Over the last three years from 2012 we have steadily scaled up the One Billion Rising Campaign to encompass women and men across 19 states and all eight South Asian countries, Kamla Bhasin, South Asian Coordinator, OBR
New Delhi, 5 February, 2015: During 2014-2015, the One Billion Rising (OBR) Revolution which commenced in 2012, further scaled up its efforts to enable a cross-section of women, both young and old, to break free from all that keeps them from living purposeful lives, the way they want to live it.
This was most strongly felt by women with disability. Speaking about the exclusion of nearly 80 million women with disabilities (WwDs) Anjlee Agarwal emphasized that Samarthyam sees OBR as a platform to express their concern about the lack of protection, empowerment and integration of women and girls with disabilities. She emphasized that this is most evident in the areas of education, employment, health and across different spaces. The multiple levels of discrimination and neglect stems from lack of disaggregated data on disability and gender and results in having no basic facilities such as toilets, debarred from pursuing education in an institution of one’s choice because of inaccessible environments especially in schools, coercive treatment and even incarcerations in some settings
However, undeterred by the persisting discrimination and neglect, growing incidence of violence and the many threats and effort to silence and shame them, women supported by men and children, are now showing their determination to reclaim spaces that were being denied to them, defy time embargos, revel in the joys of the night, occupy the streets, demand rightful access to public transport and thereby alter people’s perceptions of women as the weaker sex that must be kept caged within four walls.
Speaking about what the OBR stands for, Ms.Kamla Bhasin, long standing advocate on women’s rights and South Asian Coordinator, OBR emphasized that, “Today, more than ever we know that the time has come to sing a requiem to patriarchy and bury or cremate it, because it is harming both men and women alike. More importantly, the sooner we as people, recognize that patriarchy is in direct contravention of the Constitution of India and the Human Rights Conventions that we as a country are official signatory to and act on it, the better it will be for all of us.”
Anjlee Agarwal, and Dhivya who represent the Campaign spoke of how, “An unprecedented groundswell had been witnessed for the OBR Campaign in every part of Delhi, 19 other states across India and in eight South Asian Countries. In Delhi, it was resonating amongst diverse populations from residents of habitats as far apart as Dwarka in West Delhi and Badarpur in South Delhi to Seemapuri in East Delhi and involving constituencies such as people living with disability, survivors of violence, students, children, auto drivers and homemakers, who had been mobilized by a plethora of organizations. They include: Samarthyam, SMRC and Women with Disabilities India Network Manas, Srijnatmak Manushi Sanstha, Action AID and their partner organization CADAM, Action India, Azad Foundation, Nine is Mine Campaign for Children, Miranda House, Centre for Advocacy and Research and Jagori to name a few.
During this mobilization process, a number of issues relating to safety, security, male involvement, access to justice and last but not the least the freeing of women from unjust allegations and moral policing were deliberated on through theatre and street plays done by prominent groups such as Asmita Theatre, Darpan Theatre, Flash mob dancers from Badarpur”.
Anjilee Agarwal, Executive Director Samarthyam, also spoke of the critical issues confronting activists who were voicing the concerns of women living with disability and said that OBR had made a concerted effort to address the issue of access to public transportation. “After three years of patient and arduous work with the Delhi Metro Authority and Delhi Transport Corporation, we can safely state that we have been able to put on the agenda of these official agencies the urgent need to enable accessibility to public transport”, she added.
In this context, she went on to say that presently, “The virtual lack of access to transport for women who are disabled is not only tantamount to outright discrimination and neglect but an unbridled encouragement to all forms of violence and abuse faced by these women,” while urging the government to make the infrastructure more, “women friendly and liberate them from the chains of inaccessibility”.
Arguing passionately for the rights of women with disability, Abha Khetrpal, a wheelchair user, Rupmani Chettri, representing speech and hearing impairment and Tina Khatri a caregiver emphasized the obligation of government to provide a disabled friendly environment to them. Abha Khetripal stated that “I am a woman with disability but not a weakling, I can handle myself, my disability and my life…Only make the environment friendly for me and give me wings to fly….”
Rupmani Chettri, spoke about how they face multiple discrimination and are very vulnerable to abuse and violence. “I want to raise my voice through sign language and ask the entire world ‘where is my space’; create accessible environment for me.”
Tina Khatri, shared how she always faced problems in getting her son admitted into mainstream schools. She asked: “Why? Is the law of the land not mandating inclusive education and if it is not I demand it right away” she added
“Take Back the Night”, was another clarion call given by a host of groups representing women living with disabilities, young feminists working with adult survivors of incest, the campaigners for OBR, citizen’s collective against sexual assault (CCSA) and scores of young people from the different campuses.
Devika Shekhawat, St. Stephen’s College, emphasized that, “Night is as much ours anyone else; stop policing us; shut those up who molest us” while Tanya Singh, Miranda House spoke of how she was usually home safe and sound by 8 pm and said, “During the “Take Back the Night” campaign, “I wasn’t scared to roam the streets. I truly claimed the night as my own and I saw the feeling of terror dissolve with each song that we sang and with each slogan that resounded loudly and clearly that we are here to stay if possible night after night.”
Clearly, the impact of the OBR campaign has been felt most intensely by young people. Stressing on this, Swati Varma, RAHI (Recovering and Healing from Incest) Foundation, stated that earlier they would interact with a lot of young women and often had to cajole them to participate in such campaigns, “But nowadays given the growing anger among young women, they want to hit the streets and are looking for someone to walk with them.”
Taking this forward, Ankit from Azad Foundation stated that, “we are seeing far more men and boys joining the fight to reduce violence against women”.
Children and men are also saying No to violence in different ways. Asif a young boy from Majboor Nagar JJ Camp, who has been part of the OBR campaign for the past three years, has become extremely aware of the need for boys to engage with the issue of violence against women. He says that this realization came when he heard the testimony of Lakshmi, an acid attack survivor. I realized that there is more to being a boy than manliness or mardangi and soon turned to dancing to express his feelings. He shared that “I have found dancing to be a very useful way to reduce stress and help control one’s feelings, reduce anger and become calm and peaceful.’