Monday, May 19, 2014

Southern Regional Consultation on CEDAW

On May 14 & 15, thirty activists, advocates, scholars and students from across South India gathered in Chennai for EKTA’s two-day consultation on CEDAW. As the NGO Alternative Report for India is currently being prepared for submission and presentation in Geneva before the CEDAW Committee in July 2014, regional groups are working to finalise their recommendations for inclusion. The focus for the southern group's recommendations was primarily on women’s health, education, rural rights, and political and public participation and how the Government of India (GOI) can better meet its obligations under the Convention regarding these issues. 

In preparing these recommendations, participants analysed existing laws, schemes, High Court judgments, and socio-economic and on-the-ground experiences to determine 1) gaps in existing legislation or implementation, 2) need for further State legislative intervention and 3) necessary adjustments to the GOI’s methods of reporting and demonstrating its actions and achievements in its Periodic Report to the CEDAW Committee. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Safe Madurai Helpline handbook

EKTA is happy to announce the publication of a Helpline handbook! As part of our Safe Madurai initiative, we have collected the contact information for emergency and essential services within the city, including Women's Line, Child Line, ambulance services, All Women Police Stations, free legal aid and services, women and children's shelters, homes for the aged, and gas leak complaint lines. We have aimed to make this pocket-sized handbook as comprehensive and useful as possible for the residents of Madurai. The Helpline handbook was officially released to the public during EKTA's Women's Day event, and will be distributed as widely as possible within the city. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

One Billion Rising for Justice 2014 in Madurai

One Billion Rising for Justice was a tremendous success in Madurai! EKTA hosted the OBR event at Madurai's famous Gandhi Museum -- a perfect location for sharing the message of inclusion and non-violence. The event includeed multifaceted performances by local artists, college & university students and young girls from EKTA's Nambikkai girls' shelter, which allowed the performers and participants to take part in a thought-provoking and moving expression of the violence, inequality and discrimination that women face in Tamil Nadu and across the world. Following the performances were speeches and calls to action by officials and activists including Secretary/Sub-judge Thirumigu Jacintha Martin, B.L., Assistant Commission of Police Anti-Dowry Cell Ms. K. Rajamani, State Nodal Officer Psychiatrist Dr C Ramasubramanian and Principal of Lady Doak College Dr. Mrs A. Mery Pushpalatha. Displayed around the event grounds were motivational and inspirational posters as well as the results of EKTA's anti-violence signature campaign (collected during our 16 Days mobile van campaign). All participants then joined in closing the event with a symbolic release of balloons and dancing to "Break the Chain," the OBR anthem.

Throughout the event, EKTA's goal was to spread awareness on violence against women and the forms of physical, emotional, economic, political, social, cultural, ecological, and legal injustice that women face. We invited our over 200 participants to RISE, RELEASE, DANCE, and demand JUSTICE, and we did just that! Please enjoy some photos from the 2014 OBR event in Madurai: 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updates for OBR Madurai

EKTA is very busy finalising plans and spreading the word about One Billion Rising. We have decided that One Billion Rising: Madurai will take place at Madurai's famous Gandhi Museum -- a perfect location for sharing the message of inclusion and non-violence. The event will include multifaceted performances by local artists, college & university students and young girls from EKTA's Nambikkai Centre (a girls' shelter), which will allow the performers and participants to take part in a thought-provoking and moving expression of the violence, inequality and discrimination that women face both in Tamil Nadu and across the world. Following the performances will be speeches and calls to action by local officials, academics and activists. All participants will join in closing the event with a symbolic release of balloons and dancing to "Break the Chain."

 We have been very busy the past few weeks visiting local colleges, NSS camps and the offices of influential officials to share the message and goal of OBR and to encourage people to participate in the movement. We are focusing in particular on college students and young women, to both educate and engage them in the OBR campaign. Many have enthusiastically volunteered to participate in One Billion Rising Madurai, and are now preparing dances, songs and short plays to artistically showcase the pain caused by violence against women as well as the wonderful strength and solidarity that arises from such a global campaign that brings all participants together to "break the chain." 

Updates for EKTA's One Billion Rising event can be found here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

One Billion Rising for Justice: Tamil Nadu/Madurai!

One Billion Rising: a look back at 2013 and looking forward to 2014

Created in response to a UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, in 2013 One Billion Rising implored women and men across the world to strike, dance and rise to demand an end to violence against women and to challenge the patriarchal systems that enable such violence to continue.  One billion people in over 200 countries took up that call.  This action to end violence against women was not limited to 14th February, however.  Activists across the world incorporated the message of OBR into all programmes and activities.  In India, women’s groups organised protests, cultural events, debates and discussions to draw attention to the horrific violence inflicted upon Indian women from all communities and all walks of life.  In Tamil Nadu, EKTA and other groups connected the mission of One Billion Rising with other efforts focused on addressing and challenging gender-based violence and discrimination, such as the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women campaign.  Working with Madurai-based college students, EKTA also created a short video—playing off a short film released by the international campaign—depicting the common forms of violence in Tamil Nadu and women rising up to demand an end to these actions.

