Violence and discrimination against women is a widely discussed topic, but the December gang rape and subsequent death of a student in New Delhi sent shockwaves around the world. New tales of abuse still emerge every day.
Two activists spoke with India Real Time about violence against women and what people can do to help fight the problem and change attitudes.
Mallika Dutt is the founder, president and chief executive of Breakthrough TV and a co-founder of New York-based Sakhi for South Asian Women, an anti-domestic violence organization. Kavita Ramdas, is a New Delhi-based representative of the Ford Foundation and former president and chief executive of the Global Fund For Women.
Their recommendations for the general public include creating a net of outspoken, courageous and sustainable women’s rights organizations, including those that work with male allies. Some may appear grassroots oriented, but it was movements like these that eventually helped women get the right to vote, work and choose, Ms. Dutt says.
Here are some more suggestions on how people can take action, even far away from India in countries like the U.S.:
Kavita Ramdas: Do something at home. Learn about violence in your own community and support the local domestic violence shelter; it really does help women in India because women and men need to acknowledge violence at home before they can be more effective in campaigning for those same rights abroad.
Ms. Ramdas: Learn about the vibrant women’s movement in India. There are a slew of amazing organizations that have been mobilizing and challenging violence and gender inequality in India for decades, including Manushi, Jagori , The Lawyers Collective for Women’s Rights,Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative,Must Bol, CREA. There are thousands of women’s organizations and a few impressive young men’s associations emerging that are determined to take on these challenges. Help share their work and raise awareness and resources to support them.
Mallika Dutt: Support women’s groups with financial resources. Women receive very little support compared to other issues and are on the frontlines of change.
Ms. Ramdas: Make a general support gift to either the Global Fund for Women orMama Cash. Honor your mom for mother’s day and say thanks for all the amazing work these two funds have supported in India since they were formed 30 and 25 years ago. They get small grants directly into the hands of women’s groups that need all the help they can get.
Ms. Dutt: Push your government to place women’s issues as priority and especially make the resources available for implementation; and pay particular attention to the enforcement of laws on sexual assault, sexual harassment, and unequal sex ratio.
Ms. Ramdas: Try to shift your language and talk about survivors of violence as opposed to victims. For too long, women and children have been marginalized and further weakened by being portrayed as victims. While they certainly suffer, they are also the agents of change in their own lives and for our world. Give them that respect along with your compassion.
Ms. Ramdas: Work with men. Men can be and are amazing feminists. Dads of daughters care about their safety and wellbeing, so work with them to make a difference both in your own community and around the globe.
Ms. Dutt: Encourage men to take responsibility for challenging violence against women and supporting women’s human rights.
Ms. Ramdas: Read and understand stories about the violence against women in India from a space of humility and the perspective that all over the world this is a battle that is far from won.
Ms. Dutt: Push for changes in inheritance and financial access for women. The devaluation of women in India is still connected to dowry and related economic issues.
Ms. Dutt: Understand that ending violence against women needs deep culture change. And culture change needs all of us to take responsibility for our own attitudes toward women and gender.
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As originally published in The Wall Street Journal.