the space – mothers cradling infants, gangs of teenage boys, girls in pink and red and aqua-colored saris – until nearly 200 people were pressed tightly together.  Organized by Women and Girls Lead Global and Magic Bus, a non-profit organization that mentors young people in the slums of Delhi, the event featured a screening of Revolutionary Optimists. The film profiles a group of adolescents in the slums of Calcutta who are being groomed as community organizers by a lawyer-turned-activist named Amlan Ganguly. Because the WGLG India campaign focuses on challenging harmful gender stereotypes as a way of addressing gender-based violence at the roots, one of the key messages that was highlighted at the screening is the mutual respect of the boys and girls in the film, and the exemplary way that they share power and leadership roles. Continue reading