Bundelkhand in central India, a region notorious for its rebels-turned-armed bandits, is witnessing a new kind of rebellion with an unusual cast of characters. These are the pink sari-clad women of the Gulabi Gang, who use words as weapons – demanding their rights, submitting petitions and haranguing corrupt officials. They travel long distances by cart and tractor, bus and train, to wrest justice for women and dalits, undeterred by sneering policemen and condescending bureaucrats.
Sampat Pal, the group’s founder, is a rough-and-tough woman with a commanding personality. Despite being born into a traditional family and married off early, she has evolved her own brand of feminism and egalitarian politics. Constantly on the move, today she may be found investigating the suspicious death of a young woman, tomorrow protesting against a corrupt official.
The Hero Project, WGLG’s social change campaign in India, was created in the direct wake of the tragic gang-rape and murder of a young female medical student (affectionately called “Nirbhaya” – fearless one – in Indian media) on a New Delhi bus – a story that sparked outrage and action among communities all over India and across the globe. Encouraging young men and boys to take heroic actions against gender-based violence and discrimination in their own communities, The Hero Project was built to evoke personal reflection, a sense of responsibility, and a fresh perspective on masculinity. For those present at The Hero Project’s launch on December 16, 2013, exactly one year after “Nirbhaya’s” tragic assault, the room crackled with the urgency of these messages for young Indian men. Continue reading
The work of Delhi-based director and writer Rahul Roy probes the theme of masculinity, an angle that is seldom explored in the global dialogue on gender. Roy’s most recent project, Let’s Talk Men 2.0, presents four films from four different South Asian contexts – Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal – that both represent and interrogate masculinity.
WGLG’s Engagement Coordinator in India, Abhishek Srivastava, recently caught up with Roy to discuss the connection between masculinities and gender-based violence, and the role that film plays in communicating these complex narratives. Continue reading
To deepen my understanding of young people’s perception of gender in urban India, I recently ventured to the Bhanwar Singh camp in Delhi with Magic Bus, a WGLG partner organization that mentors youth in the slums across India. Bhanwar Singh is a labyrinth of narrow lanes, open drains, community water taps, and pastel-colored mud and brick houses. Many of the poor families there have migrated from their ancestral villages in hope of work and better educational facilities. Locals strive to make an honest living by driving auto rickshaws or taxis, cleaning houses, selling vegetables or as daily wage labors working on the booming city’s many construction sites. Continue reading
In Southern India, family disputes are settled by Jamaats – all-male community councils who rule according to Islamic Sharia law. Women are forbidden to be present, even to defend themselves. Frustrated by this fundamental inequity, Sharifa, a long-time feminist, and a group of Muslim women established a Women’s Jamaat in 2003 – an extraordinary act of courage, since traditionally Jamaats can only be founded and run by men. Continue reading
When the Balkans exploded into war in the 1990s, reports that tens of thousands of women were being systematically raped as a tactic of ethnic cleansing captured the international spotlight. I Came to Testify is the moving story of how a group of 16 women who had been imprisoned by Serb-led forces in the Bosnian town of Foca broke history’s great silence – and stepped forward to take the witness stand in an international court of law. Continue reading
Sabere was only seven years old when her father died in war. Her cousin inherited her, and following a long-practiced tradition in Afghanistan, he sold her when she was 10 years old to Golmohammad, a man in his 50s and a member of the Taliban. Over the next six years, she became pregnant four times, miscarrying each time. The cause may have been her youth, or the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. On a trip to Mazar-e sharif, Sabere managed to escape and make her way to a women’s shelter. Continue reading
In the late 1990s, Rose Mapendo was imprisoned with her family during violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her harrowing experience included the nighttime arrest of her entire family by government agents, the execution of her husband, the birth of their twin sons in prison, and grim negotiations with prison guards to save the lives of her children. She emerged advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. In a country where ethnic violence has created seemingly irreparable rifts among Tutsis, Hutus, and other Congolese, this remarkable woman is a vital voice in her beleaguered nation’s search for peace. Now, Rose is confronted with teaching one of her most recalcitrant students how to forgive – Nangabire, the daughter who remained behind. Continue reading