This is what One Billion Rising 2013 looked like:

In Tamil Nadu:
OBR in Madurai at the Gandhi museum
OBR in Chennai

See also:

Following the success of 2013, the goal of One Billion Rising 2014 is to bring women and men around the world together to RISE, RELEASE, DANCE and DEMAND JUSTICE.  From the OBR website: “This year’s campaign is a call to women, men, and youth around the world to gather on 14 February 2014 outside places where they are entitled to justice.  More than 100 countries are already signed on to Rise outside court houses, police stations, government offices, school administration buildings, work places, sites of environmental injustice, military courts, embassies, places of worship, or other public spaces for justice, marking the call to end the rampant impunity that prevails globally.”  “Our stories have been buried, denied, erased, altered, and minimized by patriarchal systems that allow impunity to reign. Justice begins when we speak, release, and acknowledge the truth in solidarity and community. ONE BILLION RISING FOR JUSTICE is an invitation to break free from confinement, obligation, shame, guilt, grief, pain, humiliation, rage, and bondage.”  

V-Day founder and playwright Eve Ensler explained connected One Billion Rising 2013 and 2014 as thus: “In 2013, one billion rose around the world to end violence against women and girls in the biggest mass action in the history of the world.  This year we are escalating and connecting the dots.  We are rising for gender, economic, racial, environmental Justice.  We are rising and dancing with our bodies, to end the violations towards our bodies and the body of the earth.”  

In December 2013, Eve Ensler visited the YWCA in Chennai (EKTA helped organize the event) and spoke about the international One Billion Rising campaign, OBR in India, and One Billion Rising for Justice 2014. Eve explained OBR 2014’s focus on justice: “Unless there is justice, unless there is connection and accountability, unless there is cause and consequence and they are connected, unless we understand that you can’t address violence against women unless you address economic injustice and racial injustice and environmental injustice – these are connected in the same story – we will never, ever move forward.”  You can listen to Eve’s entire speech (and her performance of an original piece written about rising for justice in India) here.
EKTA is thrilled to be part of this global phenomenon.  Thus far, we have tied in the messages and themes of the campaign into our 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women activities, which reached over 24,000 persons across 400 villages in Tamil Nadu.  We have also been visiting local colleges and universities to engage students in the campaign and to help raise their awareness about gender roles and expectations, gender-based violence and discrimination, and how they can help undermine the patriarchal conditions that, as Eve talked about in Chennai, undermine the health and happiness of both women and men.

Be sure to check EKTA’s Event Page on the OBR website for updates regarding the 14th February One Billion Rising for Justice event in Madurai! We have had 3 planning meetings and we are rising in a BIG WAY for justice in Tamil Nadu! We have another meeting coming shortly, and we will update you all on the finalised plans. Let us all come together to make One Billion Rising for Justice an even bigger success in 2014!

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Year updates

The EKTA team wrapped up 2013 in a whirl of activity, and the start of 2014 has been no different. Here's a brief summary on what we've been up to:

The 16 Days of Activism was a great success. Through our launch event, mobile van campaign and poster exhibition, we were able to reach over 25,000 people across 400 villages in Madurai and Cuddalore districts with messages on the reality and consequences of violence against women as well as information on existing laws and how to avail these legal protections.

Women reading the mobile van posters
Adding names to EKTA's two signature campaigns:
one focusing on ending violence against women, and the other on passing the Women's Reservation Bill.

Joining the national Time for 33 Percent campaign, EKTA organised a meeting of activists from across the southern states to develop effective strategies in order to finally bring about the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha. This essential bill would implement a 33 percent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) and in the state legislative assemblies, similar to the current reservation system in the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Following the meeting, participants and friends from Sangat celebrated South Asian Women's Day (25 November) a day intended to express solidarity among women across the region and demand peace, democracy and recognition of human rights.

Celebrating South Asian Women's Day

The Hindu published an excellent article covering some of EKTA's activities---including the 16 Days campaign, South Asian Women's Day and the push for the Women's Reservation Bill, which you can read here.

In mid-December, EKTA hosted a 3-day workshop on Gender Budgeting with the goal of bringing the process--which is a tremendous way to increase the gender sensitivity and gender responsiveness of the state, its budgets and priorities--to Tamil Nadu. Together, activists and academics received comprehensive training from EKTA and CBGA on how government budgets function and are made (at the state and national level), how gender budget analysis is done--both theoretically and in practice--and what the benefits of gender budgeting are. Participants also strategised on how to bring gender budgeting to Tamil Nadu. 

After ringing in the New Year, EKTA was honoured to receive the Best NGO 2013 Neeya Naana award by STAR Vijay TV

We also gathered with friends to celebrate Pongal in our Kodimangalam facility outside of Madurai. Much sweet pongal, sugar cane and laughter was shared by all. 

Throughout all this, EKTA has continued preparations for One Billion Rising on 14 February. OBR was a great success last year in Madurai, and we are looking forward to a successful event next month!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

16 Days of Activism launch event

On 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, EKTA launched its 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign in Vilacherry, a panchayat outside of Madurai. It was a fantastic event that drew over 100 participants, who signed a pledge to end violence against women and listened to speakers such as
Nirmala Devi, Chairman, Tiruparankundram union, Akila Devi, Panchayat president, Vilacherry panchayat, and Mallika, Inspector, Tiruparankundram All Women’s Police Station, who informed women of their legal and human rights regarding gender-based violence. Following the speeches, Chairman Nirmala Devi helped send off EKTA's mobile van, which will tour nearby villages and distribute information on the 16 Days campaign, gender-based violence in the area, and women's rights until the end of the campaign on 10 December, Human Rights Day.

The event received excellent coverage in local newspapers. See The Hindu's article here.