Everyday we wake up to incidents of varying severity around crimes against women, particularly around sexual assault and rape. While the more intense ones make to the news the majority of the rest don't come to our knowledge. We believe that on a regular basis women go through some form of sexual harassment and they don't talk about it or don't even know what to do about it.
Durga is a citizen sector organisation, registered as a public charitable trust (80G and 12A), working on a multi-pronged approach towards creating gender equal spaces in India. We come from the belief that sexual harassment deterrence is most important and can be effective if addressed at the very initial instance. Our core is to bring a shift in thinking among various actors on their role in women safety.
Our multi-pronged approach is quite holistic in the sense that:
- Women - We work with women and girls equipping them with life skills to understand behaviour and address inappropriate behaviour in an active, yet non-aggressive way. They become Durgas, as the first policewomen for themselves. They also are able to support others when they are in distress. This is done through workshops with women and girls. We have worked with over 5000 women and girls so far
- Communities - We create communities (both offline and online) that become a support system and a 'go-to' for women when they seek support. In India we are not used to talking openly about sexual harassment whether in schools or at homes. When a girl has a problem she does not know what to do and who to speak to, resulting in reduced confidence and self-blame. Our community model is very useful for her to become a network for herself as well as the several others like her.
- Other Genders - Our work is not restricted to women. We believe that co-existence is compulsory and most naturally enjoyable. We involve the other genders in our work, getting them to involve themselves and show their support and solidarity to women in our struggles towards gender equality. This is done innovatively through involving them in our work proactively, men-women interactions and through campaigns
- Safe Spaces - We feel that all the above can be nurtured for each one to play a role well when the spaces we occupy are also nurturing to support our thinking. Our work on alarms in BMTC is one step to this. We are now working with safety in Taxis. We have also nurtured communities called VOICE is colleges and corporate to harness better employee relationships with respect and empathy for overall productivity at work. We have the mandate to put up alarms in all the BMTC buses (7000) and have created 6 VOICE communities so far.