I am sure that many of you are feeling anger, sorrow, helplessness and even cynicism after reading and hearing about the recent cases of brutal rape perpetrated on yet another ‘Daughter of India.’ Just as I was still struggling to process the Hyderabad rape and murder case, I heard the news about a six-year-old being raped and murdered in Jaipur.
It just goes on. We just carry on. We feel helpless. We pray such a thing will never happen to us or our loved ones.
But it will happen again and again.
It is time to move from outrage to action.
As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to succeed is for good ‘men’ to do nothing. The good men and women have noble intentions- they talk, they walk in protest but it is time to move past that to action. I have said and I have heard many people say ‘The government should do something’, The police should do something. The courts need to do something.”
The most insidious strategy adopted by those in power to retain this power is to make others believe in their powerlessness.
We need to change that. We don’t have to be activists. But action has to happen at both the individual and institutional levels.
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There are things we all can do on a daily basis without too much effort or time that will in some way enable girls to feel stronger, men to feel more compassionate and create some change in the mindset of both.
Here are some of the things we CAN do in our roles as a parent, an employer, a citizen, a neighbour or a teacher.
1. Learn self-defense: Enrol your daughter in a karate class. Join a self- defense class- Kickboxing, Judo, etc. I know a lot of little boys who are learning self-defense. Why not get the girls too? Getting strong and confident is just as important as looking good.
I started strength training last month with an instructor. I may not lose weight but hope that I will become stronger.
2. Tell a different bedtime story to your child. Too many fairy tales and folk tales reinforce the notion that girls are weak and need to be protected. Add a twist to the tale. Red Riding Hood takes an axe to the wolf herself! Sleeping Beauty gets up on her own and makes up with Maleficent! Cinderella and her step-sisters join hands and start an NGO for helping domestic workers! Sita defeats Ravana even before he takes her to Lanka. Tell them stories of Rani Laxmi Bai and Razia Sultana.
Get your kids’ friends together at the birthday party and tell them all such stories.
Also Read: Girls are shy of reporting sexual crimes in India: But why?
3. Have a talk with your sons and daughters. Tell them that it is important to call out instances of disrespect to people, disengage from activities that promote gender discrimination, stop giving derogatory gender-based nicknames to teachers, post negative comments on social media. Become aware of your own language.
Go to the nearest police station and ask for details of rape cases that have been solved, unsolved, awaiting resolution. File and RTI. Write and talk about your experience. Put some pressure for early resolution.
4. Support a cause in favour of women’s empowerment. Give some money, volunteer your help at an NGO that does this. Tell people that you have done this. Inspire Others.
My family’s nonprofit My Daughter is Precious provides scholarships and mentoring to less privileged girls so that they can complete their college education and become economically independent. It is a small way to make women strong and self- reliant.
5. Go to the nearest police station and ask for details of rape cases that have been solved, unsolved, awaiting resolution. File and RTI. Write and talk about your experience. Put some pressure for early resolution.
6. Start a Twitter account or Facebook group – #WhatIDidToPrevenRape or #ICanStopRape. Get your followers and friends to post what each person did.
7. Talk to your local MLA/MP/ Municipal Authority. Ask them what they have done to make your locality safe for women. Get at least 20 people to join you in this campaign. It could be just getting street lights to work, shifting a liquor vendor away from a residential area, getting regular police patrol.
8. Help a woman get a job or find a way to earn a decent income. Economic power and independence is a great source of confidence.
9. Start a reward and recognise Campaign. Record and share instances where men and women have stepped up or spoken out against rape, abuse, and discrimination. Do this at the workplace, neighborhood, school or college. We need stories of success and positive change.
10. Enable a Gender Sensitisation Workshop in your organization or community. Get an organization that does this work to talk to your colleagues or neighbours. Talk about the power of the law to women and men.
Research and common sense show that peer pressure or the Principle of Conformity is one of the most powerful ways to influence a change. If you have done something good, tell other people. It is not boasting or showing off. It is a way to encourage and inspire others.
It is easy to get cynical and lazy. We do it everyday. It takes guts to step out and do something. A single person can start a revolution. Many people are already doing this. We can too. I truly believe that individual action can make a difference.
Pick one or two from the list. Add your own. Make a difference.
Also Read: We live in fear. Women across India outraged at rape and murder
Nirupama Subramanian is an author, leadership development facilitator, certified coach and co-founder of GLOW-Growing Leadership of Women. The views expressed are the author’s own.