On being a Campus Action Hero

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Image Courtesy: blog.blanknoise.com

In the almost unbearable heat of May, 2016 I joined the nonprofit NGO Blank Noise. I had wanted to actively be a part of an NGO for quite some time, and I was delighted to discover the Blank Noise blog. I immediately signed up for a volunteer position. A telephonic interview followed. When asked my position on the cause of Feminism, that is, Gender Equality, I launched into an impassioned speech on the daily ongoing struggles of simply existing in this world as a girl, and the general unfairness of my own experiences, as well as statistical incidents as evident by the reports and news. I knew I wanted to do something about the general public awareness. This, I believe, is imperative for a change in social mindset of hetero-patriarchal-normative victim-blaming culture.

My first foray into Blank Noise was one of the most stimulating experiences yet. I got a first person perspective of a protest happening in Town Hall. The observations I made in Justice for Jisha protest in the City Hall, on May 6th, 2016 was revelatory.
Astoundingly, considering the issue being addressed, the numbers of men were disproportionally more than the number of women. There were only a few key younger crowd members. The most interesting part was that despite the heavy first rains of summer, the turnout was immense. There were 70 people or more easily. This goes on to show how serious the crowd was.
I suspect the case of a Dalit girl’s rape being treated negligently by the police officials caused the throngs of protestors I witnessed. This assumption was further fortified by Blank Noise’s affirmation. The frustration related to activism and the results being implemented only in the very long term are another aspect of these events my friend and I found out about.
Police stood responsibly in the side steps. Candles lit, slogans belted out in a portable loudspeaker device, banners held out high. The rains stood witness to our wonder at the energy of everyone present.

We further familiarized ourselves to our roles as Campus Action Heroes within Blank Noise. Blank Noise is a community based project built to bring about awareness regarding sexual harassment against women and men and it is entirely run by the proactive participation of Action Heroes.
Cubbon Park meet was an observer to our shock, resentment and anger in single articulate words. Blank Noise volunteers initiate fun and remarkable activities like Talk To Me, which was an invitation to conversations over samosa and chai, to end the detrimental perception of Yelahanka Rapist Lane and make it a Safe Lane.
In this particular meeting, Meet To Sleep and Ha ha ha Sangha, were both performed and then we dispersed. Meet To Sleep is an initiative to reclaim public spaces by women and end the opinion that idling in public cannot be a womanly past time. Similarly, the Sangha is a retrieval of confidence of women in public spaces.
The meeting at Blank Noise studio in Yelahanka was erudition lesson in our communication and articulation skills. We had begun to shape a Campus Network in the meantime, and we planned to bring together the Network for a Dialogue.

Goethe Institut held a Dialogue on Sexual Harassment against women and men on 9th July, 2016.
As Campus Networking Action Heroes, we invited students and office workers to share their thoughts and views on the topic of Sexual Harassment against women and men.
First, we had an introduction section. The mind map segment included the Ludhiana Action Heroes coming together on a skype gathering to share their observations on the subject. A conversation on the accumulation of words and a couple of samosas and tea or coffee, we were re-energized to discuss further.
The key take away included the

  • Mistreatment of Dress Code Etiquette rules by colleges.
  • The many connected feelings of the victim against the perpetrator.
  • Moreover we discussed the question of “Ignore or Report the Perpetrator’s Misdemeanor?” since Sexual Harassment even at its minutest level has an effect on the victim.
  • Morality and Decency is subject to personal discernment and cannot be a factor in the judgement of the victim because this results in victim shaming and blaming.
  • The idea of how perpetrators get away without repercussions of their actions
  • Then there is the nature of disease in the social mindset of individuals which must be rooted out cumulatively for proliferation of the health of the population as a whole. .
  • Lastly we all decided to make ourselves further educated on pervasive campus sexism and took up the Pledge to Safe Campuses which would enable a safe space for students to gather and feel comfortable reporting transgressions within the campus, if any.

With striking posters, stickers and pamphlets, we left Goethe Institut with the embers still ignited in our hearts on the fight we still have ahead of us.

Visualization of Action Hero Campus Network

Black-Noise
Image Courtesy: blog.blanknoise.com

It is vital that grievances of the students in colleges be recognized empathetically, and acknowledged in solidarity. We can be the trigger for a movement across colleges to build testimonials and gain traction in public intervention, so as to achieve a safe, fear free environment for students. This is the foremost motive for the Campus Action Hero, and this is why I believe in and I want to be a part of international Action Hero Campus Network. I want to, constructively, be a part of a worldwide movement, bigger than myself. I want, nay, need, to know that I can productively contribute to the cause of Feminism, so that I can assuage my frustration at the current state of affairs. The conception of a community based friendly area in educational institutions such as Safety Labs is all that is required for a firm footing in our cause, for our social betterment. It is our collective responsibility; a summation of our mutual effort. This is an opportunity for leadership, by taking up the mantle, of being a Campus Ambassador, for something I stand for. It enables a holistic creative space for students like me, for my thoughts, ideas and interpretation of the same through my participation in Clothes Installations, Writing Projects, Artworks, Articles and Activities. Working along with Jasmeen Patheja, the founder of Blank Noise has also been an educational, valuable and happy derivative of my involvement with Blank Noise.

I know that it is easier to be a woman now, than it was, just fifty years ago. But it still stands that women hostels have disproportionate amount of rules, students are unfairly discriminated against, even to the extent of direct sexual harassment, or else, in less straightforward manner, which can be just as confusing and humiliating.

We must use our voices. We must make a stand.

 

Blank Noise blog: http://blog.blanknoise.org/

For more on Blank Noise: http://srishti.ac.in/centers-and-labs/blank-noise

Blank Noise Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/blanknoise/

Blank Noise Action Hero Campus Networkhttp://blog.blanknoise.org/2016/06/unite-to-eradicate-victim-blame.html

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